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SXSW Interactive 2016 Recap

The 30th SXSW has come and gone, and it’s hard to believe how much was packed into such a short period of time! Just in case you couldn’t make it down to Austin for the festival this year – or even if you did, and felt too overwhelmed to really soak it all in – here’s my recap of South By’s highlights:

Branded Activation:

Every year, brands flock to Austin to get in front of the 72,000+ attendees, hoping to become a part of their experiences – especially the ones documented on social media. While there were definitely some interesting “brandtivities” this year, the two that stood out to me the most were:

1) United Airlines: For their first time sponsoring SXSW, the airline set up multiple lounges that brought the actual brand experience to the festival by featuring their comfy first-class seats as lounge chairs / recharging stations. The snacks they gave out early in the morning were the same ones they give on early AM flights, in order to showcase the quality of their in-flight service. Finally, they tapped into the SXSW audience’s natural entrepreneurial and tech spirit by inviting them to help improve the United website and app by taking part in their #IdeasFlyHere sweepstakes

2) Casper: Casper also brought their physical brand experience to life by setting up a “napping pod” – as part of their Nap Tour. They added an additional media touchpoint and extended campaign reach by geo-targeting Facebook ads to people in Austin, encouraging them to stop by their “napmobile.”

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Virtual Reality:

This was definitely the must-have accessory for every trade show booth this year. Gillette, Las Vegas Tourism, and Samsung all had virtual reality goggles, helping them showcase their brands. The most interesting use of VR, though, was the premiere of the first-ever Virtual Reality Infographic, as debuted by Nowsourcing.

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Notable Startups:

As a Media Director, I’m inherently drawn to ideas that focus on efficiency, creative problem-solving, and leveraging materials that you already have. The startups that impressed me the most were the ones that – rather than reinventing the wheel – utilized resources that were already in existence, and currently being wasted:

4) Roadie: This “on-the-way” delivery Network lets you send shipments with people who are already traveling to a destination, and have room in their car for your package.

5) RoomSplit: This startup is like Airbnb, but for hotel rooms. If, for instance, your SXSW lodging is a really expensive hotel room that has two beds, and you’re only one person, you can find a roommate to split the cost for the duration of your stay.

6) DonateTheBars.com: Whenever you take a vertical-video on your cell phone, the resulting clip inevitably has two black bars on each side. This startup allows users to utilize these black bars in vertically filmed videos by donating them to NGO’s. Watch the video below to learn more.

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Inspiring Action:

Lots of brands this year included “inspiration” in their messaging:

7) Pepsi: “Over food and drink, new ideas are born. Join us on the journey. NSPIRE.” – At the Mashable house, Pepsi let people create their own uniquely flavored drinks.

8) Qualcomm: “When will you be inspired by what you can’t see?” – Showcasing an Augmented Reality “Museum of Invisible Things” at theMashable House.

9) Mazda: “Find inspiration at every turn. Driving matters” – At the Mazda Recharging Lounge.

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New to SXSW:

This year, SXSW debuted “Featured Speaker Meetups,” allowing eager festival-goers to interact with some of the most notable speakers. I took advantage of this new program and got to spend about an hour speaking in a 1-on-10 group with Kevin Kelly – founding executive director of Wired Magazine – about technology, media, and the future. It was extremely informative, and I will definitely be taking advantage of this opportunity again next year!

Overall, this year’s festival was extremely inspiring, invigorating, exciting, and innovating. Can’t wait for next year – hope to see you there!

-Rebecca Weiser, Media Director