An Inside Look at SXSW 2018

April 3, 2018

“AI is more dangerous than nukes.” –Elon Musk


SXSW was the place to be to geek out on digital, technology and innovation. Let me just say, what a time to be alive.

SXSW started out 30 years ago as a music festival with artists from across the globe. It’s since morphed into a conglomerate of music, film, digital media, technology, even comedy and gaming. People from all walks of life attend for various reasons; to play, to drink, to party, to network, to learn, to grow, to get inspired.

SXSW Interactive Festival is where you could find all of the digital media, technology, branding and marketing rock stars filling their brains with new ideas and inspiration to bring back to their jobs. Over the course of six days of awesomeness, with over 30 opportunities (speakers, networking events, workshops) a day to choose from, it is impossible to share every detail of my entire experience in this one post. But I can pick out my top three trends at SXSW and talk a bit about those. Let’s go!


  1. VR

Nonny de la Pena, CEO of Emblematic, also known as the Godmother of VR, did a talk about her career making VR films that bring awareness to serious problems with the hope of bringing change to human life. VR (unlike AR) allows you to feel like you’re physically immersed in these sometimes-intense experiences. Nonny created this VR reenactment of a woman, using real 911 audio recordings, pleading for her life because her husband was on the verge of killing her. Through VR, you feel like you are by this woman’s side, experiencing the pain and horror she is going through. Bringing awareness to such issues as domestic violence in such a different way is extraordinarily powerful and effective.

SXSW also had a Virtual Cinema set up which consists of companies from all over, including Meow Wolf (check it out) sharing their own VR films, games and other crazy experiences I was too overwhelmed to try. A company in South Korea, world premiered their 8-minute VR film called Space X Girl (no relation to Elon Musk, just a super weird coincidence) here. It featured a real human but the entire scenery that she was walking around in was designed entirely through Google Title Brush. Wrap your head around that.

Also, I had to stop and take a photo of this scene that appeared before me. Is this the future? While I am intrigued by VR, I surely hope not. Let’s not forget the outdoors, people – mother nature is beautiful!


  1. Robots

They. Were. Everywhere.

SXSW Trade Show was full of companies from across the world, showcasing their innovative products and technologies. Robots were the talk of the town by no surprise. Who doesn’t like a good robot?! There was one robot by a company called Kuka that was mesmerizing to watch, though I couldn’t tell you what its purpose was, but I didn’t care! There was also a robot prototype that made sushi. Would be much more appealing to me if I liked sushi but come on, that is still crazy town!

Can’t forget about the Sony robot dog that made an appearance! ($1,800 per dog, only available in Tokyo).

For those of you who fear that robots are going to take over the world… calm down. Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, also spoke and assured us all that humans are the experts and will always be the experts. Robots and machines are certainly helpful and more and more will pop up but it’s the humans who power them. Go humans.


  1. Storytelling

From Eddy Cue from Apple to Ira Glass from This American Life, they spoke about the way we tell stories, through advertising or reading news articles, has completely changed. It’s the human connection in stories that is more important than ever now. Humans need to relate to what you’re saying through the TV or through ear buds, they need to feel like they matter, that you’re speaking to them, that you’re changing something they care about. Without that connection, you’ll lose people’s attention within a matter of seconds. If that happens… what’s even the point of telling stories anymore??

Otto Bell from CNN’s Brand Studio, Courageous, worked with Mass Mutual on a 2-minute video about bullying. You may be wondering though, what does this have to do with Mass Mutual? Their tagline is “people helping people” and they wanted the brilliant minds of Courageous to come up with a powerful story showing people helping people. This video did just that. Mass Mutual was not the focus of the video. The child who overcame bullying was. Just like Nonny, this touched the lives of many. It’s the power of human connection that’s crucial to making an impact.


SXSW was an exceptional, emotional and truly inspirational experience. What a world to live in and what a time to work in digital advertising.