The Ultimate SXSW Agency Survival Guide
Agency News

The Ultimate SXSW Agency Survival Guide

Kerry Meakins
Kerry Meakins

After our agency’s first successful trip to SXSW, we want to share our wisdom on how to make the most of your time in Austin! 

The city is bustling with huge brand activations, inspiring talks, and celebrity spots. Our week at SXSW was spent surrounded by thousands of the creative industry's brightest minds. We connected with new people and explored new creative concepts to implement into our work.  

Tech-savvy Texas is the ideal setting for leading brands, creative marketers, and artists to converge and collide - so we highly recommend going next year.

Sponsoring and Activations 

Knowing where to invest can be a hard decision, and SXSW brings with it various options to suit your business objectives! 

Speaking Opportunities 

As a marketing agency that was born in the UK – we are apparently one of the highest concentrated groups that applies for the Panel Picker. The draw of speaking at this prestigious international conference, along with a trip to the US is clearly strong for the agency landscape.

Our session was on how to ‘Stop The Skip’ with influencer content and was held at the UK House venue. Our CEO Jenny led the discussion alongside our client Nicole Sia from DoorDash; influencer Michelle Amoré and platform partner, Chris Robertiello from YouTube. Jenny also shared her social insights on the future of formats in the media with St Luke’s


We didn’t look into how to sponsor with SXSW directly, due to the speaking submission – but we know it can be pricey. 

So we decided to run two events alongside the conference, organized and executed by our marketing team. The advantage is cost – and freedom to do what you’d like without official sponsorship restrictions! 

SXSW is pretty noisy, so we wanted to allow our brands to step away from the madness and give them time to chat through their Influencer Marketing challenges with our team. Our guests enjoyed a free manicure and a mimosa at our ‘Nail Your Influencer Marketing’ pop-up event. 

The next day, we invited senior marketers from Whole Foods, Athletic Greens, and Lionsgate to speak at our breakfast roundtable at Soho House. The panel discussed how to stay on top of trends, and how to authentically embed your brand into culture. 

What type of badge to buy 

Figuring out what SXSW Badge to buy can be tricky – and there are various options including Platinum, Interactive, Film & TV, and Music. If you are attending the conference, you will only need an Interactive badge. Platinum includes Film & TV and Music which look hella fun and might be right for you depending on your industry. 

It’s important to note that you could enter many of the brand activations without a badge by simply signing up online, and while the badge queue was almost shorter – it didn’t seem essential. Some of our favorites included Snapchat, Sharpie, and The Female Quotient. Most include free soft or alcoholic beverages, and a nibble or two - but don’t expect a full meal! 

However, if you want to see the official SXSW talks – or you want to get a sense of who is attending, you will need one. If you are an official speaker you will gain a Platinum badge – result! 

What dates to attend 

As the whole festival runs for over a week, selecting the days you need to be there is important. Look at the Tracks on the SXSW website to see what best aligns with your event objectives. Friday-Monday felt particularly busy with brands due to the Advertising Track! 

Travel to Austin 

If you’re traveling from the US, flights are reasonable and run smoothly. However, we would strongly recommend flying directly if you are traveling from the UK. We ended up on a 34-hour long journey which consisted of an emergency landing in Chicago and a night in a hotel, a missed flight connection, and a 4-hour long drive from Dallas to Austin...Although some may that’s just bad luck! You may also want to avoid American Airlines – we were told multiple times that our plane was held together by duct tape, which we thought was a turn of phrase until we saw the Captain with said duct tape!

Where to stay 

We stayed slightly outside the city center, just a 10-minute cab into the center at The Moxy. It’s an exciting hotel in a quiet area and is slightly more reasonable for a large group. Other recommendations we had were The Line and Hotel ZaZa, if you’re looking to spend a little more. 

Traveling around the city

The SXSW talks and activations were fairly spread out around downtown, so traveling around the city was essential. Buses are a great and affordable option - but be warned, they only take cash!

We particularly enjoyed the Electric Scooters, which were a fun way to get around easily. We were warned about the traffic but this didn’t seem an issue while we were there and getting Ubers or Lyfts was easy enough. The taxis aren’t your normal type either. We had Ubers with a little dog you could stroke, and another with a full karaoke machine – anything to gain a tip!

We also rented a car due to our event materials and the pick-ups we needed to do in Austin which was easy enough, but the parking is quite expensive at hotels and public car parks.   

What to wear 

Definitely prioritize comfort! There can be a lot of walking, and a lot of queuing, so do take trainers or flat shoes. Everyone looks casual but with a personal style. We noticed a fashionable edge towards Texas - denim, leather, and cowboy boots were popular outfit selections! We didn’t get time to head back to our hotel for the evening activities, so bear this in mind when getting ready in the morning. Also, the weather is temperamental, so layers are essential! 

Places to eat 

If you’re in Austin you have to get a taste of Texas BBQ! We got hundreds of recommendations for Franklin and La Barbecue – but these can be tricky to get into and have long queues. We tried out Terry Black’s as there is a large area to eat, and we can confirm it was delicious, and a real cultural moment. 

Texas is of course the home of Tex-Mex, so please do try this too! We didn’t find the best place during our stay but we had plenty of delicious margaritas. 

There is also a plethora of fast-food chains to try, particularly if you’re traveling from overseas. In-N-Out was our favorite (we had to try animal-style fries!), but we weren’t so keen on Austin’s P. Terry’s or Whataburger…  

For a more up-market affair, try Eberly for contemporary American, or Aba for a Mediterranean lunch. 

Places for drinks

Of course, you can’t go to Austin without one night out! We were told Rainey Street was the place to be, but it was fairly quiet when we visited. However, you will be more likely to find SXSW-related events with free drinks which is always a bonus. 

Coconut Club was a huge hit with the team. It’s a rooftop outdoor club that has live music, followed by a DJ. Soho House Austin also has a rooftop, and a great atmosphere if you are a member!

If you have any questions about attending SXSW, please drop us an email at

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