South by South West 2023

Last week, Armadillo hosted a brilliant session from the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising)’s Nigel Gwilliam and Eric Kreis, who are on a UK tour sharing insights from their visit to South by Southwest (SXSW) 2023.


SXSW is an annual event that showcases emerging technologies across film, music, tech, education, and culture. After cancellations in 2020 and 2021, and a hybrid schedule last year, 2023’s event was “Back with a Bang”. Over 30,000 people joined over the 10 days it was held, having the chance to listen to 5,500 speakers and 2,000 Individual talks. That’s a lot of info!


Cue Eric who helpfully talked us through his three key takeaways from his first trip there – connection and relationships, futurism and experiential futures, and tactile immersion.

There’s so much being talked about but what everyone always wants to know is what was ‘The’ thing. In 2022 it was Web3 and the Metaverse – in 2023 ‘’everyone was back to AI’’.

Nigel went on to focus on AI past, present and future. AI was first explicitly mentioned at SXSW in 2015 and has been an underlying theme for years. Now, it’s hit the mainstream and there’s a lot to think about.

From Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and a pond metaphor (to try and help visualise Moore’s law) to the big question of “will AI cause the apocalypse”, the talk was insightful and eye-opening. Nigel promised to proffer reassurances and opportunities for AI, as well as challenge us with what it could mean for humanity. That he did. We agreed to have a go and ‘get our hands dirty’ but also exercise and value our real world interpersonal skills.

Thank you to Nigel and Eric for sharing your experiences and lessons from Austin with guests from Armadillo, IPA members and the Bristol community.