Day 2: Voiceprints to Voice-Based Entertainment. SXSW reveals the Story of Trends, and the Trends in Storytelling

Day 2 kicked off with a bang! The effects of daylight saving had zero effect on quelling the crowds in the Austin Convention Center. The line for those clamoring to learn about the 2018 Emerging Tech Trends Report was one the longest I have ever seen. And for good reason. Amy Webb, Founder of The Future Today Institute, shared with us the 225 emerging tech trends of this year. Examining 20 industries, Amy explained that in order to see the future of one thing you must see the future of many things. Knowing individual trends within a single industry is never enough. It’s the connections between them that is critical. Amy, therefore, called on us to be expansive in our quest for knowledge, and to actively study the seemingly peripheral events in order to appreciate the connectedness of trends affecting the world.

It was a fascinating and sobering session that contained predictions and scenarios, which included the following:

  • 2018 is the beginning of the end of smartphones
  • Digital assistants will become ubiquitous
  • By 2021, 50% of people in industrialised nations will interact with computers through voice
  • The combination of Voice and AI will result in Voiceprints, fingerprints of our voices.
  • Our conversations with digital assistants will replace passwords
  • Our unique voiceprints will divulge our health, age, emotional state, the size of the room that we’re in, the number of people who are with us, and even our precise location. And yes, there was an audible gasp in the ballroom as we heard this.

Webb went on to talk about faceprints, a newer form of biometric authentication and the key players in this space. She outlined the nine big companies (three of which are from China) controlling the future of Artificial Intelligence and provided examples of how the technology is being used to allow people to shop with a smile, as well as shame people caught jaywalking on camera. She went on to talk about splinternets, which is the rise of regional internets in Russia, China, Germany, Europe, and now Canada which have arisen in response to political and legislation changes. Germany’s $57m fine for hate speech, Europe with its imminent roll out of GDPR, and Canada with its requirement to scrub pirated products, means that there is a growing restriction of internet access and potentially a negative impact on free speech and democracy.

But it wasn’t all depressing!

Webb called on us to be informed and vigilant; to be the hero of our own story and actively engaged in shaping our future.

Moving from a macro perspective to focusing on one industry, I headed over to the Pinterest House to hear what OMD USA’s Chief Innovation and Digital Officer Doug Rozen, and Fandango’s Chad Ludwig, had to say about Building a 21st Century Entertainment Brand. They explained that as the definition of entertainment and content has stretched, so the opportunity for any brand or person to become an ‘entertainment’ brand has grown. But to be a great brand you still need to be and do three things:
1) Deliver authenticity and value
2) Be relevant
3) Keep it simple

Rozen said that rather than your content be a certain length, it’s more important to get it right. And that means thinking beyond the usual narrative structure and be inventive, immersive, and interactive. Technology provides us with the arsenal to inject that innovation, whether it be through AR, haptics or location. A deep understanding of audience data then allows us to develop more creative storylines and arcs. Ludwig talked about the need to go beyond the four-quadrant audience classification of films and instead look at intent data, at the cohort level, in order to determine the creative and messaging that is needed for each audience depending on their depth of involvement or emotional state. The phrase ‘data is oil’ springs to mind because its thoughtful application of data can unlock the power of tactics, such as Dynamic Creative Optimization, to improve campaign performance. Moreover, data should also be used as we consider the specific needs of each digital platform according to the role that it must perform in a particular campaign.

When asked what we should expect from entertainment brands in the future, Rozen predicted that we can look forward to more elaborate, immersive, and high-quality voice-led productions, reminiscent of the shows that our grandparents listened to on the radio. Time to start downloading those podcasts people!

Next up was Westworld: Establishing a transmedia franchise. The team from HBO and Kilter Films outlined how they deployed transmedia storytelling in order to create a unified and coordinated entertainment experience for super fans, fans, and casual entertainment enthusiasts. It was layered like an onion, complicated yet compelling, and it was a wonderful reminder that if you know your audience well, and have the data to show how much they’re prepared to get involved in your story, you can take bigger risks and take those fans on a much more complex and rewarding journey. The team shared their rules for transmedia activity:

1. Choose your battles wisely
Only consider the transmedia approach if you have a rich mythology that can be exploited. You must have the right type of fans, not all TV shows have the fans who are willing to become immersed and emotionally invested in your campaign.

2. Have a great story to tell

3. Construct your world
Discoverwestworld.com acted as the centerpiece for all activity and fans were always returning to this world. However, the in-world, like the TV show, was also complex. Aeden the concierge played the consistent character in both the app and also the advertising, but not the show itself.

  1. Cast the audience in juicy roles
    This referred to the experiential and marketing efforts before the premiere, when the tech community was invited to exclusive activations at Tech Crunch, and businessmen and women were sent tailored emails inviting them to book their stay in the exclusive Westworld Park.
  2. Break all the Rules … but of course! To conclude: The brands that are open to new ideas, yet remain disciplined and vigilant in their use of audience data are the ones that stand the best chance of delivering the content, engagement, and meaning that matters most. The lessons from Westworld demonstrate that it’s only when you truly know your audience will you have the confidence to do more. To radically disrupt the customer journey, potentially making it far more convoluted but also infinitely more powerful.

Whether it’s in the field of media, marketing or any other industry, we must plan for unexpected creativity by making time and space for both convergent and divergent thinking. We must think beyond our core disciplines to be smarter, better, but also more empathetic and supportive of one another.

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Chrissie Hanson

Chrissie leads the global communications planning for Sony Pictures Entertainment and is responsible for elevating the creativity, innovation, and strategic rigour across 26 markets around the world. Chrissie has worked across 15 categories and 40 brands over the past 17 years, and on every campaign harnesses a deep knowledge of consumer behaviour and motivation to develop ideas that connect people to brands with greatest effect.

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