SXSW goes high-tech to cut through media clutter

Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:15pm EDT
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By Chris Baltimore

AUSTIN, Tex. (Reuters) - Twenty-five years after the South by Southwest Music festival emerged as a showcase for new bands, it has become as big and eclectic as pop culture itself with spotlights on movies and, increasingly, high-tech.

Fans flocked to this college town for the event known as SXSW to catch performances by some of music's biggest acts -- Kanye West, the Strokes and the Foo Fighters -- and to hear legends like Yoko Ono and Bob Geldof reflect on their careers.

In an around-the-clock, beer and barbeque-fueled frenzy of "showcase" performances, fans jammed into bars, restaurants, churches, hair salons and Lance Armstrong's bike shop to hear over 2,000 acts from around the world perform. They saw a movie about Conan O'Brien's renaissance and caught a glimpse of Mel Gibson's dark side in Jodie Foster's film drama "The Beaver."

But for the industry executives and sponsors that descended on the 10-day music, film, and media marathon that ended on Sunday, it was a chance to walk the digital edge of technology and give advertising strategies the street test, literally.

PepsiCo Inc took over a vacant lot in downtown Austin and converted it to the Pepsi MAX Lot, where fans could sip Pepsi products, soak up free wi-fi and catch performances from big-name acts like Big Boi and Snoop Dogg.

Live performances were "streamed" on the Internet, and fans could share pictures and comments via Instagram, Twitter and foursquare, and PepsiCo offered a real-time "Zeitgeist" ticker to take the "digital pulse" of the event.


"It's a unique opportunity for us to see the innovations that are going to change the way we connect with our consumers for the next six to 18 months," said Bonin Bough, PepsiCo's global director of digital and social media.   Continued...

<p>Jodie Foster gives an interview as she arrives for the premiere of "The Beaver" at The Paramount Theater during the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas March 16, 2011. REUTERS/Rahav Segev</p>