Mar 13, 2019

Vice, Comedy Central and Miracle Gro went retro, political, and nature-friendly (respectively) with immersive activations at this year’s SXSW.

Austin, Tex., is known for BBQ, Tex-Mex, and live music—but every March, four letters remain top-of-mind: SXSW.

Hundreds of brands and more than 300,000 people invade the city for some of the most talked-about experiences of the year. For those who weren’t able to make it this year, we’ve compiled a list of the SXSW experiences—from star-studded music line-ups to an 80s-themed pop-up roller rink—that were both original and entertaining.

VICE: Viceland Skateland

After the infamous baby goats at its activation last year, it seems VICE knew it needed to have an equally mind-blowing experience this year. The brand went the nostalgic route and created a full-on retro roller skating pop-up in what’s usually a downtown Austin parking lot. With live DJs playing plenty of 80s music, a cotton candy machine, VICE-branded swag, and the classic VICELAND bus, it was safe to say they definitely succeeded.

They also utilized the space as a production hub, with VICE host Zack Fox filming celebrity interviews and interactive fan videos for their new weeknight series, VICE Live.

LinkedIn: The LinkedIn Studio

LinkedIn dedicated its experience to helping people explore new opportunities. Even though it leaned a little more professional than the average SXSW party, the LinkedIn Studio was engaging and interactive.

The LinkedIn Studio at SXSW 2019.

They had LinkedIn profile consultations, free headshots, networking space in their exclusive cafe, and a happy hour with live DJs Angel + Dren. Panels offered career advice from LinkedIn influencers like Brian Solis and Goldie Chan, plus a fireside chat with Mindy Kaling on diversity in the workplace and her career trajectory.

Comedy Central: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library

Comedy Central took us on a satirical walk-through of President Trump’s favorite form of self-expression: Twitter. The library covered every tweet, from the laughable (“Many people have said I’m the world’s greatest writer of 140 character sentences”) to the downright disturbing (“I’m not proud of my locker room talk. But this world has serious problems. We need serious leaders”)

Comedy Central: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library

There was also a wall honoring the verified survivors of his online attacks, a timeline detailing the progression of his communications with the world (from before creating a Twitter account, to his current and constant streams of thought), an homage to Ivanka, and a “Deleted But Not Forgotten” series of plaques memorializing some of his best now-erased tweets.

And, of course, a golden toilet where attendees could sit and send their own missives.

Vox Media: The Deep End

Vox’s three-day event satisfied every need you had this SXSW, with activations centered around tech, sports, news, food, and travel. Whether you wanted to listen to their popular policy podcast, The Weeds, live, check out products from eBay’s Retail Revival program, hang out by the bar and sample kombucha and Eater-curated food, or even hit up the candy shop vending machine, there was an option for nearly every type of enthusiast.

Vox Media: The Deep End at SXSW 2019.

The best part? You could stay for hours and still have something left to experience the next day.

Splash x Kendra Scott: Community & Experiential in a Data-Driven World

Just when you manage to stop ooh-ing and aah-ing at the dozens of balloons and “Anything is possible in ATX” sign outside, the inside of Kendra Scott’s flagship store is even more stunning. The store includes the brand’s famous Color Bar where shoppers can design their own jewelry, a Sips & Sweets café, and even a frosé machine, all of which created an appropriate setting for a discussion on experiential marketing.

Splash x Kendra Scott at SXSW.

The morning kicked off with a workshop with Radha Agrawal, CEO and co-founder of Daybreaker, during which she shared her strategy for building meaningful communities (Daybreaker’s community is nearly half a million strong). Next, a panel of female marketing and events leaders from brands like LinkedIn, Tableau, InVision, and Kendra Scott shared their take on data-driven experiences.

In-between all the expert insights, guests got to personalize their own piece of Color Bar jewelry, sip on frosé, enjoy breakfast treats, and meet plenty of new friends and connections.

Comcast NBCUniversal: Comcast NBCUniversal House

Comcast NBCUniversal created the ultimate three-day immersive SXSW experience: pop culture, puppies, and interactive panels all included.

A look inside Michael Scott's office at the Comcast NBCUniversal house during SXSW 2019.

People could experience what it’s like to sit at Michael Scott’s desk, take a virtual tour of the world in How to Train Your Dragon, step into the spotlight in Bravo’s Project Runway photo experience, and hear from icons like Jordan Peele, Busy Philipps, and the writers from Late Night with Seth Meyers. Plus: a chance to step away from the SXSW madness and play with puppies up for adoption or get your game on in the Xfinity Gaming Lounge.

Miracle Gro: Harvest HQ

Miracle Gro’s Harvest HQ was truly an urban oasis, with a line-up of events all centered around how nature can help you recharge and relax (during SXSW and beyond). The outdoor space was equipped with plenty of greenery, plant puns, and fresh drinks and snacks — plus live music, charging stations, and expert gardening and cooking tips and tricks.

Miracle Gro Harvest HQ at SXSW.

From brunch with mimosas and intention-setting to a workshop inspired by Epicurious editor David Tamarkin’s new book COOK90 (with drinks, bites, and cooking tips from David himself), Harvest HQ was the go-to destination for anyone at SXSW who lives for the outdoors.

The Onion/The A.V. Club: Just Another Manic Monday

The Onion/The A.V. Club delivered one of the most talked about music experiences.

They took over The Mohawk for “Just Another Manic Monday” — essentially a one-day mini music festival with two stages (indoor and outdoor) and a stacked line-up of artists, including Deerhunter, Sweet Spirit, The Beths, and Priests. Even if you didn’t plan on staying the whole time, once you stepped into the venue it was hard not to want to stay all night.

Bumble: Bumble Hive SXSW

In the midst of non-stop party-hopping, Bumble’s Hive offered free coffee and breakfast tacos at its takeover of Jo’s Coffee.

Bumble Hive at SXSW.

With clever signs (“The hottest thing in your life doesn’t have to be coffee”) and cozy booths, it was the perfect place to meet up with your crew, debrief, and take a breath before your next party. Not to mention it offered Bumble profile tips from their experts, astrology readings, an aura photographer, and health and wellness products from Supergoop!, Feals, and Ritual.


Clare Geithner is the Marketing Coordinator at Splash, where she plans and executes both internal and external company events. Splash is an event marketing technology that helps brands execute, measure, and scale their event programs.

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