SXSW only gets bigger every year. Here are the biggest trends impacting this year’s festival of interactive, music, film and gaming.
Experiential Is King
With literally hundreds of things to do and hundreds of thousands of people to do them with, marketers use experiential marketing activations to break through the SXSW noise.
Last year, TV networks went all out to gain the attention of those nearby and inspire photo ops for social media.
To promote its show Stripped, Bravo sent a flash mob of 60 models in nude fabric to walk from the Austin Convention Center to sixth street. Hulu’s ghostly handmaids from A Handmaid’s Tale mulled about. A pop-up Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant served curly fries and talent appearances to hype Better Call Saul.
This year, expect more experiential pop-ups, especially around TV and film. Warner Bros. is hosting a Ready Player One event, for example, that lets users explore the film’s VR world of OASIS and dystopian society in the year 2045.
HBO is bringing the town of Sweetwater to SXSW to those who can grab a ticket before they disappear. The interactive Westworld experience drops attendees into two acres of elaborate sets and actors. Various easter eggs will be scattered throughout, offering clues about the new season.
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Panels on experiential storytelling hope to empower marketers with tools and ideas on how to capture customer imaginations. The Henry Ford Museum, Jameson Distillery and BRC Imagine Arts will host a panel on this topic March 12. Another panel on Monday discusses the applications of immersive theater, story rooms, mixed reality and other experiential activations, hosted by Two Bit Circus, Meow Wolf and Soda Borg Corporation.
Social Justice Is The New Business Model
It’s no secret that brands are taking a stand on social and political issues at unprecedented rates. This trend continues into SXSW, where everyone from start-ups to tech giants try to make the world a better place, whether it be through inclusive hiring, groundbreaking tech or sustainable farming.
Philanthropists, entertainers and entrepreneurs will be on-hand to talk about they are enacting, or hope to enact, social change around the globe. One look at the list of panels and it becomes obvious that SXSW will tackle gender, equality, politics, global warming and building a better community, just to name a few. Self-empowerment is also a common theme this year, whether it be through religious faith, meditation or learning new skills.
A panel on March 13 called “Social Media and Social Good: Creators to the Rescue” discusses the positive impact social media creators can have and creating relationships between marketers, non-profits and online celebrities. The panel is hosted by Google, Ad Council and social creators Hannah Hart and Tyler Oakley.
International Women’s Day on March 8 will prompt discussions about equality and gender identity this week, alongside celebrations of female leaders and talent. John Hardy is hosting a party to celebrate the holiday on March 11.
— SXSW (@sxsw) March 6, 2018
Trending Tech: AI, Blockchain And VR
Technology is ever-present at SXSW, and AI is a hot topic at this year’s festival, with nearly 50 panels on the topic alone. Ethics, regulation, development and marketing are just some of the discussions around AI this year, but using the technology to solve problems is a running theme.
On March 12, Quantcast is hosting a panel on how AI will transform every aspect of the customer journey and how marketers can develop their own AI strategies.
Blockchain, including cryptocurrency, has become a disruptive force in the marketing industry, a subject explored by SXSW’s Intelligent Future track. There are nearly 30 panels on blockchain and its implications at SXSW this year—a testament to how the technology is impacting our world.
Linux and JP Morgan are hosting a panel on March 11 about ecommerce on the blockchain and the opportunities therein. On March 13, a panel hosted by Lampix will outline the opportunities presented when augmented reality (AR) and blockchain meet.
Virtual reality has matured in the last year, leaving marketers and creatives wondering how the technology fits into their business models. This year, professionals will discuss the implications of AR/VR/MR across filmmaking, medical science, journalism and more. For creatives, Microsoft, Valis Entertainment and others are hosting a panel March 15 that talks about using human performances in AR/VR and the impact on narrative.
Data privacy is a common thread that runs through just about all technology panels at the festival. Tim Bell of DPR Group is offering GDPR insights and steps for compliance during his panel on March 12. For brands using AR/VR, law firm Kelley Drye & Warren are hosting a panel on March 14 about how to avoid privacy and security problems.
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— SXSW (@sxsw) March 5, 2018