Boy, was I ever mistaken when I suggested in last weekend’s inaugural installment of Coin Wire that there didn’t seem to be a lot happening in the vending machine scene this year at South by Southwest, which wraps up tomorrow, March 22, in Austin, Texas.
After doing a bit of online sleuthing earlier this evening, I stumbled onto a few promising bits of information suggesting that the intersection of vending and innovation is indeed alive and well at SXSW this year. (Deep sigh of relief.)
Doritos #BoldStage (Rest in Peace)
But first things first: Vanyaland’s Michael Marotta has a decent article that sheds a bit of light on the decision by Doritos not to return this year with its infamous “62-foot, four-story, LCD-screened vending machine stage.”According to Marotta, who cites a report by the Austin Business Journal, a number of major corporate sponsors choose to steer clear of the festival this year “as permits tighten[ed] for outdoor shows and concerts.” (During SXSW 2014, four people waiting in line for an outdoor event were killed by a wayward SUV driver.)
To get a sense of just how hugely impressive the interactive vending machine stage really was, take a look at this Mashable story from 2013. It explains how concertgoers at a previous South By event were able to choose the concert’s opening act — and even the encore song performed by rapper LL Cool J — by interacting with the mammoth machine via Twitter.
By tagging tweets with the #BoldStage hashtag, concertgoers were even able to control the stage’s special effects, including the smoke and laser machines, blasts of confetti, and the launching of beach balls and balloons. Even better: If the first video below can be believed, the Bold Stage did, at some point, release a torrent of chip bags during the event, just like a real vending machine.
Candyman Vending’s Hip-Hop Machines
According to my friend Andre Bramwell, who runs the Houston-based Candyman Vending, which has made a name for itself lately by partnering with big names in hip-hop (Riff Raff and Krayzie Bone, for instance) to create uniquely branded custom vending machines, Candyman is at South By this year, and can be found in the vendor lot at the corner of East 7th and Trinity streets.
Seriously: Check this guy out. We think he’s one of the most innovative entrepreneurs operating in the vending industry today. And for what it’s worth, Bramwell tells us he’s got something new in the works that he hopes to launch in time for the Austin City Limits Music Festival in early October. We’ll definitely keep you in the loop if we get more details in the coming months.
The Last Man on Earth Vending Machine
Because we’re proud cord cutters here at Coin Control, we haven’t had a chance to see “The Last Man on Earth,” a new Fox television show about a mild-mannered bank employee played by Will Forte (of “Saturday Night Live” fame) who wakes up one day in the year 2020 to discover that he is literally the last man left on earth. The show follows his misadventures as he travels throughout America in search of survivors. (Spoiler alert: He finds them.)
In an effort to promote the show, Fox has been placing branded Last Man on Earth vending machines in a number of different cities across the country, and announcing the machines’ locations on Twitter. If you’re reading this today (March 21, 2015) and you happen to be in Austin, you’ll find a machine at 500 E. Cesar Chavez Street.
The machines, of course, are loaded with prizes. In order to score one, Twitter users first have to follow @LastManFOX, and then tweet a photo of themselves in front of a LMOE machine, tagged with the #LastStuffOnEarth hashtag. A unique code is then sent to the user’s Twitter account, which can then be used to redeem something out of the machine.
And while most of the prizes seem fairly low-rent — LMOE-branded first-aid kits and sweatbands, for instance — the machines are apparently also stocked with things like a $250 American Airlines gift card. The LMOE machine, by the way, hasn’t yet made an appearance in Philly, but we continue to hold out hope.
Free Solar-Powered Light from the LuminAID Vending Machine
If the attention it’s received on social media is any indication, the incredibly generous LuminAID machine has been one of the most popular vending stops at SXSW this year.
The two women who developed LuminAID appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” recently, but if you’re not familiar with the product, it’s essentially a lightweight, waterproof, inflatable bag that uses solar power to give off 16 hours of LED light. (The LuminAID was developed for use in disaster zones, and in developing countries where electricity outages can be a regular occurance.)
A LuminAID vending machine at SXSW was giving away free solar light packs to anyone who tweeted to the company’s @LuminAIDLab account. And if I’m not mistaken, for every light dispensed from the SXSW machine, the company will be donating a second free light to someone in need.
Pepsi’s Fortunetelling Vending Machine
As the “official carbonated soft drink partner of SXSW” for seven years running, Pepsi tends to show up in Austin with something weird and unusual each year. For 2015, the brand’s marketing installations included a vending machine that used 3D Kinect technology to dispense fortunes and invites to “exclusive experiences,” according to a piece by Vending Times‘ Emily Jed. We haven’t seen any photos of the machine, but we’d love to. If you have any good shots you’d like to share, you know how to get in touch.
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So … what did we miss? We mentioned the Drafthouse Films DVD vending machine and HBO’s House of Thrones machine in a post last week, but there certainly must have been other unusual vending experiences to be had at South By 2015. If you were there and saw a machine worth talking about, we’d very much like to hear from you (especially if you have photos or video).