AUSTIN—McDonald’s, Windex, and Dove have nothing to do with tech startups, but that didn’t stop them from showing up at South by Southwest Interactive this year in hopes that the tech festival’s patina of cool would rub off on them.
It’s the same story every year: Brands descend on Austin, take over downtown bars and restaurants, and stage stunts designed to go viral on Twitter. Last year, it felt forced. But this year, companies tried a little harder to make sure their efforts at least had a tech tie-in.
There were search-and-rescue dogs delivering cell phone battery packs, selfie stations sponsored by cleaning products, and TV show gimmicks that were both entertaining and a little creepy. Yes, these were shameless marketing ploys, but at least this year they were fun—and made a lot more sense.