Day two of SXSW 2017 brought a lot of rain and knowledge. Attending sessions on the rise of bots in communications, neuroscience in the effectiveness of ads, Snapchat influencers and cultural tourism, the CJRW team is breaking down the highlights below so you can experience SXSW too.

This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain on Ads.


The SXSW session, “This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain on Ads,” featured a panel of experts led by Dr. Naomi Grewal, North American consumer insights manager at Facebook, discussing cross-media consumption of and physiologic responses to advertising. They detailed how consumer neuroscience can help marketers create advertising that really resonates with consumers.

The panel included Pranav Yadav, CEO of Neuro-Insight; Aaron Reid, founder and chief behavioral scientist at Sentient Decision Science; and Manuel Garcia-Garcia, SVP, Research and Innovation: Global and Ad Effectiveness at The Advertising Research Foundation.

Garcia-Garcia took the audience through a presentation titled, “Consumer Neuroscience in the Advertising Industry,” that dealt with mobile video effectiveness, cross-platform advertising and the application of neuroscience to advertising research. Studies that the Advertising Research Foundation have implemented concluded that adding neuroscience to traditional ad testing can help to predict the impact that ads will have on sales. He stated that, “Great creative comes from a unified messaging approach. Campaigns are more effective when run across multiple platforms with consistent messaging with the ads being customized to each specific platform.” This approach to campaigns enhances the impact of the ads, making them up to 95 percent more memorable. Garcia-Garcia said that only 38 percent of marketers use this unified approach. His presentation went on to show that consumers are distracted from television ads the majority of the time. TV viewers only have their heads up watching the television 35 percent of the time. The other 65 percent of the time, their heads are down looking at their mobile devices or other distractions. He recommended that advertisers use sound to bring viewers’ attention back to the TV. He also presented research showing that when the same commercials are used on television and online, campaigns are much less effective.

Reid presented a Sentient study titled, “The Nature of Emotion,” which measured emotional reaction to ad exposure and brain processing involved in ad exposure. The study, conducted from 2014 through 2016, predicts whether ads will go viral or not. Two hundred ads were tested with 14,000 subjects. When asked if advertising impacts what they buy, 95 percent of the subjects said no. “Research always asks if consumers like the ads. Don’t ask how they feel about ads. Ask how ads make them feel about the brand,” Reid said. Sentient’s study literally measured brain activity and watched test subjects’ faces as they were exposed to commercials to measure emotional and facial responses. It measured how people literally reacted to advertising. If they liked the commercial, their brain became activated in the area of emotional processing. For brands they liked and identified with, more brain activity was seen. Reid said, “Using all of these measurements together really allows advertisers to understand how people feel about brands and allows advertisers to predict effectiveness and success.”

Neuro-Insight’s Yadav stated that, “Brain activity can be directly linked to consumer behavior.” Studies done by Neuro-Insight mapped consumer brain activity second-by-second to find correlations between the commercials and emotion. Consumers were exposed to ads within a 30-minute episode of “The Big Bang Theory” on tablets while brain waves were measured. “Testing ads in the context of actual television shows is a more realistic way to rate their effectiveness,” Yadav said. His firm actually tested consumer response to Birds Eye frozen peas and frozen fish products. Test subjects were exposed to commercials for both products. The subjects liked the frozen pea commercial much better. The reason? In the commercial for frozen peas, the camera froze for a moment on the actual product as opposed to the frozen fish commercial in which the camera froze on the scenery as opposed to the actual product. This testing was able to tell the client that the product was more memorable and better-liked when the product was the primary focus. This testing allowed Birds Eye to revise the frozen fish commercial to focus on the product. After the adjustment to the commercial, sales share increased by 7 percent.

Yadav said, “This testing approach will be essential to market research in the future and will replace focus groups at some point.” He also stated, “Messaging that enters the long term memory is more effective.” Yadav closed his presentation by stating that there is no formula to make great ads, but testing can help get you there.

Talk to the Brand: Bots & the Chatty Marketer

For many companies, simply talking to customers online is a challenge. In the session, “Talk to the Brand: Bots & the Chatty Marketer,” Fred Schonenberg of VentureFuel led a panel featuring Stephanie Hay of Capital One, Chris McCann of, and Sam Olstein of GE Corporate. Capital One, and GE are three companies at the forefront of AI and bot development. The companies detailed their greatest challenges and opportunities in developing bots.

Just yesterday, Capital One released Eno (“one” spelled backwards), the gender neutral “chatbot” that uses artificial intelligence (“AI”) to provide users information like their bank account balance and the ability to transfer or pay bills from text messages. When asked if Eno is male or female, it responsed, “binary,” as it is a computer program. It does respond back that its favorite color is green, interestingly not the brand’s colors of blue and red. The launch of Eno should be no surprise to Capital One’s customers with Alexa enabled devices. According to Amazon, which developed it, “Alexa, the voice service that powers Echo, provides capabilities, or skills, that enable customers to interact with devices in a more intuitive way using voice. Examples of these skills include the ability to play music, answer general questions, set an alarm or timer and more. Alexa is built in the cloud, so it is always getting smarter. The more customers use Alexa, the more she adapts to speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences.” Currently, Alexa has more than 10,000 skills available – Capital One inquires being just one of them.

Chris McCann, CEO of, introduced us to Gwyn, the new chat bot that is brand agnostic. has many different brands and sells many different gifts besides flowers. Gwyn is powered by IBM, learns users’ language and behaviors, and accurately suggests gifts based on an individual user’s request. is another Alexa enabled skill.

Labracadabra for GE + Amazon from David Mishler on Vimeo.
Sam Olstein of GE Corporate told the crowd at SXSW about LABracadabra, which is a direct-to-consumer science kit, YouTube channel featuring top-down Tasty-style science tutorial videos and Alexa integration for guided tutorials. The biggest challenge according to Olstein was being fast and first-to-market because GE is known as an innovation company.

A big challenge for brands is the discovery of the bot. The best way for users to discover a bot is to release it on a platform that is at scale; however, that method is not without its nuances and challenges. Facebook’s Messenger and SMS text messengers native to your provider are examples of services that are at scale. Alexa’s voice may not accurately represent the GE brand. GE is using the Alexa brand to deliver its brand experience. The AI GE delivers would need to change slightly to match its brand image. Olstein noted slight hiccups, such as an experiment using magnetic polarity and Alexa delivering a polar bear joke. Hay noted similar challenges for Capital One. She stated that the AI needs to be anthropologically relevant, meaning that on SMS it would need to recognize and provide appropriate responses for emojis and the use of “y” for “yes” and “n” for “no.” Whatever platform a brand chooses to deliver a bot, the AI needs to consider how individuals use it and know specific conversational differences.

The simplest use of this technology may at first glance seem to be customer service. There are many other uses that may make more sense for a business. Examples include purely transaction uses, like uses with Gwyn or personal brand connections like GE establishes with LABracadabra.

Ready Or Not, The Bots Have Risen!

In a panel lead by Yahoo’s Andrew Poon, Lauren Kunze of Pandorabots, Shane Mac of Assist and Allison Swope of Facebook, the “chatbot” discussion was continued. The main difference between the earlier panel entitled, “Talk to the Brand: Bots & the Chatty Marketer,” is the brand perspective. In this session, we heard from companies that are developing bots and platforms on which bots will live, not from the brands that buy them.

Pandorabots is the oldest provider of bots and currently offers a DIY bot development platform. Kunze stated that 2.6 billion users have messenger apps downloaded to their phone. Brands have “bot fever” and are rushing to develop bots that may not make sense for their company.

Facebook recently released Destination Ads for Messenger, which allows brands to advertise bots in Messenger. However, Swope states that while brands may be excited about the new advertising feature, many are not using the platform organically to its full potential. Simply adding the “Message” call-to-action button on a brand’s Facebook Page can make a huge difference if your brand wants to encourage more bot usage.

When thinking of customer service, a common misconception is that bots will cost a brand more than staffing a call center. All panelists agree that is simply not the case. A huge barrier in bot development for customer service is moving from a real person to a well-developed bot. The leap is hard for most CEOs. However, in their experience, the panel states a bot will ultimately reduce phone calls.

Businesses need to find the best use of a bot for their company. Customer service may not make sense for everyone. Find the use that delivers the most utility with the least friction. For businesses considering whether or not to develop a bot, a transactional bot, like bots for shopping, could provide the most utility and the least friction.

Snapchat for Business: Working With Influencers

In a panel led by fellow Snapchat influencer Carlos Gil, Cyrene Quiamco, Danny Berk and Shaun Ayala told brands and agencies the ins and outs of hiring and working with a Snapchat influencer. With more than 200 million users and 10 billion daily video views, Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social platforms – only second behind Facebook in active users. Snapchat has created a tremendous opportunity for brands and marketers to tap into an increasingly engaged audience.

The top Snapchat influencers told the audience that their main goal when they work with brands isn’t to sell, but to create brand awareness. Many of the main tenants of influencer marketing extend onto Snapchat and are not surprising. Ultimately, like any influencer, Snapchat influencers have a niche and dedicated audience who trusts them.

CyreneQ states that her audience is loyal because she takes the time to talk to them on a personal level. Interestingly Quiamco, who goes by CyreneQ on social media, is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and currently resides in Arkansas. From a first-hand perspective, I can vouch for CyreneQ. She really does personally answer every message from fans, which at this point probably number in the hundreds of thousands.

The influencers stated barriers in Snapchat, like the lack of audience demographic data or other data that would allow for them to easily report on brand campaigns. However, they also stated that the personal nature of their interactions with fans allows them to know who their audience is, but on a personal level. They see their profile pictures and talk to them. CyreneQ stated that she typically reports on views, comments, screenshots and snapping her back as her key performance indicators of a campaign. The entire panel agreed that it’s really not about a solid ROI, but about brand awareness and engagement – which may be a hard pill for some brands to swallow.

Snapchat’s main competitor, Instagram Stories, is less robust for content creators, but gives brands reporting and audience insights. Nevertheless, CyreneQ stated that she didn’t think Instagram Stories can compete toe-to-toe with Snapchat – that inherently both have their own merits and cannot be compared. For her community, Snapchat is the only platform that allows for the robust content creation tools her community desires in her content and, in return, interacts with her using. Referencing a campaign she did for Coca-Cola, she recalled her fanbase responding back to the brand campaign she published with art that they stated took them anywhere from five minutes to an hour to complete.

Snapchat has an active, not passive, user base. A Snapchat influencer’s fans will go out of their way to connect with them and, as a result, with the brands that influencer refers. Berk, Ayala and Quiamco referred to various brands that have hired them. When asked about brand account takeover, Gil states that when you do a brand takeover, an influencer needs to do it four to five times over a period of time to ensure retention of the influencer’s fans. Gil warned that a brand risks disappointing new fans if it doesn’t keep up with the level of content creation the influencer delivers. He stated that Warby Parker does a great job by simply showcasing employee profiles and asking users to guess what’s on their desks. Warby Parker teases the content across all social media with images of their Snapchat code.

Brands have to be omnichannel. Hiring a famous Snapchat influencer is not a cure-all for a brand. Brands must have different tactics on different social media platforms. Furthermore, the brand should not consider the influencer to be the sole way it can launch its popularity on Snapchat. It must leverage its other social media to promote the influencer’s role on social media and continue to promote when it posts new stories on Snapchat.

Innovation in Cultural Tourism

The SXSW session, “Innovation in Cultural Tourism,” led by Sarah Triplett, Director of Public Policy at Creative Many, featured a panel of marketers from the state of Michigan discussing how they provide unique and authentic experiences, cultural histories, events and destinations to potential travelers. The panel specifically explored Michigan’s efforts to use the state’s creative industries and creative heritage to attract short and long term visitors from around the world.

The panel included Jori Bennett, Director of Business Development for ArtPrize Michigan, Jenell Leonard, Film Commissioner at Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, and Christian Overland, Executive VP, The Henry Ford.

Bennett spoke to the attendees about ArtPrize Michigan, a competition created to promote the artistic culture of the state of Michigan. ArtPrize took place in a three square mile area in the city of Grand Rapids for 19 days in September and October of 2016. Visitors totaling 232,000 and 18,000 K-through-12 students viewed and voted on works of art exhibited in 170 venues, created by 1,600 Michigan artists from around the state. Visitors cast 360,000 votes to select two winners who each received $200,000 in prize money. Bennett said, “Giving away that amount of prize money really helped create a successful event right out of the box.” Artists from any medium were able to enter the contest, and there was no cost to the public to attend. Hotels, bars and restaurants all exhibited the work of the artists. was created along with an app to help artists and venues connect prior to the event and to promote the event. ArtPrize Michigan generated the highest daily attendance of any art event in the world.

“It’s an evolving experience,” Bennett said. “We want to make it better every year, make it more fun each year.”

Leonard talked about the state of Michigan working to expand beyond film to include more creative industries in their cultural promotions of the state. “From autonomous vehicles to art to advertising to digital media, we needed to promote more elements than just film,” she said. Ten percent of funds, generated by the state’s Pure Michigan campaign, or $14 million, come directly from arts and culture. One example was Michigan’s successful effort to create a public/private partnership when they worked with Comedy Central to bring the filming of “Detroiters” to the state. Private funds totaling $10 to $12 million were secured to help support the effort with no public funds involved.  Michigan also was the first state to partner with a film studio when they worked with Warner Brothers Studios to develop locations for the 2016 film, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Michigan and the studio worked together to create a mobile app for the film to promote locations around the state.

The Henry Ford’s Overland discussed the Greenfield Village museum being a place where people can learn about “history, entrepreneurship and innovation.” Other Henry Ford entities that help the state draw cultural visitors are the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, the Ford Rouge Factory tour and the Benson Ford Research Center. All of the destinations speak to the “process of invention and innovation as well as sustainability and the world economy,” Overland said. The museums have a collection of more than 26 million objects, all of which can be checked out and explored. Overland said, “You need to give people access to the collections, not just to the museum itself.” One of the primary promotion pieces for Michigan in terms of innovation is the CBS program, “Innovation Nation,” hosted by Mo Roca. The 30-minute show, based out of the Greenfield Village museum, airs every Sunday morning for 52 weeks each year. Rocca talks with inventers and innovators all over the world. “Cultural tourism is not just a museum,” Overland said. “It’s going out to the people and seeing what they are doing, have done and will do.” The Henry Ford is also moving more money to digital marketing every year. Their goal? Be THE choice in the United States and the world for a great culture experience.