Intern Diaries – SXSW 2017 – My Favourite Activations

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SXSW returned for the festival’s 31st year on Friday and all eyes are on Austin, Texas for the event. A combination of a film conference, an interactive media conference and a music festival; it’s always an opportunity for brands to showcase themselves. Brands invest millions of dollars in their activations to engage audiences and give them a better understanding of who they are.

In most cases it’s worth the investment; brands create lasting impressions and experiences for the attendees with their activations. Those of us who aren’t lucky enough to attend can then hear about it through social media which can in turn create a positive image of the brand in our minds!

This year’s festival kicked off on Friday and I’ve been keeping an eye out for my favourite activations so far. I like to find out what brands are doing and what new technologies can be brought to events like this. Here’s some of the brands that have stood out to me the most over the past weekend;

MyAndroid Truck


The MyAndroid truck is covered with over 70,000 LEDs “from top to tyre”. It can be customised by festival attendees through an interactive panel beside the truck. Once customised, it can be used as a backdrop to your selfies and photos.


I love this activation because it’s fun, interactive and the point of the activation is clear. It highlights how the Android home screen can be customised to your needs, which can’t be said of their competitors, the iPhone’s iOS. Attendees can engage with the brand using the #myAndroid hashtag.

The brand also engages those of us who are not at the festival as you can take the Taste Test to find your perfect Android home screens. Definitely my favourite activation this year so far!

Sony’s WOW Factory


While other brands are downgrading their involvement in the festival, Sony created an entire exhibition space with 12 different exhibits. Each interactive, informative area is connected to different Sony products and technologies. I’ve been keeping a close eye on Sony at the festival as I think that we’ll be using their products as event profs for years to come.


One of the highlights for me in their arena would be the Mixed Reality CAVE Experience. It’s an immersive VR room that allows multiple people to experience the same thing without having to wear any headsets or hardware. I think this is the future of VR and while it may be a few years off from being accessible to everyone, I can definitely see this being used at events or brand activations.

For more information on the WOW Factory’s activations see here.

National Geographic – Further: Base Camp


National Geographic’s activation at SXSW promotes their upcoming drama, which follows the ups and downs of Albert Einstein’s life.

The show is called Genius and I think that’s exactly what the activation is! Base Camp includes interactive experiences, interviews and musical performances all designed to get festival-goers’ brains in motion.

Interactions include an immersive VR experience which uses augmented reality to bring Einstein’s ideas to life and a robot which takes your photo and uses it to sketch the photo onto a chalkboard in Einstein’s own writing and formulas!


I find that activations for TV shows can be difficult but it looks like Nat Geo’s got it right. They’ve provided something that’s interactive but also educational, which I think coincides perfectly with their brand!

Summing it up!

The festival runs until the 19th, so it’s still early days. I’m sure there’ll be many more activations and I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if any can top my favourites above (although it would be difficult!).

While there has always been a massive brand presence at the festival, brands seem to be downgrading their part in it or cutting their involvement out altogether. Samsung, who had a long relationship with the event, have pulled out of it. Spotify have also scaled back their presence, opting to take part with their SXSW playlists instead of having an activation.

Is this due to the fact that brands don’t get enough return on the event? Or maybe it’s due to brands taking a more targeted approach to activations? Fader Fort magazine have decided to downsize their event venue and make it an invite-only affair for the duration. This way they’re able to target certain key influencers, reducing their costs and still getting the same social media exposure.

Whatever the reason, I think it will be interesting to see what the future of SXSW Conference & Festival looks like!

Written by: Sarah Morrissey Davis Events Agency