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McDonald’s at SXSW 2015

McDonalds comes to SXSW 2015 and there’s drama


Ronald is waiting for you

SXSW has an unexpected new sponsor. McDonald’s. The familiar golden arches traipse across each of the SXSW banners. There are mixed opinions on the matter. Nevertheless, their distinctive scent permeates the air around the Convention Center. This is because McDonald’s has set up right behind the Convention Center


Oddly beautiful lighting inside the McDonald’s tent

The venue is a parking lot, behind the Convention Center, and next to the “official” Convention Center parking garage. It’s right off of I35 and just asking to invite riff raff. Riff Raff being non-badge holders. This seems to be a badge only event. There might be open hours.

Inside the tent, the smell of McDonald’s permeates the senses, as well it should. To the left there is a food trunk serving burgers, fries, and coffee depending on the time of day. There are a few other rotating surprises. The staff seems reasonably cheery to be here.


Free food

There is a band on the stage. This is the part of the setup that became a magnet for drama.

Indie band Ex Cops went Facebook public with the knowledge that McDonald’s wasn’t paying their acts.

McDonald’s reps said that other people weren’t paying their acts either so why just hate on them. This might not have been the most diplomatic response.

The drama bloomed and became a mildly-popular topic of discussion around SXSW. It was the perfect storm. People are constantly looking for ways to say that SXSW sold out and doesn’t care about the music anymore. A mega-corporation becoming a main sponsor then refusing to pay musicians was the gasoline needed to make this trashcan fire burn.

Initially, reps from McD’s dismissed it with a condescending hashtag “#slownewsday.”


Ronald sees you. Run. 

This probably wasn’t the best way to deal with issue of a giant corporation not allocating a budget to pay their performers. Especially not at a festival that is supposed to promote up and coming musicians. Corporations might be people, but they aren’t necessarily the people that get away with saying snarky things like that. Those people have moustaches.

McDonald’s relented. They made the statement that they would be paying their musicians.

. Some people are still complaining, because why should McDonald’s be held to a higher standard when other brands are still getting away with not paying artists. Some people like to complain.

The current band seems happy enough to be here. They are a young group from New York. A few people are listening to their show, but the crowd isn’t huge. The daytime shows are usually smaller. Presumably the bands more likely to bring in a crowd are reserved for a later time.


Ambient lighting

Then the swag arrives. There is a table by the entrance. One of the employees comes out with a boxful of McDonald’s T Shirts, tote bags, and Buttons. These are the original, official, promotional items. The T Shirts are a cheap, but hearty material, with mildly amusing slogans. One is a picture that equates happiness to the presence of French Fries. They are everything you want at SXSW.

At night the activation really comes to life. Dangling lights lend an eerie sort of beauty, further separating this space from the outside world. There is a statue of Ronald McDonald, and his eyes are shining in the blue light. The statue is taking a “selfie.” People are encouraged to take a selfie with him.

Many people are standing in line to take a selfie with Ronald. They are milling about, munching warm, golden, French Fries. Through the duration of this activation at SXSW, people who look like the poster children of “Austin hipster” are walking around carrying various food items branded boldly with the iconic “Golden Arches” Never before, have so many people in downtown Austin been seen carrying McDonald’s.


SXSW summarized


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