The brands are harder to find at this year’s SXSW. There are 350 official sponsors, compared to last year’s 450, and that has been the talk among many agency and ad folks who are veterans of the event.
“What we’ve maybe lost is some of that over-the-top spending — the spring break-style free-for-all,” says branding expert Jennifer Sinski, vp of Austin PR firm Giant Noise and founder of RSVPster.com. “The marketing has changed,” she says of companies such as Spotify, which are now doing more “highly curated, private events” targeted to specific influencers with potent social media followings, rather than big public concerts that most anyone can attend.
There were whisperings that brands don’t want to spend as much as they once did. Perhaps, it’s just a correction from the brand overload of the past few years. But there also don’t seem to be real breakout apps to define the event as happened in previous years, when Twitter, Foursquare, Meerkat and so many others basically made their debuts in Austin.
“Foursquare used to have these massive parties, and now I don’t even think they’re here,” said one media executive to Billboard, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to upset clients that are here. “A lot of companies are pulling back.”
Now, some major tech companies like Facebook have promised a more subdued presence than they had in the past, and Twitter is hosting only private events. That seems to be the theme for many companies, which aren’t making a splash but they are hanging around the periphery in rented homes and spaces with invite-only guest lists.