I was lucky enough to be able to go to SXSW Interactive this year as part of my prize for winning the Great British Diversity Experiment. I saw a huge number of talks and had an amazing experience and thought I would write a round up of some the biggest trends I saw spoken about this year.

Making people want things < Make things people want

Human centred design was a huge buzzword at SXSW this year. The digital revolution is over; it’s no longer enough to simply incorporate digital into your business, the new challenge is how to build your business around the people who use it. Whether that is through organisational transformation or a shift in focus through empathetic, design thinking methodologies. The new revolution will be won by putting people at the heart of the problem and making things people want, instead of attempting to make people want things.

Frank Cooper from Buzzfeed spoke about their human-centred approach, the future of media companies and the growing difference between aspirational and authentic advertising. There are now two ways to reach huge audiences – through celebrity and mass marketing fuelled big-brand names OR through empathy and human connections.

Everything starts from empathy. Buzzfeed has 6billion content views a month because it genuinely connects to its audience on a personal level. It connects to sub-cultures and tribes; it connects to your identity and how you define yourself. Cooper believes that people don’t consume content, they use it. This is hugely important to consider when looking at the platforms that people interact with. Content that is made specifically for a platform and is native and organic can actually add value for the people who view it instead of adding to the growing levels of advertising spam.

GIFs are the future

“GIFs are the new vocabulary to describe the human condition”

According to Alex Chung, the founder of Giphy, GIFs are the next step in the evolution of technology and storytelling. GIFs are on average about 5 seconds long, the same length of time as the average scene in a film, the time it takes to read a sentence, and the length of a pre-roll video on YouTube.

5 seconds are all you need to tell a story and convey an emotion. You can use GIFs to express exactly what you’re thinking or feeling in a way which a still image could never achieve. They have become a new vocabulary, which is open for everyone to use. Before only a few people had the tools or ability to create and express themselves through art or literature, now GIFs have democratised expression.

It’s not about the size, it’s how you use it

“The fight between digital and TV will be won with big data.”

We are in an era of highly personalized experiences; although it’s still pretty “creepy”, it’s becoming more normalised, people are beginning to expect a certain level of personalisation with their advertising and at the moment digital has the advantage. TV needs to learn how to use data and programmatics properly to meet these expectations.