I recently spent a while in Austin attending SXSW. Part work, part vacation, it was all fun and all inspiration (see, I’m now posting in rhyme???!!!). Here’s some of my observations and experiences.
Austin’s independence and weirdness are fairly unique and always enjoyable.
While there was a national uproar over an ad agency hiring homeless folks to circulate as wireless hotspots, FedEx hired non-homeless folks (we talked to them and yes, despite the cool outfit, they are not regular FedEx employees) to circulate as human phone chargers. No one raised a peep over this. It’s okay to to turn people into device support as long as they have sufficient income such that we don’t feel awkward?
A typical bewildering promotional scene. I’m unsure specifically what was happening here. Pose with this Grinch (I guess?) and tweet the photo with a hashtag for chance to win something? Anne posed for the picture but we never bothered to determine exactly what it was about. This sort of exchange and promotion was very common.
This was the moment I realized how much my localized norms had shifted. Over the course of a few days, we ate and drank and snacked for free. Wwe got delicious ice cream sandwiches for free; all we had to do was tweet something. We got a free lunch from FedEx, although they asked that we check in Foursquare. Moments before taking this picture we followed the trail of Ben-and-Jerry’s-eating-folks to find out where the cart was, asking of course for some tweet action in exchange. By the time I came upon this popsicle stand. I looked up and down to figure out what I had to do, or if they were just going to give me a frozen treat without any action. We were a little chatty, reading their sign out loud, but no one was initiating a transaction, finally the woman asks us “Do you work for Twitter?” (I guess since we had mentioned tweeting). Finally, the penny drops. “Oh,” she explains, “right now these are $2.50.” It was just a regular frozen-good-for-money cart! No special SXSW promotion or anything! And she’s located herself right across from the Convention Center – ground zero for crazy promotions (the spot where Kobayashi ate 13 grilled cheeses in one minute was just feet away)! Well! I walked away grumbling at the nerve of this person to try and ask for money for their food product!
Making new friends.
What does this mean? Kony went from viral slacktivism to stencil-art in a matter of days. Is this anti-Kony? It seems to be iconifying him with Che-like kitsch. That was fast!
Attention-grabbing scumbaags put realistic paper “clamps” on parked cars. Haw haw! Fooled ya! You didn’t really get clamped, just wanted to tell you about our great service! Ummmm, no, no, no. That moment – be it one second or 90 seconds – of angst and despair upon seeing your car clamped is not okay. You should not do business by upsetting people and then telling them that it was just a joke. I realize that’s the premise for prank television, but this is simply not acceptable for marketers to be doing. You can make me feel good, but you must not make me feel bad.
I’m intrigued by the proliferation of these backdrops in publicly accessible places, so that we too can play at doing a red carpet appearance. The opening party had an actively-posed-with backdrop that was not intended to see any of its traditional star usage. These backdrops were also throughout the Convention Center. Certainly the appeal is understandable (we made good use of a similar opportunity last year in Florence); perhaps this starts to replace the stick-your-head-through-a-painting-of-a-character; now it’s red carpet for the rest of us.
These folks in the yellow skinsuits were promoting SceneTap but found themselves seduced by a street hustler more skilled than themselves, doing some kind of of three-card-Monty meets card trick. And those onlookers wearing “MYSPACE IS DEAD” shirts are actually promoting Myspace,
Fun with The Daisies, or the unexpected pleasure of following a titanic sound down a back street only to find ourselves feet away from a young, skinny, long-haired rock-n-roll band kicking out the jams.