I’ve spent the last few days at SXSW having my mind blown. Partially by the free beer that’s seemingly available in every bar but mainly by the sheer tidal wave of innovative ways to engage with people.
The speakers are convincing, persuasive and revered like tech Superheroes by the vast crowds of geeks, planners, creatives and clients that made the pilgrimage over. They’ve been talking drones, biometrics, UX, wearable tech, apps, maps and, of course, data. Loads and loads of data.

It’s hard not to get carried away by the sheer excitement of what seems to be a new way of doing things. But there’s one small hiccup.

Based on my experiences online in the USA, not everyone has swallowed the happy pill that promises this new epoch of engagement – because they still seem to think people are interested in what we’ve got to say. And no amount of tech can save a brand story if it’s not handled with the utmost respect for the consumer.

Let’s take simple Internet browsing. We’re already dealing with auto play videos that suddenly start mysteriously shouting at us from somewhere on the page we’re on. So we have to scroll around to find the thing, turn it off then scroll back to where we started. It’s invasive, and it makes certain websites less friendly than they used to be. Then there’s the page takeover. I have no problem with them if they’re funny, relevant or engaging. Most of them aren’t and do their very best to hide the little ‘x’ that turns the damn thing off. When a brand becomes an obstacle it’s immediately failed in what it set out to achieve. But when it comes to the USA, we have it good. Over here, ads play over the top of your chosen website whether you like it or not. There’s no little ‘x’ and no skipping. You watch the damn thing before browsing and then you watch it again – and again.

As Internet speeds get faster and faster, so do the capabilities of our web browsers. They’re expecting ‘Google Fiber’ https://fiber.google.com/about/ here in Austin in the next month or so, with download speeds that are simply astronomical. That means full motion video, 3D at lightning speeds. Websites can pulse, spin, be viewable in virtual reality, ultra HD resolution and Dolby surround. It means we’ll be capable of telling brand stories that are immersive, exciting and relevant. Well, that’s the dream isn’t it?

If we stay on the path we’re on now, we’ll just shout clearer and in higher definition, sites we love could contain commercial breaks. And then people will just, well switch off.

The future’s right here, but with great power comes great responsibility.

I think another Superhero said that.

This article originally appeared in AdNews