Mr. Robot Takes Social Activation to a Higher Level – Literally – at SXSW

Whether you’ve been to South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) or not, you probably know enough about the festival to say one thing: It’s pretty much sensory overload.

The festival is jam packed full of cool stuff such as tech, panels, music, movies and more. And because that stuff is, well, cool, the people responsible for it want visitors (and wannabe visitors, via the Internet) to talk about it.

Or, tweet about it. ‘Gram about it. Peach about it, if that ever become a thing.

Enter: social activations.

Generally, a social activation refers to a very specific game plan for getting audiences involved and engaged with a brand, either through entering a contest, using some sort of hashtag or interacting with someone who acts as an ambassador to said brand.

Rather than someone behind a computer screen desperately trying to get a brand’s followers to use a hashtag to enter a contest, a social activator can walk up to an actual person and say, “Hey, if you’re going to Instagram that picture you just took, use this hashtag and you might win a prize!”


Social traction.

At SXSW, a lot of this social activation requires you to attend a panel/music performance/film viewing/whatever. This year, however, you may have noticed that one social activation has stood out among all others because it’s not just for SXSW-goers.

It’s for anyone and everyone physically in Austin, and it’s not for an app, and it’s not in the form of someone running around with a giant tweet frame.

Instead, it’s for a TV show called Mr. Robot, and it’s a giant Ferris wheel.

Yes, a Ferris wheel. A carnival ride usually associated with being whimsy and fun. To promote a dark show about cybersecurity and government hacking.

Unlike a lot of other SXSW social activations, the Mr. Robot Ferris wheel is open to the public and doesn’t require any type of festival badge. That means that a family in Austin who might tend to avoid the chaos of SXSW could still enjoy a nice little Ferris wheel ride together.

Family-friendly Irony?

It’s an odd choice to pair Mr. Robot with such an inclusive event. Mostly because:

So yeah, families can totally ride the Ferris wheel, as long as they didn’t mind hearing loud anti-establishment alt-rock hits by the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Third Eye Blind and essentially endorsing the glorification of hackers.


Whether it’s all fun and games or it has a much darker meaning, the Ferris wheel is up and running and so is the social activation. The hashtag promoting the Ferris wheel was simple enough: #MrRobotSXSW. With a setup that cool, people were more than happy to use it.

The Ferris wheel engaged and impressed Gen Xers and Millennials alike, which can be hard to do. Those groups are certainly the show’s target audiences, too. Definitely a marketing win.  

Mr. Robot’s presence at SXSW went far beyond the Ferris wheel, of course. Actors and producers participated in panels, and the Ferris wheel was accompanied by a mini arcade dubbed fsociety, in reference to the show’s hacker organization of the same name.  

Looks like dear Mr. Robot even got his own Snapchat filter, too.

Hey – if you couldn’t make it to SXSW this year, check out our other coverage.

Lead image via Pexels

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