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Brief Published: 7 Mar 2017

SXSW 2017 Preview


Intelligent Machines

This year's South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas will be dominated by intelligent machines. As we discuss in our latest Industry Trend Invisible Marketing, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning innovation are transforming industries from marketing and media to fashion and retail.

We will be talking about findings from our Industry Trend in Invisible Marketing: AI Will Transform Your Brand at the Decoded Fashion House. As an official programming partner of SXSW and SXSW Style, the Decoded Fashion House will bring together leading minds in fashion, beauty and tech for a day of activities and content sessions.

SXSW will play host to a number of talks that aim to showcase the opportunities of this technology. For instance, Disney will be revealing how it's evolving its theme park, merchandise and entertainment experiences with AI (Using AI & Machine Learning to Extend the Disney Magic). IBM will explain the secrets behind its AI platform Watson (Mythbusters: How IBM Watson "Really" Works), while Deloitte will be sharing how Robots Can Restore Our Humanity.

Thinking Like a Start-Up

SXSW can be a great launchpad for new start-ups (Twitter went mainstream thanks to buzz at SXSW 2007). More importantly, it's a great place to connect with the latest tech companies and understand how they're achieving growth in a crowded marketplace.

In our report Marketing Like a Start-Up, we explore the key strategies that brands in any industry can learn from start-up culture, and this year's festival is full of similar insight. Brands creating in-house innovation hubs for more agile experimentation will be explored in Dawn of the Labs: The Next Gen of Tech Innovation, while speakers from publications such as Vogue, Slate and Quartz will tackle the issue of scalability in the multi-platform world in Beyond Scale: Smarter Ways to Think About Growth.

Austin's South Bites
SXSW Trade Show

Winning the Attention War

One of the key subjects at this year's event is how marketers can gain consumer attention in a world of information and entertainment overload – something we've explored in our report Mastering The Attention Economy: Social Media Week 2016.

When it comes to mobile media, "the thumb is in charge now, and it is demanding", according to Facebook. The company will address how marketers should approach smartphone consumers in two sessions: Moving at a Mobile Minute and Seconds Matter: Capturing Attention in Mobile Feed. Meanwhile, speakers from digital agencies including SapientNitro and RB will ask the question every marketer fears to answer: Is Anyone Paying Attention to Your Content?

Future Media Experiences

Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) have been buzz topics at SXSW for a number of years. But in the post-Pokemon Go, post-Snapchat Specs world we now live in, these technologies are edging towards the mainstream.

Viacom Next, the VR research and development arm of the US media giant, is showcasing a new VR experience at this year's festival. The Melody of Dust is a collaboration with musician Hot Sugar, in which participants explore a virtual castle and interact with objects to reveal 87 melodies created by the artist.

"We believe this is a glimpse of what the future of music could look and feel like as you step into the mind of a musician," said Chaki Ng, senior vice-president of Viacom Next. See our report Future of Video: Ignition 2016 for more on VR and augmented reality innovation.

Stay tuned for our reports from this year's SXSW, publishing in the coming days, and look back at last year's themes in our coverage of SXSW 2016.