Chevrolet is making a big splash at the South by Southwest Interactive conference now taking place in Austin, Texas, and it's just the beginning of the GM brand's planned 30 percent commitment to digital this year.
"This is not a nine-day one-off," said Christopher Barger, General Motor Co.'s director of social media. "Everything we're doing here needs to have applications we can build on beyond Austin."
This program is one of the first major social-media and technology campaigns from a Detroit Three automaker other than Ford Motor Co. since the industry took a nosedive in 2008.
But Barger said Chevy's social-media, augmented reality and mobile programs at the conference are not intended to steal the digital-savvy spotlight from Ford. Instead, they're test pilots for Chevrolet, which Barger said plans to commit about 30 percent of its marketing money to digital this year.
Chevrolet is launching an extensive digital campaign at the music, film and interactive festival, including a tie-in with Austin-based Gowalla, where users check in from their phones around the city to get messages and offers from the GM brand. For example, those flying into Austin can check in at the airport for a free ride downtown in a Chevrolet Equinox.
"The reason we're doing this here is so really smart tech people can make suggestions," Barger said of the swarms of digital agency and technology people that descend on Austin every March. "This is a place for us to learn. How do we apply this to the rest of the marketing we'll be doing moving forward?"