The Advertising Battles of SXSW 2011

As TechCrunch put it: At SXSX, Advertising Was This Year’s Twitter.

Since the explosion of Twitter’s popularity (traced back to its status as it-girl of SXSW 2008) and, on a smaller scale, Foursquare’s debut there in 2009, South by Southwest Interactive is where aspiring next-big-things hope to find their mojo. So it’s hardly a surprise that marketers of every stripe mobilized the big guns for SXSW 2011. It’s sort of sad, though, to see the event transition from a showcase for applications to a showcase for promotional stunts about applications.

Meanwhile, who won?

Citing data from Ad Age and People Browsr, Mashable gave the crown to itself. What a brilliant idea. Next year I’m totally giving top awards to ChasNote!

Apple pop up store at SXSW 2011

TechCrunch gave best-in-show to Apple and its pop-up store selling the iPad 2. “At one point, I stopped by the store just in time to hear an employee telling those in line that unfortunately, they only had one model left in stock: the white, 64 GB, WiFi version. Almost no one got out of line. I think the employee could have said that all remaining models had broken screens and the reaction would have been the same.”

UberCab Rickshaw

My favorite was UberCab. The campaign was omnipresent and dynamic, literally. They rented a handful of bicycle rickshaws that were shuttling SXSW’ers all over town. What sealed the deal for the ChasNote judges was that Uber also launched a version of its iPhone app for Austin. The Uber rickshaws weren’t just ad billboards, they were vehicles that would cart you to your next party with one thumb-tap on the Uber app. A promotion that showed, rather than told, the value of the brand.

UberCab app for Austin

I’ll give Amex the silver medal for launching its partnership with Foursquare at SXSW. They even got a flyer to the check-in desk at the Siberian outpost where I stayed, Aloft at The Domain!

Amex and Foursquare

The rest fell short for me. The Extranormal critters were cute, the FedEx food truck was very Austin-esque, and the GroupMe Grill apparently had great grilled cheeses. But I missed the connection to brands they represented.

Promotions from SXSW 2011

That circle of light on the side of the building? Some guy with a mobile projector was beaming commercials onto walls near busy intersections. In one of them a pig butchered and ate itself. Not sure who was behind that. The Salt Lick BBQ?

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