SXSW 2023: Sparrow’s festival wrap from streaming platforms to AI


One hell of an adventure in every sense of the word!

After an incredible SXSW Austin Texas 2023 experience, it is challenging to put into words and describe the magic/inspiration that truly is SXSW.

It’s an all-encompassing experience from the stages in the ACC (Austin Convention Centre) to any of the other festival locations that host the 25 conference tracks or the awesome activations and houses that come alive during the event.

There is a great vibe with the weirdness of Austin as the locals embrace the attendees and the energy pulsates in the streets. As mentioned previously last week, I love the contrasts. For example the super high-tech installation in the exhibition area e.g. A 2-story 3D hologram of Mark Cuban by HYPERVSN (see below pic however due to the tech a static normal speed photo doesn’t do it justice).

You could then walk outside the expo space and run into an old-school walking vagina promoting sex education for social change (see attached photo.)

Sparrow meets an “old school walking vagina”

This year it was definitely out with crypto/NFTs and in with Artificial Intelligence which was everywhere … even when I didn’t know it was there.

What was especially positive was the happy intersection of AI and humans discussed in multiple sessions and I personally felt relieved as a senior human. Phew.

In the past Facebook, Instagram and other big tech players would have dominated the city. However, this year the streamers took over. From the heights of Paramount+ with The Lodge, we also had HBO Max, Prime Video, Showtime, FX, Hulu, etc. This omni-presence touched us with big bold house activations to pedicabs and street teams of blue nuns promoting Mrs. Davis.

Other trends from the sessions included the ethical use of data, web 3 was on the back burner but still part of the conversation, and psychedelics were far more prominent than I ever hallucinated.


Amy Webb encouraging visitors to head to SXSW Sydney

Sparrow’s SXSW Highlight list

As you know I love a list so here goes for this year.

Top session: Greg Brockman co-founder & president Open AI /ChatGPT
Annual favourite: Amy Webb – her Emerging Tech Tends is a must-attend
Surprise and delight: Creating Happiness: The Art & Science of Disney Parks Storytelling
Cultural moment: Cheech Marin
Best Activation/experience: Paramount+ with The Lodge
Best House: Australia House
Memorable music showcase: King Stingray
Unexpected moment: The Zen Buddhist monk beatboxing in the biggest venue Ballroom D at the ACC before a packed session
Everywhere at SXSW: The streamers
Best Party: TikTok #ForYou
Best Food: Salt Lick Texas BBQ Driftwood

After the Interactive track of SXSW finishes there is another wave of passionate music fans descending on Austin to hear break-out artists and incredible music showcases.

There seemed to be more Aussie & NZ marketers attending this year with clients from diverse categories e.g., Insurance/finance, QSR, Pharma-retail, Tourism, Luxury, Tech software, etc.

There was also a smart crew from SXSW Sydney on the ground everywhere taking it all in, in prep for Sydney in October.

I am incredibly inspired and energised after another SXSW with new thinking and knowledge. The mind is blown and exhilarated … but the body is exhausted. However, I will be back again next year … Join me, it’s one hell of an adventure in every sense of the word!

See also:
SXSW Day 6: Sparrow goes to the rodeo, then tackles the Metaverse
SXSW Day 5 with Tourism Australia: Mediaweek launches Road to SXSW Sydney
SXSW Day 4: Sparrow with TikTok in Austin, missing Deepak Chopra again
SXSW Day 3: Sparrow on Amy Webb, Ed Helms and Brian Baumgartner
SXSW Day 1 and 2: Sparrow at the keynotes including Disney and AI insights
SXSW Day 1 and 2: Trent Thomas visits Prime, Paramount & Audible
SXSW interview sessions: TikTok’s Anny Havercroft with Mediaweek in Austin
SXSW Creative Industries Expo with Trent Thomas: Mediaweek guide to eye-catching brands, services and products

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