IAB Members at SXSW: User Experience Takes Center Stage, Reflecting IAB Priorities

IAB Members at SXSW: User Experience Takes Center Stage, Reflecting IAB Priorities 2

Each year before SXSW, there is anticipation about what the hot topics will be. Will there be new introductions? Will there be an activation that blows everyone away? What’s new? What’s hot? What’s not? And this year was no exception.

As always, the 600+ IAB member companies were well represented at SXSW. We caught up with some members and asked them to share what they thought were the most interesting or memorable themes that they heard at SXSW. While this represents only a few of the hundreds of IAB members on the ground in Austin, a few key themes rise to the top. These themes are largely focused on technology that is enabling better and smarter creative and media decisions that put the consumer first. The need for storytelling and quality content to engage consumers is an underlying theme behind a good user experience. These SXSW insights are very interesting and we’ve highlighted IAB documents that relate to the various topics discussed. (Please click the images to read the documents.)

Technology is Transforming Video Content

Melinda Lee, SVP & GM, Meredith Video Studios

Everyone has been talking about AR, VR, and 360, which will continue to be points of interest in our field; but for me, the experience that crystalized how technology can transform content was SENSIKS’ sensory reality pod. Entering the “pod” and witnessing how visual content can be enhanced with scent, light, temperature, and other senses, was the most immersive experience I had and has absolutely affected how I’m looking at content opportunities across our studio network. ~ Melinda Lee, SVP & GM, Meredith Video Studios

VR Experiences Enable Hyper-personalized Experiences

Jason Z. Haikara, SVP, MediaLink

Emerging tech and platforms are enabling content creators access to consumers in hyper-personalized ways. Very evident at SXSW, brands were applying this trend head-on by creating multi-dimensional, immersive experiences by providing artists with a broader canvass on which to inspire empathy and entertain. At The Girls Lounge, Emblematic presented a VR experience that placed the user in a domestic violence situation, a powerful execution that could forecast a new frontier for public service campaigns. On a lighter note, Google and Warner Bros. commissioned VR artists to create original art inspired by “Wonder Woman” using Google Tilt Brush. ~ Jason Z. Haikara, SVP, MediaLink

Suggested reading:

This comprehensive IAB report explores virtual reality’s promise and pitfalls as the “the next big thing” in digital advertising, covering some of both Melinda and Jason’s SXSW comments above. Interviews with two dozen leading voices in advertising, publishing, VR software, and developer platforms offer key takeaways, lessons learned, and future plans in the emerging virtual reality field, including thoughts on augmented reality and 360-degree video.

Go Mobile or Go Home, With a Good Dose of AI

Carla Eboli, CMO, Dieste Inc., an Omnicom Group Agency

SXSW is like “Nárnia” to me: everything looks so amazing and out of this world! And soon magic becomes reality! Mobile is not an option anymore, it’s mandatory! As my friend Matias Jaramillo says “Everything that you do has to look good on mobile.”

AI: there is still a lot of room for creating and developing new apps and tools using AI. But I believe AI will be the trigger of the next digital revolution. ~ Carla Eboli, CMO, Dieste Inc., an Omnicom Group Agency

Suggested reading:

Improving Digital Advertising Experiences

We agree, Carla (and Matias)! The shift to a mobile-first consumption pattern is nothing short of revolutionary in its implications requiring immediate, practical, and creative solutions from everyone in the industry and adds exponential complexity to an already monumental task. This pushes the digital industry to innovate and develop creative solutions that elevate the quality of user experience. The IAB Improving Digital Advertising Experiences with Liquid Creativity paper provides some terrific mobile creative insights from industry leaders.

Consumer First Emphasis Requires Brand & Publisher Shifts

Colin Thomas, Sr. Analyst, Strategic Insights, Jumpstart Automotive Media

  • Brands need to focus more on Attention,
  • Publishers should prioritize Speed and Revenue, and
  • (Users) People want a more performant user experience and fewer forced view ads.

~ Colin Thomas, Sr. Analyst, Strategic Insights, Jumpstart Automotive Media

Suggested Reading:

IAB New Standard Ad Unit Portfolio L.E.A.N. Ads

We could write an entire blog post about IAB’s efforts in these three areas. Focusing on Colin’s third point about user experience, this is a top focal area for both the IAB and the IAB Tech Lab. The completely revamped IAB ad portfolio, emphasis on LEAN ads, new Dynamic Ads specifications that will go out for public comment, and guidelines for native advertising reflect IAB’s focus in this area.

Machine learning/AI = More effective ways to reach the consumer

Natalie Serota, VP Business Development, SteelHouse

An exciting theme at SXSW this year centered around machine learning/AI and how smarter digital media buying – across all channels and devices – will bring new audience measurement tools and analytics enhancements to market faster. And, as a result, advertisers will spend their digital dollars more effectively to prospect, acquire and retain the best customers. The method of delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right consumer is becoming smarter and automated. Deep learning is essentially ‘algorithmic intuition’ – the intersection of customer intent and product access. We will start to see new bridges form between traditionally static mediums lacking personalization (i.e. billboards, in-store displays) take cues from digital behaviors, and media platforms can connect the dots between online and offline behaviors with more accuracy. ~ Natalie Serota, VP Business Development, SteelHouse

Suggested reading:

IAB Digital Out-of-Home Buyer’s Guide

The IAB Digital Out-of-Home Buyer’s Guide speaks directly to Natalie’s point about how traditionally static mediums such as Digital OOH are taking cues from digital behaviors. Helpful definitions, buying insights and visual examples drive the points home.

Bots, bots and more bots, and why storytelling matters.

Margaret Magnarelli, Senior Director, Marketing & Managing Editor, Content, Monster

I felt like bots were one of the hottest things this year: I heard about applications ranging from mental health to creating art to mystery game play. Really got me thinking about what the best uses for these programs are, and where you need human vs. machine intervention. While I think bots will definitely produce efficiencies from a business standpoint, I don’t think brands can just go all in on machines—we still need that human touch sometimes to connect with customers. It also got me thinking about how we’ll soon start think about optimizing content for bots (bot-timizing?).

On another note, what I felt like I didn’t hear enough of at SXSW was on finding and telling stories from your brand’s perspective, which is my personal passion, and I think has to be the starting point for whatever marketing tactic you take, whether it’s AR, VR, machine-written or whatever “the next big thing” will be. Content can also drive product decisions as well, because in order to tell stories that will interest your customer, you have to get to know their needs. ~ Margaret Magnarelli, Senior Director, Marketing & Managing Editor, Content, Monster

Suggested Reading:IAB’s Marketing in the Messaging Space

IAB’s Marketing in the Messaging Space document speaks to two of Margaret’s points. First, the importance of putting the consumer first always (which is especially important in the intimate messaging space) and second, the importance and functions of bots in Messaging.

From my perspective, having been at SXSW for the past six years, the top SXSW topics are reflective of digital advertising’s maturity and the essential role that digital/mobile play as part of the marketing mix. It was encouraging to see the focus on storytelling in advertising of all types to engage with consumers in a more native way and that data can be used as a tool to identify the right message, to the right person, in the right environment. I encourage you to check out to learn more about how IAB has addressed these, and many other related topics.