SXSWi 2011: My Austin adventure

CBS CMO George Schweitzer discusses his visit to SXSW and how CBS was the first to bring a new network television show to the festival.

CBS

Recently, I made my maiden voyage to SXSW, the annual festival in Austin, Texas, which is affectionately referred to as "Spring Break for Geeks." I had heard about it for years. It's all about discovery: new bands, new films, and new interactive media. Each year at SXSW purveyors of technology, film, music, and all things pop culture get up close with tens of thousands of passionate taste-makers as they take in lots of media, have conversations, and receive oodles of free stuff. This year, CBS was the first to bring a new network television show into the mix.

CBS

Branding bonanza
SXSW has become both a social and business event. Marketers on the scene are big and small, ranging from international brands like Pepsi with its massive playground offering free drinks, Wi-Fi, and ping-pong tables to the smallest of Web sites and indie bands who cover every structural edifice in sight with fliers and stickers. (The crafty people of Austin wrap the poles with plastic before SXSW, thereby ensuring speedier post-conference cleanup.) SXSW is a microcosm of our job of marketing new shows--it's tough to get noticed amid the din, and to get people to talk about your brand when there is so much else to compete with.

CBS

TV jumps on board
This year was the first time big network television had a meaningful presence at SXSW. As one of the most powerful forces in our culture, it's about time! There were several panels at SXSW Interactive about the future of television--both the business and technical aspects and the creative and social implications. Interest in one Social TV panel on Saturday morning was so high that my team and I got shut out! In the true spirit of social media, some intrepid conference goers started their own "rebel" version of the conversation in the vacant room nearby. While my crew and I had already moved on to the next venue, we followed the discussion on Twitter. You can read more about it here

CNET/CHAOS party
The highlight of the mission for CBS was our CNET party at the Cedar Street Courtyard, where the editors of CNET's Buzz Out Loud did a live feature on the forthcoming CBS show, CHAOS. ( CHAOS portion starts at 0:51 ). The party was the culmination of a two-day mobile spy game we created to promote the show--and a few lucky players won CHAOS shades.The place was packed with happy revelers who, in addition to some star sightings, were treated to good eats, an open bar, and CNET and CHAOS schwag. That's how we roll at SXSW!

CNET editors Molly Wood and Brian Tong, CHAOS costars Freddy Rodriguez and Tim Blake Nelson, and Executive Producer Brett Ratner take the stage at SXSW to discuss the making of the new show, coming April 1 to CBS. CBS

Thanks to all the great people we met at SXSW, and everybody who came out to join us. Onward we march, right into March Madness. Look for my next post soon on the new NCAA Men's basketball tournament coverage. And until then, stay weird, Austin. #later #staytuned

About the author

    George Schweitzer's position as chief marketing officer at CBS gives him a unique opportunity not only to observe but also to help shape the ways technology is altering the television industry. A communications major at Boston University who joined CBS after graduation some 30 years ago, George is also an unabashed technology geek who specializes in the latest home automation and entertainment gear.

     

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