Advertising as we know it will change with tech


SXSWi (South by Southwest interactive) is a massive film, interactive media and music festival that takes place in Austin every March. There are hundreds of talks about advances in tech, trend predictions and demonstrations. One of the speakers described it as ‘Nerd Cochella’… I’ve wanted to go for ages so was really grateful for the chance to go to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) trend report meeting.

While blockchain and quantum computing were the buzzwords of SXSWi, the IPA had decided not to dwell on them for the sake of keeping the event accessible, BUT we’ve got to have them on our radar – especially blockchain as this will certainly be the way patient records are stored in the very near future.

Five things I learned…

Man and machine NOT Man vs machine

  • 2017 SXSWi was dominated by a scaremongering ’the robots are coming’ mentality
  • 2018 SXSWi was more positive and focused on ‘what can we do together’
  • Robots can create jobs, for example Amazon introduced 35,000 robots last year and in doing so created 200,000 new jobs
  • Let AI do the heavy lifting so we can have better lives and jobs
  • Waymo is a really awesome self driving car company – their vision of success is for people to feel safe enough to fall asleep behind the wheel

There’s a big problem with trust 

  • People fundamentally do not trust robots
  • Now is the time to bring together tech and the humanities to ensure robotics are genuinely answering our unmet needs
  • Our mindset can’t be ‘isn’t all this tech great?!’, we need to actually be questioning ‘why is this tech great?’ ‘how can it actually help me?’
  • Once we are able to answer these questions we will be better able to explain why our clients should trust this tech

Don’t bow down to the algorithm

  • People check fake news stories by seeing if they are trending on Twitter – and yet no one knows how Twitter determine the trending topics
  • No one really knows how to optimise a website for search engines – all guidance out there is just educated guesses and the result of trial and error
  • Talking tech devices like Alexa will recommend restaurants and purchase items at your request, but we don’t know how they choose which option to recommend over another
  • All the good work we do developing fantastic advertising could be undone if tech screen it out
  • We need to understand the new tech that will remove us (the middleman) from our audiences
  • Our clients will soon be asking us how these things work – we need to be ready with the answers

Augmented reality

  • 2018 has seen huge advances in augmented reality
  • There’s an experiment called the Cutaneous Rabbit Illusion that people have known about for ages
  • Augmented reality is harnessing this knowledge to push the boundaries of human perception and create sensory experiences that don’t exist in the real world
  • Microsoft have developed Cardi lens – this allows you to see micro movements in a person, such as their temperature, heart rate, eye movement
  • This tech could potentially be used to help those who can’t communicate verbally
  • Obviously there’s no social context to these micro movements at the moment so still quite a long way to go but still super interesting


  • It’s in YouTube’s interest to show that video advertising works – they are doing a tonne of research to see what audiences respond to (and therefore what ad services they can sell for big bucks)
  • Last year YouTube ditched their 30 second enforced ads because viewers hated them
  • Instead they have introduced 6 second ads
  • To persuade marketers that audiences can become hooked in 6 secs, they tasked 16 UK creative agencies with retelling fairytales:
  1. BBH was given the Ugly Duckling
  2. Ogilvy was given Rapunzel
  3. They created whole campaigns that consisted of 6 sec ads, 30 sec ads, 3 min videos, print ads and an installation
  • YouTube are also working on two other advertising techniques
  • What if people didn’t realise they were watching an ad?
  • Making an ad longer and longer the more times someone watches it so you see more and more of the story each time?

From third thumbs to faceprints, it was a fascinating evening. I left reassured that a bright future lies ahead, in which AI does the heavy lifting so we can have better lives and jobs. In order to ensure this future stays bright, we need to take steps now to ensure we really understand the new tech and are not afraid to ask ‘how does this work? Why do I need this? How can it truly help me and my clients?


By Claire Taylor, SXSW dreamer and Account Handler