Everything You Need to Know About the Big Experiential Activations at SXSW 2019

Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Uber Eats and more

HBO's Game of Thrones experience is one of a number of massive activations planned for SXSW 2019. - Credit by HBO
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

Each year ahead of South by Southwest, there are dozens of pieces written about whether or not the festival is still relevant. We’re not looking to debate that here: the relevancy of the festival for marketers will likely be questioned more and more each year. Say what you will about it, but marketers love to put on immersive activations at SXSW, and it feels like that part of the festival grows larger with each passing year.

That’s why we’ve compiled the best experiential pitches we’ve received for this year’s festival. Peruse the guide below and plan out your experiential schedule.

HBO’s Game of Thrones

When: March 7–9
Where: Fair Market at 1100 East 5th Street
The pitch: “[The] immersive experience that will rally fans to prepare for The Great War to come in the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, premiering April 14, 2019. Part of HBO’s global ‘For the Throne’ marketing campaign, which asks fans what they will do for the throne in celebration of the final season, the takeover at SXSW will launch HBO’s global blood donation campaign supporting The American Red Cross. To combat a worldwide blood shortage by harnessing the power of Game of Thrones fans, HBO asks fans, ‘Will you bleed for the throne?’ Fans will be able to step into the otherworldly kingdoms of Westeros and interact with key plotlines from the series, walking in the shoes of those who have bled in seasons past.”

Netflix’s The Highwaymen

When: March 9, 11, 12
Where: Banger’s Basement at 81.5 Rainey St.
The Pitch: “Attendees will have the opportunity to visit The Highwaymen House, a pop-up experience transforming Austin’s Banger’s Basement into an interactive space that takes guests back in time to the 1930s when infamous bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde were at large.”

Michelob Ultra’s SXSW Meditation

When: March 10 (doors open at 5 p.m.)
Where: Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 West Riverside Drive
The Pitch: “Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold is bringing a moment of calm to SXSW this year by teaming up with the Big Quiet to host Pure Golden Hour, the first-ever sunset mass meditation. Inspired by the organic beer’s mission to help people reconnect with nature and find balance, Pure Golden Hour offers an evening of mindfulness mixed with social experiences, including a curated headline performance by Miguel as well as performances by Bishop Briggs and Cautious Clay.”

Amazon Prime Video’s Good Omens

When: March 8 and March 11 (12 p.m.–9 p.m.); March 9 and March 10.(12 p.m.–6 p.m.)
Where: 604 Driskill Street
The Pitch: “Amazon Prime Video brings Armageddon to Austin, celebrating the highly anticipated premiere of novel-turned-series Good Omens at SXSW. Festival-goers and locals alike can escape the droves of apocalyptic signs taking over downtown Austin and head to the Garden of Earthly Delights, a hidden oasis from the impending End of Days tucked into the corner of Rainey and Driskill Streets.”

Uber Eats House

When: March 14–16 for the house; throughout the festival for the walk-up window
Where: 612 West 4th Street for the house; 600 East 6th Street for the walk-up window
The Pitch: The company will not only be popping up at panels and parties with what it’s calling Uber Eats Drops, but it will also have a walk-up window where attendees can pick up food from Austin restaurants like The Peached Tortilla, East Side King, Tamale House and Juice Austin. From March 14–16, Uber Eats will have a pop-up house at 612 West Fourth Street with “interactive culinary, music and entertainment” experiences, according to a statement. The experiences will pair artists with restaurants, including Khalid with McDonald’s, Virgil Abloh with Milk Bar and Billie Eilish with By Chloe.

Bumble’s The Hive

When: March 8–18 (7 a.m.–7 p.m.)
Special after-hours programming: March 8, 12, 15
Where: Jo’s Coffee (Downtown) 242 West 2nd Street
The Pitch: “Bumble Hive SXSW will feature a range of programming that will help guests create healthy and empowered connections in all areas of their life, all based on Bumble’s new profile badges feature. Interested in astrology? Attendees can have their birth chart read to learn more about their sign. Looking for another animal lover? Guests can stop by Bumble’s dog-friendly party to take a new profile picture with their pup. For those who are looking for more information on starting a business, Bumble will be hosting speed mentoring and breakout sessions. Bumble profile experts will also be onsite to give users profile tips so that they can put their best face forward in friendship-finding, business networking and dating.”

Facebook’s Art Department

When: March 9–11
Where: Native Hostel, 807 East 4th Street
The Pitch: Facebook wants consumers to meet and understand what its art department does and learn more about its Artist in Residence (AIR) and Designer in Residence (DIR) programs. To that end, there will be an exhibit with prints from 100-plus artists from Facebook’s AIR and DIR programs around the world as well as mural paintings, screen printing and zine-making workshops.

Rent the Runway Pop-Up Closet at West Elm

When: March 9 (3–9 p.m.), March 10 (11 a.m.–6 p.m.)
Where: 1011 West 5th Street
The Pitch:Rent the Runway will open the first-ever pop-up closet experience in Austin. Guests will be invited to enjoy cosmic readings by Sanctuary, customizable DIY bag station, hair and makeup styling by beGlammed, professional portrait sessions as well as light bites, drinks and live music. Additionally, all guests will receive an exclusive offer of $80 off their first two months of RTR Unlimited.”

Land O’Lakes experience: The Copernicus Project

When: Open daily March 8–10: (March 8, 12–8 p.m., March 9, 12–7 p.m., March 10, 12–5:30 p.m.)
Where: Trinity Hall at 311 East 5th Street (500 feet from the Austin Convention Center)
The Pitch: “The Copernicus Project is inspired by the Renaissance-era mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus and builds upon his legacy by challenging long-held beliefs of humans’ place at the center of the modern food system. You’ll walk through exhibits that explore our food system through art, immersion and interactivity. Complementary programming topics will bring together innovators in academia, technology, food production, NGOs, public health and other disciplines.”

Patreon’s House of Creativity

When: March 11–13, programming from 3–8 p.m. on Monday; 12–8p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday
Where: Augustine at 86 Rainey Street
The Pitch: “The House of Creativity will be entirely devoted to its creators as a space for them to interact, collaborate and perform as they learn about building membership with their community on Patreon. The programming will feature exclusive content and performances including musicians Zola Jesus, Cautious Clay and Amanda Palmer; content from comedians The Try Guys and vlogger Kati Morton; and a live show with podcasters Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart, with more acts to be announced in the days leading up to SXSW.”

Sony Wow Studio

When: March 9-12, 2019 (12: 00-8:00 p.m.)
Where: 99 Trinity St.
The Pitch: “Interactive exhibits, including ‘CAVE without a LIGHT,’ a showcase which expands the sense other than visual in the darkness by using Sony’s sound & haptic technology, and the AI-assisted music composition technology ‘Flow Machines’ … a research and deployment project aimed at achieving augmented creativity of artists in music. We create new music together with artists by developing new technology based on leading-edge machine learning and signal processing technology.”

Vice’s Skateland

When: March 9–12
Where: Carmelo’s Lot on the corner of Red River and 5th Street
The Pitch: “We’re taking over the parking lot at 5th & Red River to throw a series of retro roller skating parties! The (massive) space will house it all—DJ setup, pro-roller skaters, the VICELAND Bus, merch booth and, of course, a bar for happy hour. Each day will be packed with programming, from a celebration of Biggie Smalls featuring musical tributes from DJs like Bluntler, Trauma, Scram Jones and Whoo Kid to a happy hour hosted by rapper Phonte (Little Brother & Foreign Exchange.”

Comedy Central’s Presidential Library

When: March 9 (11:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.), March 10–11 (10:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.)
Where: Driskill Hotel at 604 Brazos Street
The Pitch: “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library makes its Austin debut at SXSW. This marks the sixth time [the library] will be on display. Every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has been honored with a meticulously curated memorial library commemorating the documents of historical value crafted during his time as leader of the free world. Continuing this hallowed tradition, and seeing no need to wait for him to leave office, The Daily Show will once again honor our current president with this library, showcasing our Commander in Chief’s preferred vessel for communicating with the public: his Twitter feed.”

Showtime’s House

When: March 11–13
Where: Clive Bar on Rainey Street
The Pitch: “Showtime will celebrate its upcoming music documentaries Shangri-La and Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men as well as series Black Monday, The Chi and Shameless.

  • March 11, The Showtime House of Music: The network will offer afternoon music trivia games, a Wu-Tang Clan name generator photobooth, concert concession stand snacks and DJ sets. The evening will be a party featuring music inspired by Rick Rubin. 

  • March 12, The Showtime House of Beats and Streets: Showtime will bring together the best of New York and Chicago at SXSW, showcasing hit series Black Monday and The Chi. With stars Paul Scheer (Black Monday) and Jacob Latimore (The Chi), Showtime will debut a Secret Walls competition, the ultimate live illustration battle of the art scene. Two artists, one from New York and one from Chicago, will go head-to-head in a 90 minute, black-and-white only battle, creating live art at Clive Bar. [The house] will also offer popular food from both cities, daytime DJs and live musical acts at night, including a performance by Latimore as well as Grammy Lifetime Award Winner and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Mavis Staples and DJ Spinderella. 

  • March 13, The Showtime House of Shameless Fun: Shameless will be back at SXSW, featuring the most Gallagher-style carnival ever to hit Austin. The big top will be equipped with Gallagher-esque attractions, including a quickdraw photobooth, face painting, classic games and outrageous carnival acts.” 

Comcast/NBCUniversal House

When: March 9 (11 a.m.–9 p.m.), March 10 (11 a.m.–7 p.m.), March 11 (11 a.m.–2 p.m.)
Where: 90 Rainey Street
The Pitch:Comcast [and] NBCUniversal are coming together to deliver an interactive and immersive experience that will bring festival-goers closer to the content they love through groundbreaking technology, pop culture events and panels, live performances and more. Activations include: 

  • Michael Scott’s Desk: Stop by The Office to take a seat at Michael Scott’s desk and become the World’s Best Boss.
  • Bravo’s Project Runway Photo Experience: All runways lead here. Step into the spotlight and strut your stuff in anticipation of the all-new Project Runway’s bold return to Bravo on March 14.
  • ‘Clear the Shelters’ Puppy Lounge: Enjoy a break from the SXSW-madness and spend time with puppies available for adoption.
  • Universal Pictures’ Us Fan Art Gallery: Check out select fan art from around the country celebrating Jordan Peele’s new thriller Us, in theaters March 22.
  • Experience the How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden world virtual tour in a Positron motion VR chair.
  • XFINITY Gaming Lounge: Gamers rejoice in Austin with a fully loaded gaming lounge.
  • Blueprint Interactive Mural: Makers and creators alike can hone in on their artistic skills and leave their mark in Austin by coloring between the lines with this special DIY mural celebrating creativity. Mural designed by Blueprint artist Amy Tangerine.”

Audible’s The Night Realm Tavern

When: March 8–10 (12 p.m.–8 p.m.)
Where: Javelina at 69 Rainey Street
The Pitch: “Audible and Broadway video will transport attendees to the medieval world of Heads Will Roll with The Night Realm Tavern, with an immersive, audio-driven experience that allows guests to revel like royalty and indulge in medieval food and drink. The tavern’s Hall of Portraits will introduce the eccentric characters and voices of Heads Will Roll, sampling some of their most comedic moments from the audio show.

Created by and starring SNL’s Kate McKinnon and her sister Emily Lynne, Heads Will Roll is Audible’s first endeavor of a multi-project deal with Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video and part of the brand’s long-term commitment to creating original and innovative audio content with today’s top creators. It will be exclusively available on Audible in May 2019.

This audio-only workplace comedy about an evil queen and her ditsy raven sidekick who must put down a peasant rebellion and save her throne features performances from Meryl Streep, Tim Gunn, Peter Dinklage, Andrea Martin, Carol Kane, Audra McDonald, Aidy Bryant, Alex Moffat, Heidi Gardner, Chris Redd, Steve Higgins, Bob the Drag Queen, Esther Perel and Queer Eye’s Fab Five.”

Visible’s Music Box and More

When: March 8 – 16 (The Visible Music Box), March 14-16 (Visible Recharge Station)
Where: 6th and San Jacinto (The Visible Music Box), Outdoor Stage Area at 800 W. Riverside Dr (Visible Recharge Station)
The Pitch: “Recharge at the Visible Recharge Station on the SXSW Outdoor Stage area. [There will be] charging stations to get your phone back to 100 percent, along with slushies to keep you cool throughout the entire event. Whether you need to recharge or just give your battery a bump, experience games that push the boundaries of interactivity. Check out the only biometric vending machine at SXSW that utilizes facial recognition to generate shareable GIFs and dispense tokens for each user—fusing digital and retro vibes into one experience. Then use those three tokens to score fun prizes and explore more games.

If you’ve had your fill of live concerts, head over to downtown Austin to participate in Visible’s second activation—The Visible Music Box. Guests can record their own songs in a transparent recording studio, with a karaoke system, drums, a guitar, and more. While you’re there, you can also get our very own band album cover made with customizable designs, props, and backgrounds.”

Join the foremost brand marketers, such as Marc Pritchard, Brad Hiranaga, Kory Marchisotto and more, for Brandweek Masters Live on Sept. 14-17. Secure your pass and learn from the brand masters.

@KristinaMonllos kristina.monllos@adweek.com Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: March 5, 2019 https://dev.adweek.com/brand-marketing/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-big-experiential-activations-at-sxsw-2019/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT