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By Patrick Cavanaugh

Positing the BRINK of SXSW 2017

I last attended South by Southwest in 2013, hitting the Interactive portion while supporting our work with the Army National Guard and planning our Man of Steel film co-marketing campaign, in addition to the Film festival for the premiere of Spring Breakers, a movie we had managed the pre-distribution social media for, and were promptly kicked off of, once picked up by A24, c/o Vice Media. Shout outs to Zach Galifianakis (“seat’s taken”) and Lena D, who’s a fan:
lenaFast forward four years, and the BRINK partners are itching to make it a trio at the fest (first time for Josh, lucky #3 for Danny). Starting our plans at least a year in advance, as-one-should-do, we had lots of ideas brainstormed, some informed by having rolled the BRINKmobile down to SXSW in 2012. I had a couple potential venue locations for our popup interactive projection mapped AR/VR social activation… but rather than that, here’s what we did instead:

Badgeless and waiting until two weeks before the festival to book lodging, sometimes you can still score a swank ass shack near downtown for a cool 9 stacks on AirBnB. Shoutout to a social team that monitored and engaged in almost real-time with my tweet, twice:


Just across the I-35, with a stocked fridge, two beds and an uncomfortably small and itchy couch, but really friendly porch cat, we could walk a few blocks to get to Rainey St. This street is lined with houses that have been taken over by brands for backyard parties and private events. We didn’t get into Intel, CNN, Pinterest or Twitter, but had some great mini donuts from a truck. The Facebook party at the Container Bar was particularly stringent at their gates.

With Uber and Lyft infamously pulling out of Austin in lieu of implementing a driver fingerprinting program, the Ride Austin app and fleet of pedicabs ruled the local transport game. Ride Austin is a nonprofit and offers you the option to “round up” and donate the spare change to a charity of your choice. Pedicabs provide not only ride along entertainment, but can also point out the best spots to hit, and avoid, in the city.

Our pedicab pointed us towards Austin Taco Project, where they delight in nontraditional taco stylings, including a flat mezze style, a whataburger inspired whatataco, and my favorite, the P.E.T.A. that included a breaded and fried avocado. Free drinks due to slow kitchen from a friendly staff, although that wasn’t enough to sustain Pete’s interest:

Some people are just #overit, I guess.

From there we made our first foray down 6th Street. It’s always fun seeing the early interactive / marketing crowds transition later to the film / music crowds, and the bars and popups along 6th adapt accordingly. We hit the shack to meet up with the newly arrived BRINK boss Danny Vinik, and ate some BBQ. Hint: if you hit Ironworks don’t expect Carolina Style Mustard BBQ sauce; they’ll point out the mustard packets next to the pickles upon request.

Late night, I went east side, to hang with WeDC Ambassador and Funk Parade Co-Founder Chris Naoum. He’s of my mind, that politics are a mess but the parties these days are so much worse. What was up with the dancing DJ, just press play Do512 amirite?!

The WeDC House officially opened the next day. On the way there Josh hit the Webbys Talk for breakfast tacos, while Danny and I hit Fast Company Grill for the open bar and photobooth:



The Ford Solutions Hub was a meta showcase of astroturfing, and the Samsung NEXT Connection Lounge provided some swag, but the sun was not out, so guns were not out, and we bagged the tank-tops for another day.

Lunch at the Champions Grill, then a visit to a crazy electric car garage. The 360 video tour and Pixelflex Screen were as cool, for media tech nerds like your author here, as the concept vehicles.

The Dutch House did not deign to allow our entrance, while promoting their “rave” that was happening later. We were also denied that party even after touting our history with the country of Netherlands’ tourism marketing. Building a virtual embassy in Second Life just isn’t cool enough anymore, i guess.

And zo, instead, vve hit the German Haus. Open bar (no german beer?), the “Fake News” and Journalism panel and showcase of tech and innovation was worth it:

Killing time before that night’s Gathering of the GoGo Nation, CHIEF Agency’s party, we tested our strength and reflexes at a barcade. (I won, at everything but NBA Jam… damn you Patrick Ewing, you monstar!)

The party was great. Good tunes and good peeps, including DC Tech’ans Justin Herman and Adam Zuckerman. We chatted with the SBA Technology Director about incentivizing innovation incubation, traded free drink tokens, and schmoozed with James Mercer from The Shins. Yes, he is coming back to DC to play the 9:30 Club once again, and yes, he gave me a fist bump upon departure and we’re now best friends.

After a slow recovery the next day, we once more headed towards downtown to discover more activations and moments of delight. Josh’s favorite was probably American Gods with the giant white buffalo and guerilla anti-marketing propaganda tactics. Danny was more interested in Google Fiber, and it was a shame they had no one there to talk about bringing the light to Tucson (good public advocacy campaign for those watching).

That space included a promotion for Wonder Woman, with airbrush tattoos and VR trailers. I’ve been pretty keen on Tiltbrush for awhile now, and the live demonstration was delightful:

Nearby at the YouTube corner, there was not only an open bar of refreshing hot teas, but also a theater for watching the latest and greatest in short format social video storytelling. 6 Second Storytelling was meant to showcase its new six-second video ad format, created for the mobile viewers who have little time for 30-second commercial interruptions. The video service tapped Madison Avenue — J. Walter Thompson, Wieden & Kennedy, Deutsch and other filmmakers — to condense some of the most complex stories ever written into a super-short format, reinterpreting “Romeo and Juliet,” “On the Origin of Species,” “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” “Heart of Darkness” and other tomes, at SXSW in Austin.

Another cool showcase of new video formats at YouTube was these globes, or “spherical screens” with inner projections of 360 video. Walking around alongside a charmingly animated story brought a whole new perspective on the media potential.

Youtube Corner

We ate at the Driskell Hotel. Some people say it’s haunted. I think that may be true, if we’re at least judging by the portraits on the walls and quality of “savory beignets” coming out of the kitchen.

On our final full BRINK team day, we ventured to the west side of downtown, visiting the TwitchxReddit house. There was a Viceland “It’s a TV Channel” bus parked out front with 3D glasses wearing fake pot plants in back, and alongside the entry was a Life movie experience, where you stick your hands into an incubator and, spoiler alert, get grabbed. By the wrist! The wrist! And you get a poster for your troubles.

Inside we had the dulcet sounds of a Chilean punk rock band before a live AMA; Alexis Ohanian asking softballs to Adrian Grenier, who was advocating we all #StopSucking on plastic, ocean killing straws.

Hanging with Jack down south to grab some tacos and visit old haunts, we finished off the night back at the WeDC house with The Magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff. Yes, that one.

The next morning, Josh’s flight was canceled due to the Nor’Easter blizzard scaring the District into icy submission. So he booked an airport hotel, and peaced out with Danny. We had some burned coffee from Texas Coffee Traders (it’s not really burned just different), and couldn’t get into the Scoot Inn.

I went back to drop my bags at The Driskell, caught a motorized skateboard (as is tradition) to the Pandora House and enjoyed Sunny Sweetie and Earl St. Claire in the sunshine. Ran into some film friends from Milwaukee at the Grackle, check out their SXSW Film The Blood is at the Doorstep. Another cool team we hung out with was from Art Docs UK, there to promote Paa Joe and The Lion.

Got into the New Dutch Wave house, no issues this time, to see some last bit of music before finishing off the night with the Buscemi pizza from East Side Pies and a way too big bonfire. Yeehaw!

Other things that were there that would’ve been cool to see:

See other travel journals below:



By Patrick Cavanaugh