When one hears the term “South By Southwest,” more than likely the conjured images include sweat-soaked crowds dancing to live music, the lights dimming as an international film makes its debut or the furious typing on laptops during a lecture panel. Music, Film and Interactive: the 3 cornerstones of SXSW. We’d like to add a fourth: Advertising.
Attending SXSW feels like experiencing a year’s worth of advertising in about 10 days. This is in large part due to the crowd; both in its size (in the tens of thousands) and in its makeup (young, international, media-obsessed). And since this crowd is confined to downtown Austin and, more specifically, to just a handful of major blocks, this combination attracts a variety of brands that value the 18-35 year old demographics. The food & beverage, apparel, media and service industries, Fortune 500s, independents and even foreign governments fight to get their messages heard, to re-enforce or introduce their brands. With the sheer number of advertising messages taking place (more than likely unquantifiable), it would not be wrong to liken advertising at SXSW to pure anarchy.
That’s why so many advertisements live and die on the pavement, immediately processed and then forgotten. It’s human nature to have short attention spans (especially with free shows and free alcohol to consume daily) and to have even more fleeting memories. The audience at SXSW is captive only in terms of geography. Yet at every SXSW, despite an almost overwhelming array of stimuli, a few brands truly connect. (The word “brand” is used in a larger context – it could be a band, a film, a website, a product, etc.)
The SXSW festival provides a great case study for us to question why this happens. Why do some brands make a genuine impact with people while most barely register or have no impact at all? This is a fundamental question of advertising and never more important than it is now. SXSW provides all the chaos and anarchy and distractions. It’s our philosophy that the best brands embrace that anarchy, react to it strategically and smartly and, in their own ways, project their own version of anarchy back to the people: messaging that is unexpected and fresh.
Of course, this is real anarchy; so anything can and will happen. This year’s SXSW marks the second year of blog coverage from Door Number 3. Our coverage is even meatier; it’s broader in scope and more diverse, both visually and vocally. Every facet of the festival, from official showcases and panels to the unofficial daytime and nighttime activities are scrutinized with the sharp eye of a marketer. And when it’s all over, Door Number 3 will be crowning a few champion brands and doing a little post-mortem on the rest.
2008 is a multimedia crossroad; never before have music and film and technology and marketing felt so intertwined and dependent upon each other. The crowds are ready to make this year’s SXSW the best one yet. Brands are ready to make their messages heard and embraced. And Door Number 3 is here to capture it all.
If you’re making it to the festival, have fun. If you’re not making into Austin this year bookmark this site to stay linked in to our coverage of advertising anarchy and rapid fire branding.
Door Number 3