As SXSW Grows, So Too Do Marketing Efforts
Free promotional items are everywhere at SXSW as brands compete for the attention of tech savvy youth. Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News
South by Southwest Interactive officials began this afternoon. The five-day internet and technology conference attracted forty percent more registrants than it did last year. That makes it all the more attractive to marketers targeting tech savvy young people.
When you walk into the Austin Convention Center, you’re bombarded with advertising from every direction. Microsoft is handing out novelty wrist watches. Chevrolet set up a laptop and smartphone charging station. Logos from Pepsi, AT&T, and Samsung appear behind the discussion panels.
And then there are the little guys like Richard Schneider. He drove a shuttle bus down from Missouri and parked it one block from the convention center to promote HD TV antennas.
“It’s one of the only places in the country where you can get the heart of the market, the mind of the market, the people that really are influencers on the direction technology’s going to be moving,” Schneider said. “They’re all going to be in one location for a week and a half in Austin.”
Some conference goers say they enjoy the free swag and learning about new products. Others find the relentless advertising overwhelming. Cameron Patterson is attending from Seattle, Washington.
“I don’t think that I would ever change my cell phone provider based on a flyer that someone gives me on the street,” Patterson said before handing me a USB card with his marketing information on it.
South by Southwest acknowledges that sponsors of the conference have grown both in size and in number, and that it’s up for debate if that’s a good thing. One of the first panels of the conference today was about whether marketers were destroying the soul of the Southby. Zeb Dropkin
was a panelist, and is a marketer himself.
“For a company, I think it’s really important to say, ‘How can we help people here connect around us?’ As opposed to just having flyers and stickers and spray paint and t-shirts everywhere,” he said.
At least one large corporation has already taken advantage of South by Southwest Interactive for a major product launch. Apple opened a temporary retail location at the corner of 6th and Congress to sell the new iPad 2 that went on sale today.
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