More than a dozen RPAers attended SXSW this year and recently recapped a few of their top takeaways from the event. Here are a few topics that especially attracted their attention:

1) Tech, specifically AI:

Talk of AI at SXSW was everywhere, as was discussion around machines taking over our jobs and then killing us all. But while computers are smart, they lack certain qualities that humans are really good at, such as knowing when to take risks and reading other people. There’s a reason people don’t gamble with Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. People know Google’s algorithms are good at curating, but aren’t as good at making decisions without human intervention. But AI, with the help of complex neural networks, is getting smarter and smarter and better at things previously very difficult for computers to do – like distinguishing images of chihuahuas from muffins, or Trump from chicken. These neural networks are reliant on huge amounts of data to be smart. Because of that, our data is being farmed and used in ways we don’t fully understand. Additionally, given the complexity of the algorithms, we may not be able to recognize the biases that have been coded into them. Bad data in means bad data out, regardless of how “smart” the AI is.

–Adam Levitt, VP, Account Director

Quantum Computing + AI

Quantum computing has the potential to solve the world’s most complex problems and deliver solutions where patterns can’t be seen or the possibilities are too enormous for classical computers. Advancements in AI, medicine, and even global finance will progress exponentially with the development of quantum computing, which today’s even most advanced supercomputers cannot match due to the fundamental differences in how data is processed.

–Marlon Hernandez, VP, Group Creative Director

Conversational AI

Conversation is much more complex than we often realize, more than a simple input and output. How we say something matters as much as what we say, which is why email or text conversations can often be misconstrued. Tone, context and intonation all carry meaning. By 2020 30% of web browsing will be without a screen and half of all searching will be voice. Digital marketers will have to start thinking voice first instead of mobile first, and adapt to speakers instead of screens, audio web instead of visual web.

–J Barbush, VP, Creative Director, Social Media


2)    Workplace Culture & Well-Being

Eighty percent of employees in a company are stressed at any given moment and 50% of employees don’t know how to manage that stress, while 23% are depressed.

To combat stress and depression in the workplace, it’s important to find alignment in work and life. Alignment is a different way of thinking from the traditional work/life balance as it is a constant journey and doesn’t have an end or right answer.

These steps can be used to find alignment in our lives:

  • Pacing the amount of time spent working versus recovering versus external pacers that support your well-being such as spending time with pets and hobbies. Find a sustainable pace and stick to it.
  • Recovery: have predictable time away to meditate, turn off devices or say no to requests.
  • Practice: acknowledge what may be hindering alignment and tweak accordingly. Put the pacing and recovery tactics into practice and figure out which of these support your sense of well-being.
–Amy Moorman, VP, Director, Creative Services and Stephanie Carcara, Management Supervisor


The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Much of workplace efficiency stems from the time of day we do certain work. In the mornings our positive mood rises, dips in the afternoon and rises again in the evening. Same with our emotional balance. Time-of-day effects can explain 20 % of the variance in human performance on work tasks.

At our peak during the day (morning), we should do analytical work. Our dip in the afternoon is a great time to get those administrative tasks out of the way. Our last pickup of the day can be dedicated to insights such as brainstorm sessions.

Knowing this, we need to be deliberate and intentional in scheduling individual and team work. And taking breaks has a positive effect on productivity and moods.

–Paul Thompson, Account Director


3) Women at Work

In a post 50/50 workforce, there is equality but power struggles still exist. We need to change the traditional dialogue about women at work, focusing on what we need to do individually and collectively in our own offices to prepare for equality in size but not power. There’s a great opportunity to develop sponsors rather than mentors. Whereas mentors give advice, sponsors are more invested. They advocate, foster and facilitate.

Some areas for improvement:

  • Women should be open to different experiences and skills
  • Implicit bias training for everyone who interviews
  • Program self-advocacy workshops
  • Reconvene meetings if there isn’t enough diversity in the room
–Britt McColl, VP, Director, Public Relations


4) The Future of Content

How is content changing and how can we as marketers be there? Cord-cutters and cord-nevers have grown to 60MM viewers. We now spend 24 hours a day consuming media.

The content of the future is small, intermittent and shared. Short content that enables peer-to-peer sharing is the future. Successful brand communication will have a multiplatform strategy.

–Hanna Samad, Senior Specialist, Digital Strategy


The Science and Sophistication of Trendspotting

Trendspotting isn’t a retrospective on the things that have come to pass. Effective trendspotting aims to determine what everyone is not yet talking about, and there are laws that help govern effective trendspotting and the underlying trends themselves:

The Four Laws of Technology Trends:

  •  Tech trends are the convergence of weak signals from the fringe
  • They are driven by basic human needs
  • They evolve as they emerge
  • They are timely but persist
Technology Trends to Watch:
  • One-to-few publishing that connects with relatively niche networks and captivates smaller audiences is on the rise. Examples include podcasts and newsletters, which have enjoyed a fruitful renaissance in recent years.
  • AI is coming to the creative process, including the creation of music, art, and yes, advertising. Early research has found that people can’t really tell the difference. The human:AI collaborative push-and-pull will become increasingly visible and important.
  •  The long-prognosticated Internet of Things is here and growing. But everything useful at scale has the potential of being exploited by malicious actors. As connected and wearable tech becomes more embedded and widespread, security issues arise.
–Mike Dossett, VP, Associate Director, Digital Strategy


These takeaways all have implications on our daily lives as marketers and clearly point out what we can be doing better and prompts to think smarter. And as our CCO Joe Baratelli found in one session, we must adapt to create things. Which is a philosophy that we hold true here at RPA — there is no one way to do something, and the path toward producing the best outcomes will often include many twists and turns and the skillsets of a variety of experts.

 

At the intersection of popular culture, innovation, hobnobbing and some serious barbecue, you’re bound to find an RPA Associate or two. This year’s SXSW official program included presentations by two RPA bright thinkers: Rich Bina (Strategic Planning Director), on the subconscious biases of subject-matter experts, and Tim Leake (Chief Marketing Officer) on the rise of shareability culture and what it means for business.

RICH’S TALK: How Neuroscience Reveals Your “Expert Blindness”

In partnership with Dr. Carl Marci (Nielsen)

Your expertise fuels your success; it also creates “expert blindness,” skewing how you see and react to the world. Neuroscience can help. Explore a study we conducted using neurometric measures to compare experts to the “normal” people they’re trying to connect with, revealing the subconscious biases expertise creates. Understand how your expertise affects your brain, so you can be aware of your potential “blindness.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @RichardBina.


TIM’S TALK: If You Don’t Share It, Did It Really Happen?

In partnership with Natalie Sun (NextArt)

The world of 2018 is share-crazy. This session will explore the business and marketing opportunities created by this global obsession. We’ll explore how optimizing for shareability (or perhaps doing just the opposite) can turn an average idea into a monster success. Let’s monetize this craziness.

We’ll share a framework you can apply to your own ideas. We’ll share inspiring examples. And we promise to present in an engaging way that follows our own advice. Have your phones ready.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @tim_leake.