SXSW, The Designer Burning Man

The Influencers 132 Add to collection
INFLUENCER: We Are Royale's Brien Holman on where to look to see what’s next in entertainment
SXSW, The Designer Burning Man

HBO / Game of Thrones 'Bleed for the Throne' via Giant Spoon

As we all board our planes, get in our cars, and take our tour busses out to Austin this year for the annual report of how tech is influencing art, otherwise known as SXSW, let’s take a minute to appreciate what’s going on behind the scenes. There will be amazing sessions taking place in and around the Convention Center, no doubt, but SXSW is also a hotbed for inspiring activations in entertainment taking place on the streets - and most are free to the public.  

Those are the experiences that we hold so dear to our Instagram feed. Each and every one of them is put on by a team of artists working alongside engineers in a way Boeing or SpaceX (Hi, Elon!) would die for. SXSW is quickly becoming a designer, and all-around less dusty, Burning Man where experimentation is championed by an audience hungry for an otherworldly experience.

Entertainment and tech have been the early adopters of the art of the experience. With the ever-talented Giant Spoon pulling off grandiose activations with Westworld and Game of Thrones' 'Bleed for the Throne' for HBO, all eyes are on them to see what kind of massive activation they bring this year. But not all impactful experiences need to be at a scale of an entire city block. The ones that are truly memorable are those that take audiences out of their norm. It’s the ones that tap into the experimental nature of the art you find at Burning Man, where bikes are transformed into amazing amalgamations of metal and wood. They’re different because they lean away from anything resembling marketing - and that’s what makes them impactful.

HBO / Westworld via Giant Spoon

Giant activations will always be impressive and special; however, the smaller ones that aren’t focusing on selling products, but rather, trying to offer an experience that’s unique or different are equally joyful and lasting. A grassy playground of puppies, supplied to an eager audience last year by Amazon Prime for the premiere of Good Omens, was as memorable as the Ready Player One experience. 

Amazon Prime / Good Omens (image via Deadline.com)

Look to the streets of Austin for those one-offs, the artists who work alongside engineers to create experiences, no matter how small, that are experimenting with new techniques and materials. What makes SXSW so engaging isn’t what’s necessarily going on in hotel ballrooms around town (although we still look fondly back on some of the talks we saw while there), it’s the teams meticulously crafting experience on the streets and back alleys of Austin. That’s where you look to see what’s next in entertainment.


Brien Holman is partner/executive creative director of We Are Royale (WAR)

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