YoungShand’s SXSW Diary: Day #2

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Screen Shot 2019-03-13 at 4.58.08 pm.jpgDuncan Shand, Jesse Kelly and Kat Cox from Auckland agency YoungShand are attending SXSW 2019 in Austin, Texas. Here they’re reporting on the latest trends from the conference exclusively for Campaign Brief. If you missed their report on Day 1, you can find it here.

Jesse Kelly, strategy director:

Artificial Intelligence: Separating Fact from Fiction for AI in Creativity

Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn’t new. In fact, we’ve come a long way since the first AI programmes, written in 1951, were playing checkers or chess. Today, our everyday devices and applications harness AI and Machine Learning (ML). In saying that though, you only need to scroll through the list of sessions on offer at SXSW and you’ll quickly gather that now the word ‘AI’ is almost interchangeable with the word ‘innovation’. There were lots of real-world, case study examples of projects and experiences that had AI at their core to deliver something truly mind-blowing. These advancements in AI have posed some questions for the creative industry, which after today’s sessions can be demystified.

● Creatives are going to need to start looking for programming courses or look for alternative jobs – FICTION

If you’re a ‘right-brainer’, you can rest easy now. And for those with brains that lean to the left, no, it wasn’t a panel of creatives delivering that message of hope. Even though there have been leaps and bounds in the realm of natural language and AI for creativity, the experts aren’t predicting a future where human creativity will be replaced by bots.

● Artificial Intelligence can be beneficial for the creative process – FACT

There are some great tools and improvements in AI that can aid in the creative process to inspire or augment. These include;

– Using AI to generate copy to help writers get past writer’s block,

– Reducing time spent scaling out multiple ad layouts by utilising best-practice design


– Identifying story arcs that best resonate with your audience or alternatively the best

audience to align with your story arc,

– Composing music scores that you can tweak.

The confronting question posed, however, is that of ethics. Who and how do you credit the work? There was an AI painting sold at Christie’s Auction House for $423,500 that was created in part by some open source code. Was it fair that the original programmer didn’t see a dime? Do we risk eroding more trust in the modern era of fake news? Advancements such as the capability to generate artificial “photos” that look real to humans could mean the end of negotiating talent fees, or, combined with the ability to generate copy through natural language, create online campaigns with no human involvement. These are questions we’ll need to address as our industry becomes ‘smarter’.


Lastly, there was some great news for all the table drummers out there like me. Douglas Eck, from the Google Brain Team, has been working on an AI project where you can table drum into a microphone and, through AI, it will lay down a drum track for you modelled against hours of pre-recorded drums. My colleagues will be delighted!

Kat Cox, executive digital producer:

Culturally Relevant

During Day 2 of SXSW, I saw some really interesting trends emerge. Two that are front and centre — culture and collabs. I’ve been to a couple of amazing talks in the last two days featuring the legends responsible for reviving for some big brands via collaborations and authentic partnerships; namely Levis, Adidas and Mercedes Benz.


A few years ago, these brands were selling to your Dad. Today, they’re targeting you. They’re doing it with extraordinary results too, through creative ways of selling their products, including;

● Capitalising on hype, ‘drop culture’ and collabs with hip hop powerhouses like A$AP Rocky (yes I got to see him at SXSW!)

● Ensuring limited availability of their products

● Creating illicit and unexpected ways to buy,

● Easy and interesting checkouts

Screen Shot 2019-03-13 at 4.58.17 pm.jpgWe’re also seeing a massive shift towards brands aligning with the social issues important to the new shopping generation, and it’s smart for business. Brands are taking a genuine interest in social responsibility and for many, it feels authentic. Levis, for example, has taken a stance on gun violence (resulting in daily hate mail, but they couldn’t care less) because appealing to a younger, more socially-aware audience not only helps them sleep at night but helps them make bank.


Brand collaborations with culturally relevant icons is not a new concept, but lately, we’ve seen some phenomenal results from unexpected pairings. The Mercedes Benz partnership with A$AP Rocky showing us how good design and the right partnership can help brands reach new generations of shoppers, giving their brand relevance and longevity. The authenticity comes in when an icon like A$AP Rocky can clearly define why he is getting behind a brand (which he does for Mercedes).

Duncan Shand, managing director:

The importance of emotion (theme from three talks over the last two days)

One talk I attended was from a couple of Australians, entitled, ‘A Psychologist and an Ad Guy Walk into a Room’. It was about presenting and pulling apart ads to explain why they work, the key outtake being that emotion trumps logic. When you get into behavioural economics, we like to think we make decisions logically, yet we mostly buy emotionally. And considering

around 80% of ads created rely on logic, there’s clearly a big opportunity within the emotion category.

The second talk, ‘Women in Branding’, explained why more women need to be leading the charge when creating authentic brands. It began with the stats;

● Women purchase 70-80% of everything,

● Women are buying 50% of traditionally male purchases,

● 68% of women want to connect to brands,

● 54% feel connected when brands understand their desires,

● 76% will buy again, spend more and will be more loyal when brands connect

authentically with them.

The session pulled apart the classic ‘Like a Girl’ campaign, which at its essence included three very important things; a real insight, a brave change in the medium/format, and a rich, emotional piece of storytelling. An interesting question was also poised — how do we create a connection in an often inauthentic world? Millennials are belief driven buyers, so it’s becoming increasingly important to make real, human connections with our audiences.

Lastly, a short yet impactful talk on ‘Community ROI’. Here we explored how to define a return on investment for your community building efforts. First, they burst our bubble — community building is going to be more expensive than you think and will drive costs you don’t expect, like support, bug fixes and service. But these are good things and will deepen the relationships you want to develop in the long run. We should be thinking about community building as CSR and how we can build a legacy. I thought this was a nice idea.

So, there you have it for Day 2. It’s a marathon, both mentally and physically (Duncan has done 13,000+ steps each day so far), but we’re loving it. Keep coming back to find out what Day 3 will bring.