Archive for the 'Bryan Keplesky' Category

The SXSW Schwag Bags

Now that the festival is finally over, I got a chance to check out my schwag bags in more detail. I got one from Interactive, Film and Music.

Now, from my experience as an art director, I can’t think of many worse projects than designing a piece of free ephemera to go into a trade show bag. There’s no real budget, it’s getting shoved in with a ton of other pieces and the bag might end up in the hands of some idiot like me who doesn’t even look at it until after the festival is done.

Overall, the bags were full of the things you’d expect…postcard-sized artwork, coasters, small branded pads of paper. Each canvas bag was branded with a sponsorship company. For Interactive, it was Adobe. There were lots of trade-specific flyers, a Sharpie key chain (I thought this was cool), different magazines including the most recent How Magazine.

The Film bag was sponsored by the new Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez movie Grindhouse. Again, tons of flyers for different movies playing during the festival, various trade magazines, and super thick brochure about making films in Georgia.

The Music bag was sponsored by The Duke, which is actually the government-backed, official organizitation representing bands from the UK. This was an interesting piece of branding. A lot of foreign countries will have specific events (Japan Nite and the New Zealand BBQ are among the better known), but only the UK has wrapped itself around a brand identity, in this case a comic book-styled, pipe smoking “superhero.” It’s not a bad idea to package the UK bands as simply as possible. The comic/brochure that came in the bag was beautifully produced. I question its overall effectivness, mainly because UK bands in general are so popular and influential right now. As for “The Duke” himself, he doesn’t really resonate with me. I see the comic book style as a disconnect, but I also understand that it’s a very different look than what’s expected…basically the entire lexicon of British rock iconography (the mod target, punk, scooters, the Beatles, etc).

The Music bag also had a hangover kit: aspirin, liquid coffee, mouthwash and a band-aid, all in a little plastic tube. The label states “distribution by Navarre,” which I’m assuming are these guys. There’s no branding whatsoever, not even a website. This is definitely one of the more clever items in the bag, but I think a missed opportunity for branding.

Also interesting to note is that each bag had a free sample of Nicogel, a cigarette replacement product you wipe on your hands. Perhaps Nicogel heard about the controversial smoking ban that passed in Austin a year and a half ago.

And finally, the Music bag had two condom samples. One was a Trojan brand. Trojan also had street teams handing out condoms the whole week. There’s nothing more awkward than walking down 6th street at 2am and having some dude hand you a condom. And the other was a generic one, but branded by Nail Distribution, with a headline that states “Get Nailed.” (get it?). For some reason, both the Interactive and the Film bags were condom-free, but the implication here can speak for itself.

posted by Bryan Keplesky



Toyota has been a huge SXSW sponsor this year with their Yaris car. Every official SXSW banner has the Yaris logo on it. The Yaris is an under-$15,ooo car, featured as a hatchback or sedan, and the price is a sweet spot for young professionals. Yaris also was the official sponsor of Flatstock, the hugely popular rock poster convention featuring some of the best poster artists in the country, many of which have a presence on



It’s a snazzy little car and it was prominently on display. I also liked how there were little “pop up” posters all over the vehicle calling out particular features, and that the design style of these displays looked like mini-gigposters.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

On the Streets

The marketing on the streets downtown has been somewhat subdued this year. Nothing has really blown me a way yet.


Outside of Stubb’s amphitheater was a branded Scion car featuring The Melvins, on the Vice label. Vice has always had a huge brand presence during SXSW, and we have them to thank for turning the streets around our office into a hipster parking lot.


I keep seeing these giant street stickers all over downtown. The website reveals that it’s a cross-promotion between Absolut and Blender promoting a building they’ve rented in downtown Austin to have exclusive-parties.

I’ve been noticing a lot of media companies have teamed up with consumer products this year and are renting spaces downtown. Not far from the “Blender House” is “The Fort,” which is a team-up between Levi’s Jeans and Fader Magazine. And right down the street from The Fort is the Pure Volume House, which is hosted by Pure Volume, a music website, and Virb, a brand new social networking site competing with MySpace. Also earlier today Puma shoes and Urb Magazine combined forces to host a dayshow party at the Beauty Bar.

It’s a strategy that works. All of these music media sites are well-connected in the industry and can get any “buzz” band it wants to play their parties. Combine that with a brand that’s popular with the early adopters and social influencers in the under-30 crowd and you’ve got a party that everyone will be talking about. I don’t know how many times this week I’ve told friends, “I’ll meet you at Pure Volume later tonight.” The brand name is synonymous with the party.

But you still get a few stragglers, like Direct TV, who parked a giant Hummer on 6th street and set up a small table tent with brochures and candy (I had a blue Jolly Rancher). Even though the basic TV package is pretty cheap (40 bucks), no one is thinking about TV this week. It’s all about the music. It’s also my suspicion that a Hummer isn’t the most popular vehicle among the SXSW crowd, who would probably view a Hummer as a status-symbol of the ultra-rich and environmentally unsound (they would be saying this while smoking cigarettes and drinking cheap beer).


When I snapped this picture one of the Direct TV girls, who was very nice, asked if I’d like my picture taken with the Hummer. Umm… no thanks.

posted by Bryan Keplesky 

SXSW Showlist

There have been some pretty great moments at the music festival. Sometimes the best strategy is just to walk around and pop into places and get surprised.


Austin’s Okkervil River, who I think is on the shortlist for best Austin band, played an amazing set at Bourbon Rocks. When I say amazing, I just don’t mean they sounded great (they did). What pushed it over for me is where they played. Right in the middle of 6th St, Bourbon Rocks never has bands of this caliber play. Only during SXSW can you see some of the best bands around play cheesy theme bars.


I caught Deerhunter’s set during the day at Emo’s. It was just like their most recent album. Gloomy, and going from mellow to a raw boil.


The Laughing is my favorite local band right now. They have so much energy and so much potential too. Everything they do, looked on paper, is wrong. Matching outfits? Sleeveless white vests? Blue makeup? Glockenspiels? It all works. This band owns. They were cool enough to play our Misprint Magazine day party at the Creekside Lounge.


To be filed under “I’ve Never Seen this Before, Ever” is the show Monotonix put on. First of all, they’re from Tel Aviv. Second, towards the end of their set the drummer disassembled his kit and started handing it into the crowd. Then the crowd hoisted him up in the air on top of his base drum, and he proceeded to finish the song by drumming onto the other parts of the kit held up by the crowd.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

Film Review: Helvetica

There is perhaps a no more polarizing typeface than Helvetica. If you read the previous sentence and have no idea what I’m talking about it’s definitely worth a trip to see this documentary from (first time) director Gary Hustwit. Helvetica is the most widely seen typeface in the world. Designed in the mid 1950’s, it’s become a default font on every computer in the world and used accordingly.

People interested in graphic design or typography will love the film for the interviews with some of the titans of design, from Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli and Stefan Stagmeister. They provide good insight into their love/disdain for Helvetica and also commentary on the design field in general.

So what’s the problem with Helvetica? The main issue is that its ubiquity has stripped away most of its impact. Having been seen in such disparate places as run-down parking garages to the subways signs of major metropolises, Helvetica has reached a point where it’s basically coded into the brain of every person in the developed world. Everyone sees Helvetica, often several times a day.

I was interested in the film’s coverage of the so-called “Grunge type” era, emulated by David Carson (who is perhaps as polarizing as Helvetica). This period was a direct reaction to the standard of Helvetica and also was a time when hundreds and thousands of new typefaces were being created.

The film ended with an interview designer/writer/publisher Lars Muller, who noted that because of the new social media (he specifically refers to MySpace) everyone is able to customize the typefaces around them. This indicates that the Helveticas of the world will always be there and depended upon. But an individual’s need for self expression is also equally needed and will continued to be explored.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

Good Cards


This little promotion from Good Magazine caught my eye: Mogul Trading cards. The magazine is a hip take on society, politics and culture and the cards feature different moguls with baseball-like stats on the back. What surprised me even more is that the rocker friends I was with put down their tall cans to start trading these. The cards are hip, ironic and fleeting. Obviously no one will keep them, but they did make me want to check out Good.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

Film Review: Confessions of a Superhero

Continuing my fascination with all things avatar, comes Confessions of a Superhero. I bring up the avatar because, even though this is a documentary about real people, the idea of choosing to live behind a mask is the theme of this movie. The film follows the lives of four different “superheros” (Superman, Batman, The Hulk, and Wonder Woman), who are actually out-of-work actors dressed in costumes who walk Hollywood Boulevard offering themselves for photographs.

Their reasons for taking up this occupation (the honorary mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, calls them “panhandlers”) is rooted in wanting to become famous movie stars. But between the different superheros there are varying degrees of deep psychological connection to the characters they emulate.

The person most connected to his superhero character is Superman, Christopher Dennis. He lives and breaths Superman. The scenes in his apartment show tens of thousands of dollars in Superman merchandise. He also looks (and he knows this) eerily similar to Christopher Reeve. Throughout the film he comes across as obsessed, yet sympathetic. It is obvious that there have been very troubling times in his life, and his fascination with Superman is actually a more recent event, as opposed to being obsessed with Superman as a kid. He’s the main character and heart of the film.

The three other people are equally compelling. Maxwell Allen, who is Batman, is charming and genuine on the surface yet masks very deep anger and aggression. He likes to position himself as a vigilante (his stories of being hired muscle for the mob and other tales might be exaggerated) is perfectly in line with the qualities of Batman.

Jo McQueen, who is Hulk, was the audience favorite. Smaller in stature, quiet, and homeless for 4 years, in some ways McQueen inversely portrays the muscle and power of the Hulk.

Finally, there is Jennifer Gehrt as Wonder Woman. To me, she is somewhat of the antithesis to Wonder Woman. Jennifer is more reactive to situations than proactive, she married young and admits that she needs a lot of attention. She is a deeply feeling, emotional person. I don’t know if I’d characterize her as strong though. To her, Wonder Woman is just a way to get by during hard times.

I loved this film, not only because of the compelling characters and beautiful cinematography, but I think there are universal truths to be found in the film. Everyone, in some fashion, believes themselves to be bigger than they really are. They do this by projecting a certain image out to the world. The irony is that the projected image is just a mask and, in fact, sometimes the least interesting part of a person.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

What’s Behind the Door?

SXSW is an Austin event. And Door Number 3 is an Austin advertising agency. We're interested in how new ideas in advertising, media and branding will be presented during these 9 quick days. From inside the lecture halls where top specialists present their thoughts, to out on the streets where advertising is put to the test on tens of thousands of festival-goers. We'll be there with the complete coverage, reports, photos, editorials, and perhaps some tricks on how to sneak into a few sweet afterparties.

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