Robots, TV Stars and the Rise of Analog Creative

by Sandy Fleischer & Scott Lew, Pound & Grain

Quick, what do you think of when someone says rideshare apps, memes, conversations with robots, and smart pizza? Well, there’s only one real answer to that, and it’s SXSW 2017. Didn’t make it down to Austin, it’s all good – the crew from Pound & Grain has you covered.


Fuckjerry has been meme’ing their way through Instagram for a while now with hilarious micro content. But what you might not realize is how authentic their founder and main contributor Elliot Tebele is when it comes to his brand. During the Fuckjerry session, Tebele was very transparent with his lack of knowledge and interest in marketing jargon, but was happy to let his team answer for him. He’s just a guy creating memes and as fans, we should appreciate this. This was a great session that helped remind us all that SXSW is best enjoyed by the nerds, not the people who are looking to monetize everything.


This year’s conference didn’t see the launch of the next Twitter or even Meerkat and the overall vibe was that expectations were low when it came to app and tech announcements. Content on the other hand was the talk of the town. Whether it was someone like Mandy Mandelstein talking about digital content experiences in real life, or someone like Jody Avirgan speaking about the future of sports podcasting, it feels as though SXSW 2017 was being used as a platform to announce new stories.


While apps like Uber and Lyft were voted out of Austin, a similar breed of rideshare apps has moved into town. Apps like Fasten and Rideshare saved the day. While they may not be as slick, every driver we spoke with like them better because they thought this new crop of ridesharing apps had a much better compensation model. While not often in the spotlight, employee satisfaction is an important part of the new economy.


Another major theme throughout the interactive portion of SXSW was the concept of taking creativity beyond the computer screen. And to keep their creatives teams inspired, tech companies have created maker studios within their own walls. Designers and creatives at IBM, Pinterest, Air BnB, and Nike are all getting the chance to experiment and bring personal projects to life with activities like screen printing and wood working. In another session, celebrated illustrator Will Bryant talked about getting out from behind a computer screen to find inspiration in the streets of Austin. All very inspiring and all great to hear for the creative community.


One of the underlining themes of SXSW is constant change and an imperative to continually evolve, and sports betting is no different. It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of betting on a professional match outside of Las Vegas was considered taboo, but with the introduction of fantasy sports and services like Fan Duel, live sports betting is becoming a norm for fans. This year we learned from people like Sara Rayme (VP of the American Gaming Association) and Andrew Brandt (Director of Sports Law at Villanova) that betting isn’t even taboo for professional leagues anymore which means in-stadium live betting could come as soon as 2019.


It’s no secret that interactive design and entertainment are linked, but this year’s conference showed how closely related the two are. The biggest and most attended sessions of the interactive portion of SXSW? A panel with the creators and cast members of Game of Thrones and Veep. Interactive entertainment is a natural evolution which requires TV and movie celebs to be their own brands beyond their show, and there was no better example of this than John Cena. During his session, he focused mainly on being a nice guy, working hard, and defining his personal brand by his values. His words coupled with an Adonis-like physique was inspiring to say the least.


One of the biggest trends of SXSW was around automation. Sessions and speakers focused on everything from smart cities and smart cars to smart pizza ordering sneakers. A lot of the vibe was about how technology can and will be smart enough to make things easier.


Sure, AI and Chatbots were everywhere this year, but good ole fashion physical robots were also a hot topic at SXSW, and some of the most fascinating sessions and discussions were around this topic. The blurred line between robotics and humanity came to a head at Sony’s WOW FACTORY where we sat and had a conversation with two frighteningly lifelike androids. Their gestures, movements, tone of voice, and the ability to hold and lead real conversations gave us a glimpse in a very Westworld-ian future. It was interesting to be able to sit down at a table and have a discussion on the value of human life as compared to the value of a robot. 

Sandy Fleischer, Pound & Grain

Sandy Fleischer, Pound & Grain

About the Author: Sandy brings two decades of digital agency experience to Pound & Grain. As client lead and senior strategist at Pound & Grain, he is responsible for delivering strategic digital marketing solutions and client happiness. In his secret other life, Sandy is known as DJ Pescatore and has played to crowds across Canada, the US and Italy.

Scott Lew, Pound & Grain

Scott Lew, Pound & Grain

About the Author: Scott brings nearly 15 years of creativity, content strategy and copywriting experience to Pound & Grain's creative team. A consummate hardworking interactive storyteller, Scott has worked his magic on everything from morning radio shows, video games, comic books, TV commercials, print ads, apps, websites and even non-linear digital experiences.