A large part of SXSW was the idea that there were a large amount of events and parties hosted by major brands such as OMD, Spotify, and Vans. You may be asking yourself why? Well, according to Digiday, an online publication, these major brands no longer need SXSW as a tool “to connect with other clients and startups,” and that, frankly, SXSW is “less cool.”
Doug Rozen, chief digital officer at OMD states that “it began to get more corporate,” when it is understood that SXSW used to be for the people. Essentially, it was understood that SXSW was a festival that brought out new and upcoming artists, giving them a platform to debut their music. Now, however, it appears that that idea has become more of a memory.
Another reason in which brands have been dropping out of SXSW is because their clients have also been less than enthusiastic about attending. In fact, OMD claims only one third of their 100 clients will actually attend. Now, with technology being such a big part of our society, the many tech conferences that are becoming more and more attended are being held around the same time as SXSW. Due to this slew of tech conferences, many clients are just unable to keep up anymore. In support of this claim, Jason Goldberg of SapientRazorfish has said that even back in 2013, he was only able to send one sixth of his team to SXSW and even that number has shot down to even one sixtieth of his team. Now, Goldberg is unable to send anyone for the first time.
Aside from needing the a physical number of people to attend. Money has also become an issue. SXSW has become more expensive as its popularity shot up. As a result, hotels and other residencies have hiked their rates during the festival so as to profit from the 422,000 people who attend. In the past, for example, Spotify would host large events at SXSW in the years 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Now, however, it appears that they will not be continuing that tradition this year. Vans, too, hosted events in SXSW in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, but they are also following the trend of a more brandless festival this 2018.
MediaCom, for example, has stopped sending people due to the fact that it’s clients actually get lost at the festival and miss the sessions they are supposed to attend because of the sheer size of the crowd. With the number of attendees growing, it just becomes more difficult. Jeffrey Hinz, the managing director of MediaCom states to Digiday that SXSW has “lost its community of innovation. The next Twitter won’t launch at SXSW to reach opinion leaders and innovators because they no longer attend; marketing content has stifled creativity and is being programmed similarly to conferences in NYC or San Francisco. There is no uniqueness. It’s like the same bland shopping mall on every corner.”
John Baker, CMO of Mirium, says that it becomes more difficult to participate in the same way when events grow to this magnitude in popularity. He states that at this point “brands either go all-in building out full installations like Google, or pull back to doing dinners, one-on-one meetings and a simple restaurant.” Essentially, a brand would have to spend an insane amount of money in order to make any real impact this year.
Alongside OMD, many other brands are dropping out such as: MediaCom, EP+Co, SapientRazorfish, Kettle, Vans, and Spotify.