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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

TV activations take over SXSW, immersing fans in favorites old and new

Not dramatic, but Prime Video might have saved my life in 2023 South by Southwest.

The presenter was one of many presenting a variety of immersive events at the festival’s film and television sessions, including a company with “The Swarm” by Donald Glover. Standing in the sun outside the “Swarm” minimart, I realized it was 85 degrees Fahrenheit and I hadn’t had a drink for about five hours. When I walk into a store and see a cooler full of drinks, I can swear they’re surrounded by a halo, and a chorus of angels sings my victory as I grab and guzzle a Gatorade.

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It wasn’t the last TV activation that weekend to curb my wayward meeting habits. More than once I’ve eaten at Prime Texas, a block-long cityscape dedicated to Amazon’s Prime show (probably the best french fries I’ve ever had in my life). The chips I bought at Swarm with a fake $5 bill came in handy during breaks between group discussions or as a late-night snack. In Roku City or The Lodge: A Paramount+ Experience and Peacock’s “Mrs. Davis” offers vouchers for free coffee, tacos, and donuts (which makes sense when you’re watching the show).

“South by Southwest is such an amazing festival. People are really open to new ideas and new experiences, and that’s part of the reason they’re here,” Jo Fox, Peacock’s senior vice president of brand marketing, told IndieWire. The company hired the actor to roam downtown Austin as a nun, and did a Q&A with “Madame.” Davis” creators Damon Lindelof and Tara Hernandez on March 13, and a two-episode premiere on March 14.

With more television than ever, events like SXSW are a major way for networks and streamers to differentiate their projects, with memorable visuals that are inextricably linked to the big shows and experiences to engage audiences. Although “Swarm” and “Mrs. Davis” premiered at SXSW, the two series remained embargoed during the session, which meant that activation visitors knew very little about the plot details of the two shows. Many people at the “Daisy Jones and the Six” concert were wearing 70’s festive clothes and I was standing next to the line who didn’t see the show or read the book but drove an hour to watch it concert. People line up not just to attend the event, but to get signature cocktails, custom merchandise, temporary tattoos and more. The spaces radiate an air of elegance and exclusivity, not to exclude anyone, but by opening the doors of the show and the industry to rabid fans—like SXSW itself.

“When you launch a new show, you want to draw attention to it because consumers have a lot of options,” Fox said. “We’re doing everything we can right now to make sure that in this atmosphere where there’s a lot of programming coming out, we’re doing everything we can to create buzz and excitement for our new original content.”

Read on for highlights from the SXSW TV event.

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