Navigating the Waters of Data-Driven Storytelling at SXSW Interactive 2018

Temerlin Advertising Institute graduate students Jessica Phillips and Catherine Scholl

Complexity, Complexity, Complexity

In an enlightening talk about data-driven storytelling, we heard from a panel of professionals about how they combine art and scientific data to execute seamless storytelling in their companies. The panel consisted of Renee Lightner, User Experience Technologist at Viacom, Russell Goldenberg, Editor at Polygraph / The Pudding, and Alex Simoes, CTO at Datawheel. Each member of the panel provided unique insight into perspectives and paradigms within data-driven storytelling through the lens of each of their respective disciplines.

Lightner opened by explaining the importance of online versus print graphics. Online graphics allow users to see the full picture and interact with the content, allowing for a better experience. A strategy she keyed in on was “complexity,” repeating a visual over and over so the reader grasps the content. Additionally, she said it’s important to allow the opportunity for the reader to explore the data on their own. Graphics should inform the reader while still allowing room for them to explore and take in the information at their own time in their own way.

Goldenberg explained the process that The Pudding goes through when providing content.

  • Start with an idea. Collect data. Analyze. Present.

The first three phases explore, while guidance is the final outcome. Great data does not matter – unless, it can be explained with a great guide. As we enter a world of AI with more data and more accurate data, consumers will be overwhelmed if it is not curated in meaningful ways.

Simoes’ approach to storytelling integrates data, extracts and matches entities and indicators, and builds integrated stories. Entities can be, for example, Los Angeles or coal mining, while the indicators within these categories can be something like exports or employment. Together, this information leads to integrated stories on the economy, education, health, etc. The outcome must be aggregated data that is easy to read, interactive, and entertaining. These three ideas seem to be a central theme to creating rich storytelling.

This panel was just one of so many incredible talks that we have attended this week. The atmosphere is absolutely electric as people immerse themselves in SXSW Interactive and all Austin has to offer.

There is diversity at SXSW Interactive 2018. Yet, it is more of the same.

The United States, Australia, Brasil, Mexico, china, Indonesia, Belgium, Great Britain, Iceland, Canada, Portugal, Italy, France, Turkey, Poland, The Netherlands, and Argentina.

What do all these countries have in common? For the next few days, representatives from each country are occupants of a single room at the South by Southwest Interactive trade show in Austin, Texas. 

SMU graduate students Christopher Calhoon and James Williams explored the SXSW Interactive Trade show and discovered that nearly every country was at the show offering a similar mix of products. Tech ruled, with emphasis on demonstrations of different realities (xR) including VR, AR and MR (mixed reality).

 

PhotoBloomAR is an interactive print platform that allows photos to come to life with movement and sound. Basically, they’re a Shutterfly for videos. The demo was a photo of a dog that when viewed through the app came to life as a video of the dog licking ice cream. 

After doing a few laps around the trade show floor and spending a few days here, we did not find one killer app, groundbreaking technological breakthrough or “paradigm shift” to come out of this year’s SXSW. Along with the country booths promoting a country’s technical abilities for business, there were many booths from biotech and medical tech companies promoting various products and services, but each seeed to be applications of current technology.

One fun idea from a startup based here in Austin is a sock subscription service called Sock Club. They started small by curating socks from other labels, and soon decided that they wanted to focus on their own manufacturing. Now all of Sock Club’s socks are designed in Austin, and the company has CSR at heart by controlling the entire production process, sourcing high-quality cotton, following eco-friendly processes, pay their workers are a living wage. 

While there were many countries represented on the floor and many languages being heard at the festival, the products being featured at the show are becoming more similar, competing on incremental improvements of already advanced technologies. Funny enough, this is where branding has it greatest power. When products have similar attributes, messages and brands become greater points of differentiation.

 

Health and Wellness at SXSW

Advertising students Joél Garza and Gabby Axelson stretched out at the health and wellness expo at SXSW.

From acupuncture to mushroom jerky, and sex toys to dental freshners, the Expo was booming with many people of many backgrounds. The sessions on health and wellbeing, understanding the importance of health to attendees of SXSW.

One vendor, Joaquin Brown, demonstrated an app called Yoga Wake Up. After attending a yoga class, he realized the value of breathing and relaxing when waking in the morning. An App idea was born. Instead of an annoying alarm, Joaquin created an app that wakes you with relaxing music and voice of a coach who leads breathing exercises to ready you for the day. With 40 different teachers and 120 different classes available, the app is adding more languages to their classes, to expand their reach globally. 

AOMA Graduate School of Integrated Medicine was there promoting Chinese and integrated forms of medicine. One of the TAI students even experienced the benefits of acupuncture first-hand. Pain is really on everyone’s mind when thinking of acupuncture, but Hannah said, “The whole process was painless. Bassically less pain or similar to a bug bite.”

It was interesting that while SXSW attracts people from all over the world to communicate and learn about themselves and about each other, the Wellness expo provided opportunities to learn about health and living your best life. We left feeling immersed in the SXSW community, the wellness culture and were ready to get back to the action at Interactive.

Brand Experiences Standout at SXSW Interactive

SMU graduate students Lesley Warren & Allison Farris explored brand activations at SXSW Interactive.

– A brand activation is a campaign, event, or experience to engage with consumers. They are generally interactive and at SXSW are almost uniformly over the top.

  • Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One places you in the world of the the OASIS
  • Google provides phone booths to promote Google Assistant
  • Prove It introduces new trivia app
  • Social Imprint is branded swag company with a pop-up shop on the trade floor
  • YouTube took over a building with “The Greatest Stories Retold,” in 6, 15, or 30 seconds

Ready Player One
Warner Bros is really going all in for Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One this year. In addition to a sort of creepy flash mob that’s been walking around downtown telling us they’re looking for Wade Watts (code name Parzival), they have a large activation on 4th Street that never seems to have fewer than 50 people waiting to go in.
I waited in line for about an hour. The activation featured gamer/sci-fi memorabilia from the 80s and 90s, including a ceiling-height bust of The Iron Giant and a DeLorean for photo ops. The main attraction was a seemingly very cool VR experience that puts you in the virtual reality world of the film, the OASIS, but I did not do this because, yikes, lines. The tech they’re using to capture data is particularly impressive for a pop-up experience, including lightweight wristbands containing your avatar name that you scan for each experience you participate in. To be honest, I don’t know anything about this film, and it isn’t my typical genre, but I do feel like I have to see this movie now. I’m too involved!

Google Assistant
Google’s pop up activation in the Fairmont had four different “phone booths” immersive set up to demonstrate the Google Phone’s virtual assistant. SXSW participants were guided through scenarios like “Make Google Book It” which demonstrated how you can book a trip completely through voice commands and “Make Google Order It” which demonstrated how you could order mittens for your grandma. The AI was shockingly sophisticated and responsive in real time, and there is great potential for brands to utilize voice search in their digital marketing strategies through paid search for #HeyGoogle. Most people were delighted by their interaction with the AI, but I did see one man who was frustrated by the experience. Not everyone is ready for a world run by smart computers.

HQ Competitor Prove It showed up in full force with multiple touchpoints in the downtown Austin area. Tampa-based PROVEIT is a new trivia app in direct competition with HQ. Founder Prem was handing out “Trivia Cash Cards” redeemable for $1-$1,000 cash in PROVEIT and offering smart phone users a place to charge their phones. This week they will be giving $25,000 to one player in Austin only to promote the 3-month old app. Also seen around town, a branded armor truck promoting the $25,000 prize. Users are encouraged to create and share a public selfie with the truck with the #ThisIsMoney and the funniest post of the week will receive $500 account credit.

Social Imprint, a branded swag company that hires adults who need a second chance in San Francisco, set up a pop-up shop on the trade show floor complete with an onsite screen printing press to demonstrate their process. The company was raising money for a local non-profit called The Front Porch by requesting a suggested a $5 donation for a free SXSW T-shirt. Trade show attendees could also see the full range of branded products that marketers could use for swag.

YouTube
Another interesting activation was from YouTube. The company recreated fairy tales for the modern age with help from top creative agencies and celebrities like Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch. With “The Greatest Stories Retold,” YouTube proves impactful stories can be told by a 6, 15, or 30 second clip. This pop-up was another impressive display of tech, with different video scenarios that are activated by motion and touch. My particular favorite was a shoe display that was activated when a person placed their foot in the large plastic heel. While not quite as grandiose as Ready Player One, “The Greatest Stories Retold” was entertaining and impressive.

Beyond People in Power, Tech, and Politics: SXSW Sessions Cover Broad Topics

Temerlin Advertising students Hannah Tymochko and Lauren Cole explored sessions beyond marketing and technology at SXSW.

CNN’s Jake Trapper paired up with Bernie Sanders to cover an assortment of topics, many of which Sanders felt are not adequately covered on CNN. Some of his notable and long-time favorites include gun control, DACA, and the 1 percent. All seemed to leave with a more patriotic taste in their mouth.

Whether Democrat or a Republican, Sanders had a message for all of us. Americans should love and respect each other. In strength we are united, but divided we are weak. Every question resulted in strong messages of unity and love.

Both democrats and republicans made their presence known verbally at one point or another, but there seemed to be no disagreement on Sanders’ message of unity and collaboration.

This talk was drastically different from what I had expected to see at a technology conference, and could not have been a better start to my experience.

The Richards Group’s Chris Ferrel’s “I’ve Got No Screens: Internet’s Screenless Future” was a stark difference in content and tone. Marketing to a #screenlessfuture was educational and entertaining. Current advertising practices are built around the importance of screens in consumers’ lives, but Ferrel warns that the future will contain less and less interaction with screens and will instead rely on voice interactions (i.e. Alexa, Google Home, and Siri).

Unlike the Sanders’ session, Ferrel was filled with humor. The insertions of funny content were welcome. “OK Goo-Goo” showed a video of an 85 year old woman with a thick Italian accent interacting with her Google digital voice assistant. Important to advertisers, Ferrel predicts the rise of the screenless future.

Ferrel’s session was more of what I expected to see at SXSW. It related directly to things we have learned in the Temerlin Advertising Institute, but presented a new aspect to new-age advertising that I had not thought of before.

The different sessions speak to the diverse topics SXSW covers, and the amazing opportunity we have to make the SXSW experience our own. The ability to customize our adventure at SXSW has been incredible. The variety in sessions offered makes the SXSW experience one that attendees can personalize. While we all have the underlying commonality of being Temerlin students, we can cater our experience to our specific specialization and interests. People from all over the world who are in such different professions all come together to attend SXSW, and we are so lucky to be able to be a part of it.

SXSW Interactive 2018: Day 1 Surprises

Maloree Malone and Dalya Romaner were teamed up to describe the first day of SXSW Interactive.

I have been to South by Southwest before, but never with an Interactive badge and my first day was really fun and interesting!” said Maloree Malone, TAI Graduate Student.

I am very interested in fashion and the business side of it, but I was always disappointed, because I never seemed to find any fashion sessions. It was great seeing all the different topics this year. Yesterday, I went to 3 sessions, and I got something out of them all.

Dalya Romaner, TAI Accelerated MA program student expressed, “SXSW perfectly encapsulates a conference experience. I started the first day with a schedule for every session I would attend, plus a few social and networking events. Everything was laid out perfectly in the SXSW app and I was ready to go.”

However, that plan went out the window and instead we followed Sandi Edgar, TAI Marketing Coordinator, into a session about Techfugees, a company dedicated to changing the refugee narrative using technology. Bernie Sanders was the next speaker and we wanted to get good seats, but we were hooked by the end of the talk.

A Rotten Tomatoes Film Debate was a hilarious, totally silly show with film critics debating film fans. So over the course of one hour, I went from discussing DACA and political engagement to hearing things like, “La La Land was more basic than a Pumpkin Spice Latte.”

While I wish I had gone to some of my sessions like “Anatomy of a Trend” and “Sustaining Brands” for the future,” these sessions were both educational and offered a nice glimpse into how every brand works to keep themselves current and innovative to a broad audience.

The days are long at SXSW and more opportunities revealed themselves. Dayla found a a panel discussing the future of women in tech, went on part of a bar crawl, and had Shabbat dinner (traditional Jewish Sabbath dinner held every Friday night) with fellow Jews attending SXSW.

None of this was laid out in an original schedule. Dalya didn’t attend a single pre-planned session, yet it was an amazing day. Maloree agrees, “I had a few sessions planned and thought I would strictly follow it, but I’ve learned that you have to sometimes play it by ear, because I hadn’t planned on going to the Rotten Tomatoes  session, yet it was the most fun.” Dalya concurs, “That’s the beauty of SXSW – you can go with the flow and find yourself learning more and meeting cooler people than you ever would have if you had your head in your phone, walking along the set path all day.”

Silver Robots, Pink Gorillas, and German Engineering at SXSW Interactive

Nina Kesava and Gabriele Petrylaite

Courtesy of our fearless leader, Dr. Edwards, we started our day off at the historic Austin landmark, Jo’s coffee shop, home of the famous  “I love you so much” mural. Naturally,

Dr. Edwards was unaware that he took us to a social media hotspot, but no worries he still looked fantastic posing in-front of it (in Jess’ glasses).

Following this, we grabbed our orange interactive passes (no line, thank goodness) and headed straight downtown. We wandered the city unable to decipher what was a an official part of the SXSW and what was a part of the city. We navigated to streets attempting to reach a panel on “Data Driven Fan Engagement” at the JW Marriott dodging an army of individuals dressed in silver robot apparel screaming about technology. On our way to the second panel, we stumbled into a digital make-up haven, where we virtually applied various looks and hairstyles in real-time. While using the YouCamMakeup app, one of us learned that applying the top Maybelline look did in fact transform her into her mother (see evidence below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While waiting for a panel on “Sustainability in Branding,” we took a quick Kendra Scott Coffee Break and Picture Frame photoshoot. After the panel exemplifying how sustainable business is smart business, we headed to the Mercedes feature at Palm Park and met a pink gorilla getting handcuffed. The gorilla gave us some some koozies and a free lift ride, so we guess that makes it okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we entered Palm Park, we were engulfed into a german, futuristic world, featuring a cutting-edge Mercedes at every corner. We don’t know where this new SXSW world may take us, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

 

SMU Students Skip Spring Break. Swarm South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive

Spring break at SXSW Interactive in Austin. A group of Temerlin Advertising Institute and SMU MA/MBA students launched into conference sessions including:

The SXSW Interactive Festival spotlights speakers at the developing edge of technology and those using technology in innovative ways. Dr. Steven Edwards, Director of the Institute and program leader at SXSW said, “We are here to explore how new tech and related issues are impacting the field of advertising and marketing communications.”

Temerlin Advertising Institute Students SXSW
Temerlin Advertising Institute Group in Austin at SXSW 2018
  • Students spend five intensive days exploring keynotes, panel sessions, speakers, and networking events to apply interactive technologies to advertising issues.
  • Students will interview key executives about issues in advertising at the intersection of new technologies.
  • In addition, students will maintain daily accounts and analysis of activities and meetings, contribute to a class blog, and will produce a paper on an assigned topic.

The 2018 conference breaks sessions into tracks on: Brands & Marketing, Design, Development & Code, Experiential Storytelling, VR/AR, and the Intelligent Future. There are also tracks focused on Government, Health, the Tech Industry, Style, Workplace, Food, Journalism, Social Impact, and Sports.

TAI faculty and staff are attending and are offering opportunities for meet-ups at the conference.

Students complete the experience by integrating knowledge from the conference with readings on Digital Disruption to produce a final paper solving a problem at work, identifying an emerging use for the technology explored, or researching a related topic in more depth.

Exposure to cutting edge technology, interacting with industry visionaries, and application of creative ideas across disciplines positions our students as unique in their fields. Bringing these ideas to work in current or new positions creates a point of differentiation that employers value.

As of hour three, Hannah Tymochko, Digital Media Strategy senior already believes, “It’s been amazing to see such a diverse group of people coming from all over the world to experience SXSW!”

MA in Advertising Class of 2016 at Graduation

CONGRATULATIONS INSTITUTE GRADUATE STUDENTS!!

We want to wish success to our graduating students as the class of 2016 move forward into their professional careers. Each one has grown and excelled over the past two years in the program.

2016 MA Graduation Photo
From left: Preston Barrett, Erica Chiarello, Colleen O’Brien, Yiyang April Yu, Diana Herrera, Jingxue Snow Wang, and Jing Jin. Marin Berardi (not pictured). Faculty: Steven Edwards, Sid Muralidharan, Cheryl Mendenhall, Amy Dahmann, Carrie La Ferle, Anna Kim, and Hye Jin Yoon.

New knowledge has been acquired from persuasion theories and research to strategic brand management and ROI metrics. Portfolios have been developed and perfected as well as understanding the importance of responsibility in advertising and the positive impact this can have on a brand’s bottom line.

Cultural sensitives and personal growth have been gained during a month of learning in Hong Kong. Students visited several advertising agencies and cultural sites enriching their understanding of international advertising and particularly that occurring in the Asian region.

As these exceptional graduating MA in Advertising students head out from their semester long Executive Internships, many are continuing to work for the same companies from The Richards Group and TM Advertising to Mary Kay, Commerce House to Swimming Duck.

We are super proud of all of you and are excited to see you continue to excel as you enter into the next chapter of your story.

While you move on from the campus and the TAI physical location, you are always a part of the TAI family and we know you will go out and make us all proud.

Best wishes and congratulations to all!

The Temerlin Advertising Institute!
Better Advertising. Better World.

Interested in graduate classes? Check out our new 1 year program and part-time certificate program.