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What do Kona Brewing, Avon and Vogue have in common? The answer: representation at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW), which our creative team attended in March. With session titles such as Origin-Based Marketing, Diversity Now, Courageous Creativity and Tech’s Lessons for Healthcare, SXSW truly offers an array of topics that reveal the intersection of creativity and technology.

The streets of Austin were transformed into a visual playground for two weeks, and we found everything from National Geographic taking over a bar with virtual reality displays, to Casper – the online-only mattress company – setting up a sleep trailer for 10-minute nap sessions.

Several trends emerged:

Advertising for Good

We’re seeing this trend appear more and more in advertising. Companies are not simply promoting their products but also promoting a way of life and a point of view – be it social justice or politics. From GE’s Mildred Dresselhaus-focused campaign committing to hire 20,000 women by 2020 in the tech industry, to Heineken’s recent campaign about appreciating and respecting our differences, this trend was clearly present at SXSW.

Four powerhouse speakers traveled all the way from Brazil to share Avon’s new campaign for BB Cream, featuring a diverse group of individuals including male, LGBT and plus-sized models. While promoting the face cream, the speakers – who included marketers, Avon employees and a Brazilian YouTube star – emphasized their motivation: to “make change.”

Data Visualization and Storytelling

Many speakers also focused on data visualization: turning raw data into interesting visuals. One particularly effective talk, Persuasive Presentations, led by Harvard Business Review authors Nancy Duarte and Scott Berinato, broke down the essentials into context (who), content (why), construct (how) and connect (lasting impressions). Duarte charted famous speeches through time, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Barack Obama, to determine patterns of speaking. This approach, when paired with visuals that increasingly build on one another to form a story, helps retain interest and leaves the audience engaged.

Amy Balliett of Killer Infographics shared a highly effective visual campaign done in partnership with We Count Seattle – a donation exchange website created for the homeless population – based on research showing that first impressions are 94% based on design.

“Visual IQ is on the rise,” Balliett said. “Today’s consumers are pickier than ever, and people want to see a myriad of visual content before making a decision.” By leveraging strategic ad placement across free papers, billboards and buses – along with short-form content (which 95% of people prefer) focused on real stories and real faces – the campaign received 800 registered website users in the first 90 days. Over 350 items were exchanged on the platform.

Health Care and Technology

It’s a dynamic time for the health care and technology industries, and that message was clear at SXSW. Both industries are experiencing new and always-changing regulations as well as strong motivation to constantly improve upon themselves, become more affordable and become more available to the masses.

Featuring leaders from HomeAway, RideAustin and the newly created Dell Medical School, one panel discussed how we could apply insights and successes from the tech world to attack health care challenges. According to the panel, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) is the first major policy change in the last 60 years that allows the patient more choice than ever before and is at the center of this discussion. There are ways that health care and technology are integrated already, such as Yelp reviews driving patient referrals or the gamification of wellness via smartwatches and activity trackers (e.g., Fitbit). But further opportunities lie in the spaces of virtual reality or improved transportation and infrastructure.

Dr. Tom Caven discussed new research using virtual reality as distraction therapy to help with phobias and anxieties as well as for pain amelioration. “We’re not trying to take the place of opiate medication but see if people can get by on a few less pills a day,” he said.

Similarly, the panel discussed how applying ride sharing and a Meals-on-Wheels approach to health care could enable those who are without transportation to make their preventive care appointments and pick up their prescriptions – both actions that might prevent unnecessary hospitalizations. According to the panel, we are at the absolute beginning of health care’s maturation, and more cross-industry innovation will evolve.

| Creative, Culture

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