More than ever, the South by Southwest Interactive Festival was a marketing showcase. Here are some of the most interesting--and weirdest--uses of marketing dollars at this year's confab.
Tagged goes for Texas-size limos
The presence of marketers at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (or SXSWi as it's historically been known) was ubiquitous--even right after landing at Austin's airport. Social network Tagged was just one of the companies that had arranged complimentary private transit, like this flashy white limo.
About.me, a personal profile start-up that AOL acquired earlier this year, had its own setup at "AOL Studios," where a professional photographer would take pictures for SXSWi attendees' About.me profiles.
Microsoft's big event at SXSWi was launching its Internet Explorer 9 browser at the W Hotel on Monday night (complete with a concert by hipster staple Yeasayer), but it also had set up a pretty big display at the Austin Convention Center.
Offering free food in proximity to the Austin Convention Center was a big-time marketing promotion at SXSWi this year. Messaging service GroupMe set up shop with free grilled cheese; coupon broker Groupon sponsored an empanada truck; and here, publishing platform Squarespace had a big free-food distribution outlet across the street from the expo hall.
Another popular variety of marketing at this year's SXSWi: Gadget-charging services. Auto brand Lincoln, which sponsored business magazine Fast Company's space at the Moonshine Patio restaurant, offered chargers galore.
PepsiCo was a big-time sponsor of SXSWi last year, and this year it was back for more. Its "Pepsi Max Lot" took over an entire parking lot, and the company co-sponsored a concert by hip-hop star Big Boi with geolocation company Foursquare.
GE's Ecomagination initiative made a splash at SXSWi with a solar-powered carousel in a parking lot. Called "Carousolar," it was also the site of an impromptu party on Tuesday afternoon that featured free tacos and the band in which actor Michael Cera plays bass.
Camera company Nikon sponsored multiple parties at SXSWi, including a massive concert in partnership with video company Vimeo, as well as a scavenger hunt in which participants had to track down the whereabouts of actor, investor, and Nikon poster boy Ashton Kutcher.
Speaking of Ashton Kutcher, one of the companies in which he has invested--snack brand PopChips--was all over SXSWi with promotions. On Sunday night, giant PopChips pillows were tossed about in the VIP section of a party at Hangar Lounge.