HP and American Express Created Digital Edens and Cabana Getaways at NY’s Panorama Music Festival

After a rainy start, brands came out in full force

Take a look at how brands activated at music festival Panorama. Getty for American Express
Headshot of Katie Richards

Music festival Panorama had a bleak start to its three-day event—held each year on Randall’s Island in New York since its inception in 2016—thanks to some severe thunderstorms in the area. Those storms eventually led to an evacuation of the festival early Friday evening and cancellations from artists like Lil Wayne (who was set to perform the following day) due to travel delays. Even with the minor chaos—including that wonderful reminder to attendees as they were leaving the island Friday to stay away from all metal structures, including the metal ramp leading up to the ferry—brands still came out in full force to entertain attendees.

American Express, HP, JBL, Bud Light, Zenni and others occupied the grounds for the weekend providing everything from free glasses from Zenni to a chance to win some new headphones courtesy of JBL. Those booths also provided some solace from the downpour on Friday.

HP, however, stole the show this year with its massive tech-powered playground, or Digital Eden as the brand called it, for attendees to explore. First up, the brand created a special lounge perfect for escaping the heat, or rain.

Inside the oasis, attendees could design a custom water bottle using the HP Spectre laptop, and print and fill them on site. There was also an interactive photo booth where users could draw their own text on the image. The star of the show, at least inside the lounge, was a magnificent flower installation hanging from the ceiling. Attendees could use HP’s technology and products to program their own light show, selecting different colors for the lights to display as the flowers bloomed.

“These activations are designed to bring our technology to life but also celebrate creativity, which is what this festival is all about,” said Emily Ketchen, regional head of Americas marketing at HP.

Outside of HP’s lounge, the brand had an additional eight activations to explore on the grounds including Visage, an experience designed with artist Jonathan Zawada that projects a selected graphic onto a person’s face that can then be turned into a GIF for sharing on social media (or keeping for yourself). Five of the activations were done in partnership with Panorama. Together the two selected five artists and allowed them to build their own art installations, powered by HP. Those included, “The Portal to Flatland,” by Magenta Field, which invited guests into HP’s dome experience and a solar-powered installation complete with 60,000 dangling LEDs by Smooth Technology, called “Infinite Wind.”

Of course, what experience would be complete without a spin with some virtual reality? HP provided fans with a chance to slip on some VR goggles and experience a performance from any of their favorite artists on stage as it was happening live, powered by HP technology.

“This is all about reinventing the festival experience and just reinventing experience,” Ketchen said. “The idea here is that we have a very unique opportunity to have some cameras on the main stage and side stages. Those cameras will feedback to our Omen VR experience. You put on the goggles and you are immersed in the setting that the artists are in, live.”

A returning experience from HP was the brand’s signature dome, which has toured to other festivals including Coachella, but got its start at Panorama. Inside the dome, the brand puts out a bunch of beanbag chairs for people to sit on and then you simply look up to take in the incredible 360-degree virtual reality experience. Think movie theater but so much cooler.

If HP tapped into the curiosity and creativity of festival attendees, American Express served as a relaxation center with its experience. To kick things off, the brand brought its relatively new brand platform to the festival via ads wrapped around the ferries transporting over 20 percent of attendees to Randall’s Island. The wraps included the tagline, “Don’t Panorama Without It.”

“We’ve known for so long that our card members are so passionate about music and we have a 30-year history in music. Within the last four to five years we’ve entered into the music festival space and it’s just been an amazing channel for us to reach new card members, show our brand to people who are not card members and just reach younger consumers,” said Lindsay Ulrey, director of premier events at American Express. 2018 marked American Express’ third year at Panorama and has stationed experiences at events including Coachella as well.

Getty for American Express

The vibe inside felt like a beach vacation and came complete with water bottle filling stations that looked like beach showers, some games and charging stations. Fans could also find a few spots to capture that perfect Instagram festival photo, including a cozy hammock and several murals designed by NY artists Jeremyville and Brian Kaspr. Another artist, Ali Mac, also worked with the brand to design one of three exclusive postcards available for card members to send inside the American Express experience. Upstairs, in the lounge exclusive to cardholders, there were even more benefits to check out. Kaspr was stationed on the second floor, creating custom designs for card members on any item.

The top floor also provided a nice space for attendees to put their feet up, slather on some sunscreen, order a drink and catch a glimpse of artists performing on the main stage from the space’s private balcony, located conveniently close to the stage.

Ulrey noted that the brand wanted to provide cardmembers with a series of benefits that would help, “mitigate pain points that people experience at music festivals,” including a low phone battery and long lines. With that in mind, the brand handed out portable phone charges and waterproof beach mats and created a priority lane for card members to enter the festival. “We try to make it a little bit of a calm amongst the larger storm,” she added.

Perhaps the only downfall of the brand’s activation was that the structure was made of metal, which meant it had to be evacuated on Friday due to thunderstorms.

Getty for American Express

@ktjrichards katie.richards@adweek.com Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.