Tag Archives: Experiential Marketing

Angry Scotsmen at the Hype Hotel

The Hype Hotel is open and some Scottish dudes are angry

3-19-2016

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Magnificent tower of marketing power

 

It’s Saturday night at the Hype Hotel on the last day of SXSW. A whiny guy in a Plexiglas box has started to sing but the Scotsman is still angry. He’s gonna stay that way. But he has good reason.

The Hype Hotel is a staple of the SXSW experience. This year it’s at the fashionable new-ish venue called “Fair Market.” Fair Market is a warehouse venue on the East Side in a neighborhood where lately upscale markets, tech start-ups, and cat cafes have been emerging from the cracked sidewalks. It’s very in right now, probably.

The Hype Hotel is sort-of open to the public. There was an RSVP, done online, and pick up your wristband. So like many things at SXSW, capacity determines whether you get in. But, being a few blocks from the main SXSW downtown activities, it’s not as crowded as it could be.

Guests in the GA line are given a couple drink tickets. A raucous crowd is dancing to a band and a lightshow. It’s a good setup here. Nice venue.

The lines are long for mixed drinks. Outside is a grassy fenced in area. Many people are smoking out here. Smoking is still very cool apparently. They huddle in crowds and fight the wind to light the brand of cigarette they feel most affiliated with.

Crowds like this do have a tendency to inspire conversation. People bum a cig and join a discussion of geopolitics in an ever-connected era. Politely are discussing the political state of host-country America on a terrifyingly-amplified world stage. Smoking brings people together.

There is a small beach in the corner. Sandals wine is here and right on brand. Their breezy beachy brand message is reinforced with a set of lawn chairs and a make-your-own flip flops booth (sometimes awkwardly referred to as “thongs”). The key to the free flip flops is sharing images through social media. An excellent gift for those who are paranoid about the shower sanitation in whatever hotel/hostel/craigslist posting you are staying at.

Drink tickets can also be used on Sandals wine. Their line is much shorter.

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Sandals Wine setup included sand

There is a band in a box. The main stage is inside, but in this outdoor area, a Plexiglas box has been set up with all the necessary equipment for a small, contained performance. A band is currently setting up to play.

Some Scottish people are here as well. They are milling about with their mixed drinks and reminiscing on their SXSW experiences. They are mostly finished with their SXSW music experience, and a pretty happy with the shows they put on or were part of. They are not happy the show that is happening now.

The man in the box started on a bad note. For some inexplicable reason, he chose to precede his performance with a rant about how much he hates this city and the people here.  He could be joking, a dry humor, but there are no real indicators of that. It’s all rather left field really.

The Scots do not take kindly to this unkindness. They talk about how this city “has been nothing but nice” and how you can dislike a government or policies but you can’t just go and hate a people. Especially when you are a guest. Their language is much more charming than this.

The music is astonishingly mediocre. Continual references to “the blood in his veins” or whatever. Some songs about waking up and drinking, but the tone is all sad and slow. Like the juxtaposition of party lifestyle and slow song is supposed to imply deepness.

It’s like, if you’re gonna roll hard and swagger like that, right from the get go, you got to be good, or funny, or better than this guy, at least.  There may be some way to pull of the whole “I hate you all, but I want you to be sensitive to my sensitive music fully of my personal feelings.” If there is, he didn’t pull it off.

There is talk of a rebellion. The Scottish band says they could do a better job than this fellow. Under the flag of the Hype Hotel we must rise up and stamp out this mediocrity. If ever a man “needed a kicking” it was this man.

So the (short) set is spent complaining about this dude. Creative phrasings for how to deal with his rudeness and lameness. All dry wit, followed by base insults. Creative gestures from these Scottish jesters. Using up the last of the drink tickets. The sky is clear for now, but rain is coming. Perhaps the rains gods have come to render judgment. But that will be later.

The set ends and the dude takes time to, once again, state that he  hates this city and the people here. The crowd isn’t paying much attention. Most people are inside listening to the other band, who doubtless has a better attitude.

But the Scots are listening. They hear him. They will meet with him again they say, some day, in some other place. They will teach him the importance of being civil. They phrase this much more directly.

It’s a good night though. A delightful evening standing in the grass with strangers talking politics and laughing at a rude man in a plastic box. Free drinks. The Hype Hotel lives up to it.

 

 

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Mr. Robot at SXSW 2016

A SXSW carnival in downtown Austin from television series Mr. Robot

 

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The carnival is fun, the sociopolitical comedy is serious, the T-shirts are free

 

The Ferris Wheel looms in the heart of downtown Austin. The festive glow of a parking-lot carnival adds a unique ambiance to the crowded streets.  A grinning mask looms over it all with a sign that says “Mr. Robot.”

Mr. Robot is a television show. It’s about a mentally unstable man who looks behind the curtain of society to see that corporations control us all. He fights the power with technology, hacking skills, and the help of other people that may or may not exist.  The important thing is the continued revelation that corporations are corrupted and all powerful must be defied. The show made its world premiere at SXSW 2015

SXSW is a crazy mess of corporate showmanship. A beautiful collision of capitalism and performance art (brought to you by our modern Medici’s according to several of last year’s SXSW panels.) Things that sound like silly exaggerated jokes take place in the streets of this moderate metro area.

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This is usually just a parking lot

In this particular case, there is a carnival. The network has constructed a grand carnival to promote this television show. It’s a grand spectacle. Today, it is open to the public. Later the gates will be closed to all those not in possession of badges.

It’s a “Coney Island Carnival Experience.” This is a reference to the “Fun Society” arcade that was central to the plot of season one. The arcade was a hub where the hackers gather to make and implement their strategies of setting the world to right.

Before the advent of the Atari and home gaming systems, places like arcades could allow tech enthusiasts the opportunity to play with the sort games they didn’t own. Anybody with a quarter could walk to the cutting edge of gaming in these techno-social gathering places. Setting the “F Society” revolution at such a gathering place seems like a very logical choice. Setting this carnival/arcade experience at SXSW and making it open to the public is an equally appropriate decision.

Later in the season, the hackers throw an “End of the World Party” so the general public can come in and cover their fingerprints. On Saturday, March 12, the SXSW “Mr. Robot” carnival is having its own party. From 7-9, the gates close to the general public, and this event will transform into an “End of the World” party, complete with pseudo-homemade posters taped to buildings.

The event is very well-attended. There are games to play, masks to wear, and silk screened shirts. The masks mimic a mask shown in the TV show, a figure that represents their hacker revolution. It bears a strong resemblance to the Monopoly man, presumably intentional.

People carry the masks for a while and take some selfies. Then they get bored and toss them away.

The line for T Shirts is very long. Rumors say it’s been taking hours.  People politely stand in this very long line so that they can get one of these limited edition “F Society” shirts. There are other designs as well, but the “F Society” message seems to resonate.

Any event that is open to the public in this area usually draws a decent handful of homeless residents willing to stand in line for whatever is free and always in the know about what happens in their backyard.   As a result, homeless people of Austin now have “F Society” shirts made possible through corporations and viewers like you.

The “Mr. Robot” Ferris Wheel, with its grinning emblem, looms over us all. It’s 100 feet tall and can be seen from blocks away. After the sun sets, this sparkling wheel will lend a particularly eerie light to some of the foggier nights this SXSW.   It’s beautiful and strange.

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The carnival at night

 

 

 

 

 

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Containment at SXSW 2016

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This event at SXSW Interactive promotes the CW’s Containment with a dramatic presentation and free alcohol

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Spray paint so you know to be afraid

 

The people in the box are writhing on hospital cots. Bloody handprints are streaked across the glass that separate them from the crowd.  The clock has stopped. People in hazmat suits are roaming around looking for the infected. People in lab coats are working on the cure.  A man stands guard at the ” cordon sanitaire,” the barrier that separates this scene from the rest of the bar.

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This is for real

It’s all a performance. This is an event to promote the CW’s new show Containment. Based on the Belgian series Cordon, Containment is a miniseries event about a virus that enters Atlanta, forcing the area to be put under quarantine by federal authorities. The show premieres on April 19, 2016.

This is the middle of SXSW Interactive, and extravagant promotional events are to be expected here. This particular event is happening on Rainy Street, a yuppie-cool street made of bars that used to be houses. The CW has transformed a part of Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden into this promotional event.

There is a man standing guard at the gate. His face  stays stuck in a glare that remains even when he is posing for pictures with the amused guests. Standing behind the guard, is the man keeping count of capacity. He makes the actual decisions around here.

People in lab coats are roaming around. They offer “the cure” in the form of syringe-shaped shots. They dispense the shots into the mouths of willing participants and declare them cured. Over at the bar/lab there are more “cures.” A fruity-but -mellow mixed punch drink is served by the glass and declared to have curative properties. Reviews say the cure is quite tasty. Screens behind the bar show a PSA from CW’s Containment, and it adds a certain layer of drama to the “lab” area.

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Fake blood, real television

People are gathered around wooden benches appreciating the complimentary “cures” and general ambiance. Every once in a while, people in hazmat suits drag along an “infected” they are pale and weak. They are moved behind a metal fence.  They are placed in containment.

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The lights flicker on and off and flash red

The area of containment has clear walls. They are streaked with the bloody handprints of the people that lie prone in the cots. They moan and roll over. The lights flicker on and off as the recently-infected are contained with the others.

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These people were committed to the part (hopefully)

On the next day of the event, things have progressed further. The people are paler and sicker.  The walls are more streaked with blood. The lights flicker on and off with more frequency.  The infected are weaker, staying on their cots, curled and suffering.

Meanwhile on the benches, people continue to casually sip various cures. Many selfies are taken, the event is a perfect SXSW photo opp. The event hits capacity and those lucky enough to be in the quarantine gaze with a certain superiority at the masses below, outside the ” cordon sanitaire.”

People in lab coats hand out drinks, people behind plastic wall pretend to be gravely ill, as attendees take selfies.  This is South by Southwest Interactive, at its most interactive.

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Free drinks anyone?

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Grumpy Cat at SXSW 2016

Friskies brings Grumpy Cat to downtown Austin for SXSW Interactive

 

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#CatConcoctions presented by Friskies

 

People are standing in a very long line to see a cat. This line brought to you by Friskies, as yet another experiential marketing sensation has hit the scene at SXSW.

As is the tradition, big brands rent out various venues to create spectacles at SXSW. In this case, Friskies rented out  Caffé Medici to create a space that could raise brand awareness using the Internet’s very own “Grumpy Cat.”

Caffé Medici is a popular coffee show on Congress street in the posh part of downtown Austin. It’s a place where people have business meeting and write about their soul-searching world travel.

Grumpy Cat is an adorable cat that wears a naturally grumpy expression.  She is an internet phenomenon. Her real name is Tardar Sauce. She has fans.

The line stretches around the block at times. People who stand in the line will eventually be rewarded with a photo op featuring the Grumpy Cat. However there are only a few hours when this is possible, they don’t want to overtire the poor creature. Eventually they cut the line off.

The group is an assortment of people. It includes some of the typical SXSW Interactive tech crowd, but there are some of the hipster-type locals, as well as families out to experience the free parts of South By on a lovely spring afternoon.

The line that winds around the room is guided by ropes to keep people in place. There are cans of cat food sitting about. They are for decoration. They are not free. A girl makes this mistake. However, there are coupons for free cat food.

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People stood in this very long line

The line stretches on forever. Little Grumpy cat is there, sitting on her throne. She remains there while a line of people parade behind her to pose. It’s kind of like a photobomb, in that Grumpy Cat seems largely unaware of their presence. She also seems to be taking a nap. So at least the event is not overly stressful for her.

By the exit there are pieces of Grumpy Cat memorabilia. There are little glow-in-the-dark buttons that bear a simplified outline of the distinctive grumpy face. There are masks of Grumpy Cat’s face as well.

People love this cat.

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The eyes follow you.

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