How does a physical greeting card company make its presence known at a digital conference? American Greetings created #analog, a space that took many digital things we do today and turned them into real-world experiences.
"When you use analog forms of communication, you can elevate digital things. ... The idea is to say that analog and digital aren't at war with each other," said Alex Ho, executive director of marketing at American Greetings.
Ho said because there were so many brands trying to create an event at SXSW, American Greetings wanted to be distinctive and add value to attendees' experiences.
Instead of taking selfies, an artist at the "stichie" station was using a sewing machine to stich needle and thread portraits of attendees. The person would stand there for four to five minutes, while the artist rapidly sewed an image of their face.
Across from him, American Greetings copyrighters and lettering artists were helping attendees create custom greeting cards for whomever they wanted. There was also a station dedicated to taking Polariods of digital images, so that the physical picture could be sent in a greeting card to a loved one.
To create a physical GIF, American Greetings wired a typewriter's keys so that it could understand a computer program to record a video. Then, each three to five second video was printed out as 24 separate pictures. People then pasted each picture onto a piece of cardboard, creating a flipbook-like book. A nearby station allowed them to flip through their creations, while recording the moving picture on their phone.
Plus, with so many free, bespoke things to take home, Ho said it helped bring people in the doors.
"Liking getting free stuff is multigenerational," he said laughing.
In order to show off what it could offer, Spotify continued its annual tradition of throwing a multiday house party. This year's "house" was bigger than ever before and featured acts like Willie Nelson, Chvrches and Miguel. It also held SoulCycle sessions with DJs like Chromeo spinning tracks while people completed the intensive spin class.
"It's appreciation for artists and the fans that makes Spotify," said Seth Farbman, chief marketing officer at Spotify. "We consider Spotify a meritocracy. Artists make amazing music, and fans are there to hear it. When you get them together and you discover new artists this magical thing happens. There's something special about doing that in a physical space."
For those less active, there were daily video game tournaments as well as a jukebox that could "read" your band shirt and play music from that artist after it completed its scan.
"The intersection of digital and music is how this whole thing (SXSW) began," Farbman said. "That is Spotify."