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SXSW: I’ve Survived.



Huge's Yashoda Sampath on an almost 'anti-viral' festival and its effects on brands

SXSW: I’ve Survived.

It's a common industry canard that you don't really need to attend SXSW more than once. More often than not, when you mention you're going a second time, hardened veterans look at you with pity, as if they're about to lose you to a terrible mission with limited odds of return.

Well, I'm proud to say I survived, and that I'm mad enough to try and turn it into a hat-trick. 

That said, there were a few extra challenges this year. For an ‘interactive' festival, means of communication were in ludicrously short supply. First we lost our cell phone signals, then we lost our mobile data, and finally, even wifi seemed to give in.

I may sound glib, but there's a serious problem hiding behind the lack of connectivity. Every branded experience centred around the ubiquitous hash tag. It's a simple quid pro quo: you give us some free marketing, and we give you something in return (often things that manage to feel necessary - coffee, tacos, clean t-shirts, etc). So we end up with a whole lot of quid spent and very little quo.

So not only were brands paying a hell of a lot of swag money in exchange for very little return, festival-goers also lost out on the viral memes and in-jokes that bond the tribe together. The fabulous real-life Mario Kart experience, which should have kickstarted a winning marketing campaign for Pennzoil, was only spoken of by traditional media and by the lucky few who managed to experience it. Owing to the connectivity problem, these conversations couldn't take flight on social media.

One of the core experiences of SXSW is envying everyone else's experience of it. Paradoxically, FOMO (fear of missing out) makes the endless queuing bearable. So when the festival experience is anti-viral, everyone loses out. Scanning the print lists and going to talks and panels that have interesting descriptions? How very old-media.

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HUGE USA, Mon, 17 Mar 2014 17:21:48 GMT