SXSW19: AI isn’t changing the world, it’s augmenting it


Written by Bridget Jewell and Dustin Joyce | Creative Directors at Periscope

We should not have been so surprised when our morning coffees were prepared by a robotic barista. After all, SXSW is one of the most diverse, collaborative and inventive communities in the world.

Among the thought-provoking activations, high-profile film screenings and hoards of robotic puppies, one theme stood out from the rest: Artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool, not a threat.

Once viewed as the enemy of creativity, the sentiment around AI is now shifting as people are beginning to realize that AI isn’t here to replace us, but rather, here to help us sift through the mountain of information, data and tasks that take us away from doing the things we actually enjoy doing.

So what exactly does that mean for creative agencies? AI could step in to reduce repetitive cognitive and motor skills (think time sheets, tracking job numbers, setting up Adobe files, pulling creative references, etc.) and give us more time to spend on the things we want to be doing, like creating different variations of an asset or fine-tuning a concept.

Marketers shouldn’t fear AI, as it’s only as good as its inputs. We saw this idea illustrated with Sony’s Co-Write with AI experience that encouraged users to enter thematic elements of their choosing while the “flow machine” tackled the less-fun parts of starting a writing project — setting up the document, naming the file and establishing page setup.

While AI was certainly a hot topic, there were many other must-sees at SXSW. Here are a few of our favorite experiences:

HBO and American Red Cross joined forces with a branded experience that had people lining up to literally bleed #ForTheThrone. Boredom wasn’t a problem for those waiting to donate blood, as Game of Thrones’ “Wildlings” kept them entertained.

Another winner was Netflix’s The Highwaymen House. It went way beyond the one-dimensional photo op, inviting participants to step in and participate in an immersive experience including mug shots, custom cocktails, live music and a high-end general store where you pay with points you earn through participation.

Amazon Prime’s Good Omens activation was also a big draw, offering themed experience complete with a life-sized chess board, puppy play pen and plenty of whimsical warnings that the end is nigh.