Four Learnings From A Weekend Of SXSW

Four Learnings From A Weekend Of SXSW

While B&T attempts to digest the daily two-kilo intake of barbecued meat while on location at our South by Southwest (SXSW) office (which is an actually an opium den that’s been given a quick going over with Glen 20 and then placed on Airbnb), we thought it prudent to glance over the most consistent trends from the last couple of days’ talks.

  1. Women are still an issue

We understand that headline can be read two ways, and the way you took it says more you about than us. Ruminate on that for a moment.

While diversity – and specifically, gender equality – in media and technology isn’t an official theme of this year’s SXSW, the sheer volume of talks on the topic has made it front and centred.

Billionaire entrepreneur and early investor into Uber, Instagram and Twitter, Chris Sacca, insisted on the opening question coming from women of colour, while earlier saying: “If you don’t subscribe to diversity, if you don’t believe that having women in senior positions and you don’t believe in creating a diverse culture is the right thing to do, then frankly you don’t like money. Because it is categorically proven that businesses with diversity perform better.”

Pictured: Chris Sacca speaking at SXSW 2017.

Pictured: Chris Sacca speaking at SXSW 2017.

There are over 50 sessions promoting embracing women as a topic, 29 sessions around the Muslim economy and the media’s portrayal of them, 33 session discussing LGBT issues and 54 sessions tagged with ‘diversity’.

The conversation isn’t going away – in fact, it’s gathering pace, and that can only be a good thing.

  1. iMessage could be the next branded content goldmine

With email being touted as a channel that is wavering in its significance to marketers, especially those targeting Millennials and Gen Z, messaging apps are emerging as a place to play for brands.

Apple’s iOS 10 is making it easier than ever for users to integrate apps, GIFs and images into their messaging-branded keyboards, and stickies are being deployed by marketers in the US to secrete their brands into people’s daily conversation. Dunkin’ Donuts have been one of the most successful in doing so, with their keyboard now becoming part of the lexicon.


  1. Skynet is coming… or is it?

AI, VR, AR and deep learning. It’s the second most popular theme of SXSW 2017, with a huge amount of sessions dedicated to autonomous cars. No one has quite stuck their head out enough to say a specific timeline of when the world will be dominated by self-driving vehicles, but they are all united in saying it’s a done deal. With cars becoming moveable living rooms, the advertising execs are rubbing their hands with glee at the possibilities of windows becoming entertainment screens, in-car gaming and a host of other in-car branding opportunities.


The biggest advent of the year is the real-time sharing of data, insight and ultimately machine learning between vehicles currently on the road, such as Teslas. So, while we are still in the movement infancy, the last 12 months has accelerated (excuse the pun) the timeline for deployment, with advances being made in deep learning so the car can be trained in super human levels of perception.

  1. The need for speed

According to sci-fi experts, design has often paved the way for technology to follow. But according to Buzzfeed’s senior product lead, Chris Tindal, we are now at a crossroads where tech is defining the parameters of design. During a recent re-design of the blog, Buzzfeed deployed a number of new designs and A/B tested. One of the more successful design implementations was exactly the same as it’s current incarnation, with everything appearing in the manner to which it previously existed, albeit with the only change being to the backend enabling a far greater load speed.

BuzzFeed website

The result was dramatically improved performance on every indicator. Users rated the site experience higher, more pages were views, more time was spent on site and more clicks occurred throughout the site. Users even rated the design as significantly more visually pleasing, even though it looked exactly the same as previously.

With Gen Z and Millennials giving up on sites that don’t load within just a few seconds, the message is loud and clear.

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Advertising Standards Bureau Casella Brands David Thomason einsights

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