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From shorter ad formats to immersive virtual reality (VR), the supply of new and innovative storytelling tools available to brands is bottomless. Yet as the amount of produced content explodes and audiences grow pickier about what they check out, how can brands ensure they break through?

As part of a panel discussion at a SXSW conference, Ben Jones, creative director at Google, spoke with agency and content leaders about how—and just how much—technology is changing storytelling. Here are their responses:

The Branded Content Partner

"You can't just use technology for technology's sake. For us on the news side, there has to be a consumer need. For instance, we launched a partnership with Samsung to do The Daily 360 where we'll feature 360-degree video journalism every day. And that was the most natural partnership we've ever done—it was tech by Samsung and journalism by The New York Times."

Sebastian Tomich
SVP, Advertising & Innovation, The New York Times Company

The Agency Creative Director

"It's never been easier to make cool stuff. But it's never been harder to get the word out about it. And we saw that with Lockheed Martin's Field Trip to Mars. That was a cool use of VR, and it garnered billions of impressions. So it's not about just creating content people have to seek out and find, but about making content that creates headlines."

Myra Nussbaum 
SVP & Group Creative Director, DDB Worldwide

Cannes Lions Winner 2016 - The Field Trip to Mars

The Creative Collaborator

"Technology is creating more immersive experiences. And that's important because attention is the one metric that can't be bought. You can buy 20M eyeballs or 30 seconds of time, but there's now a bifurcation around choice. 'If I can choose it, I want a lot of it. But if I can't choose it, I want less of it.' "

Ben Jones
Global Creative Director, Google

The Agency Strategy Director

"There's a difference in passive attention versus active attention. Passive is scrolling by something in a feed. And you can high-five with every impression you get, but that's not the whole story. The most successful campaigns create active attention, which is way harder to get, because we're competing with news media, entertainment, and everything else that's on the internet that day."

Jess Greenwood
VP, Content & Partnerships, R/GA

As consumers' attention grows ever scarcer, creatives and brands will be tempted to latch onto shiny new storytelling tools. But technology alone can't be asked to deliver a memorable story, as Sebastian concluded: "I love technology. But technology is no stand-in for a great insight. Great creative transcends everything, no matter the technology."