March 19, 2013

South by Southwest (SXSW) began in March 1987 as a local Austin Texas musical festival with 700 attendees.  Since then it has exploded in popularity with more than 30,000 paid participants and 300,000 attendees, as it has expanded from a music festival to a 10-day creative celebration of film, interactive, and of course, music.  SXSW Interactive has an incredible reputation for being a hub for creative thinking. Many companies have used the festival as an opportunity to reveal new and developing technologies.

As the agency of Iconic Ideas, we are avid learners of all things communication. We appreciate an event where creative people come together to collaborate and share new thinking.

Here’s a list of PK’s Top 5 ideas from this year’s festival.

1.  Doritos 62 foot tall vending machine “Bold Stage”

We think Doritos had the right idea with this interactive marketing stunt. Fans all over Austin have been saying the giant vending machine might have literally “upstaged” the performing artists.  At its core, this stunt is a contest. The stage featured three up-and-coming acts going head to head –performing one song each – with fans at the shows voting on Twitter for which act would open for Hip Hop icon LL Cool J. Users also picked the smoke, lasers, pyrotechnics, beach balls, balloons and confetti to be set off during the show. Doritos also broadcast fans’ photos on the giant stage and let them decide which song played next.  This was a great example of using social media not just to drive an idea but an entire event. In lieu of a traditional microsite, the Bold Stage campaign was built specifically for use on fans’ mobile platforms, utilizing a mobile application and Doritos Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.


2.  Mashable Gives Brands a “Social Lift”

Mashable, the lovable social media and tech news site, came out ahead of the curve at SXSW. At the festival, they released a social application that allows brands to post updates to the Mashable page. This example of native advertising is perfectly timed in the wake of the Oreo tweet during the Super Bowl. “We’re doing this because we see brands are already creating a lot of compelling content that they want to share on social networks,” said Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore, “and if a brand can create things people find truly engaging on social, that’s an opportunity for us to be involved and relevant to our audience.” This idea of native advertising isn’t new, but Mashable has invented a very intelligent way to utilize it. As much as we want to hate Cashmore because he’s a young, chiseled millionaire and internet genius, this CEO is definitely onto something.

The tech savants at Mashable use internet sensation grumpy cat in their launch video.

3.  Koozoo App lets us share and see the world in real time

Koozoo lets you see and share live views of public places you care about, from a favorite neighborhood café, to iconic locations around the world. Wonder how long the line is at your favorite concert venue? Want to know if your favorite spot in the park is open? We’ll all be able to tell by using Koozoo. This application was just launched for the first time at SXSW as a part of its Accelerated Contest, so it currently only covers Austin and San Francisco. We can’t wait to use it this summer in Minneapolis. We have a hunch it’ll be a hit by then.

4.  Have them at “Hello” with Charlie

This helpful app is like an invisible executive assistant that preps you on people you are about to meet. No more scrambling through LinkedIn before a job interview, or checking Facebook to see if your high school buddy’s wife finally had their baby. With access to your calendar, Charlie knows who you are going to meet ahead of time and filters through the web to present you with any commonalties between you and your connection, plus breaking news on their company, and social updates. Basically, Charlie does your social homework for you. We can’t wait to use this one before our next big date, uhh client meeting.

5.  Game of Thrones invades Austin

Advertisers often default to mass media for simplicity and proven effectiveness. But if there’s one thing we learned from SXSW, it’s that surprising your audience with unique messaging can be disproportionately effective.  During the festival, HBO promoted its epic fantasy series, Game of Thrones, with throne designed pedicabs roaming the streets of Austin, making riders feel like royalty and attracting attention from crowds.  Even more interesting was the limited edition Game of Thrones brew, which was served at a gallery of user- submitted artwork depicting characters from the show.  Fans could also pose for (and post) photos on a replica of the throne itself, Westeros’ great seat of power.

gameofthrones iron-throne-blonde-ale-1024x682


PK loves the spirit of creativity at festivals like SXSW. The next big thing can emerge to change and improve the way we live, shop and work. And that’s why most of us got into this business in the first place.

Preston Kelly
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Minneapolis, MN 55413
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