The Future is People, Stories & How We Deliver Them

Scott Lew, Associate Creative Director, Pound & Grain

Cardboard flavoured convention pizza, unorganized long lines of people and more “Futurist” than we ever thought we needed – Yup, SXSW Interactive is always a blast and 2018 did not disappoint. The city of Austin graciously opened up their BBQ lids and welcomed tech junkies, content nerds and digital creatives for a week of inspiring speakers, collaborative working sessions and presentations on the future of digital and interactive. If SXSW 2018 is going to be remembered for anything, it’s that people who can tell great stories are finally being given the right platforms to make a difference. Couldn’t make it down to Austin? All good, we’ve got you covered. Slap on that BBQ bib, pour yourself a tall glass of bourbon and settle in.


It got emotional, political and we felt the “Bern.”

The keynote speakers at SXSW are always inspiring and this year was no different. The front-runner for many was definitely Bernie Sanders’ conversation with Jake Tapper about the state of America. There may have been a Stormy Daniels name drop, but for the most part they touched on issues like gun control, DACA and the deregulation of banks. And let’s just say the majority of Ballroom D definitely “felt the Bern.” Beyond Bernie, festival attendees were also greeted by Chelsea Manning and Sally Singer from Vogue where they discussed subjects like personal digital privacy, software regulations for developers and the biases of data and algorithms. Ester Perel also took to the main stage and her expert insight on relationships amidst a digital culture shift – in short, you can never go wrong by simply listening. Listen to the stories of others, their traumas and their solutions and you might be better for it.

Master storytellers shared their secrets

Storytelling is the most important component of culture and sharing, so when great storytellers have something to say, it’s best we sit back and soak it all in. This year’s festival brought some of the best and most inspirational storytellers of the modern era. Director Darren Aronofsky shared his 10 Commandments of Indie Filmmaking, one of which is simply to “give a shit.” Filmmakers Richard Linklater and Olivier Assayas also discussed how their stories and films would mature and evolve depending on the political states of their countries. Lena Dunham was joined on stage by Samantha Barry and together they dropped some serious knowledge on how lived experiences allows us to impact the lives of others. From the #metoo movement to #timesup, women can finally connect, empower each other, share their stories and create some much-needed change.

Stories and media are becoming one

Branded content isn’t a new concept, but brands and media companies are reaching new heights within the digital landscape when it comes to interactive storytelling with a purpose. Chef David Chang chatted about his latest Netflix show Ugly Delicious and launched Major Domo, a media and digital content endeavor set to go live later this year. Spike Jones was joined on stage by Alissa Leepman (NFL), Jess Taylor (Instagram) and Ali Weiss (Glossiar) where they discussed the power of short-form video on social media platforms and how brands can guide conversations and discussion with great content. CNN’s Otto Bell also shared his thoughts and experiences working with major brands from within a major media company. Of the many key takeaways, one that definitely stands out is the future of traditional advertising and how everything is shifting from an interruption to becoming a piece of a larger narrative.

The future is in our hands, both literally and figuratively

Of the countless people calling themselves a “Futurist,” we found that two really stood out for obvious reasons. The first is Amy Webb of the Future Today Institute. In her hour-long keynote, she talked about how smartphones and wearable tech has hit a bit of an apex and to expect innovation in these spaces to level off in the near future. She also dropped some truth bombs on the importance of identifying what’s trendy versus an actual trend when it comes to tech. Her entire 2018 trends report was shared on Twitter during her talk, so you might want to download and consume that ASAP. The other important future-figure to speak was Ray Kurzweil from Google. During his talk with Mashable’s Jessica Coen he touched on subjects like the evolution of AI and what it could be for humanity in terms of expanding our reach and amplifying our own brain power. 

Content is entertainment and entertainment is content

It goes without saying that digital marketing is shifting towards building entertaining content and this year’s festival had a major focus on empowering storytellers. Case and point would be Ira Glass’s keynote on how he and the gang at NPR created a couple of the world’s most popular podcasts by simply telling the stories they wanted to tell. The creative team and the cast of HBO’s Westworld also wow’d Ballroom D by showing footage of the new season and surprising everyone by bringing out Elon Musk to talk about how technology can actually bring joy if we use it correctly. And finally, the cast and crew of This Is Us gave fans a peek behind the scenes of one of TV’s most emotional narratives ever.

SXSW is always a trip, but this year’s focus on empowering storytellers through technological platforms was extremely valuable when it comes to the future of interactive and digital mediums. Another great year, another great lineup and another group of happy P&Gers appreciative of the opportunity to attend.

See ya’ll next year!

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About the Author: Scott brings nearly 15 years of creativity, content strategy, and copywriting experience to Pound & Grain's creative team. An accomplished interactive storyteller, Scott has worked his magic on everything from morning radio shows, podcasts, video games, comic books, TV commercials, apps, websites and non-linear digital experience. He's worked with brands like Ford, Chevrolet, Rogers, lululemon, Weight Watchers, Microsoft, Samsung, Canada Dry, CBC, Wendy's, Tourism Niagara, OLG and Adobe winning multiple awards for his conceptual and executional work in the digital space.