Microsoft Wants SXSW Festival Attendees to Play Tag

Editor’s note – March 12, 2010 –
Details about the Foursquare Tag at SXSW have been removed.

REDMOND, Wash., March 12, 2010 — Thousands of festival-goers at next week’s South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film, and interactive festival in Austin, Texas, will be snapping each other – or, rather, snapping each other’s Tags – for a chance to win US$5,000 from Microsoft Tag.

Magazines such as Details use Tags to link readers to exclusive content with the quick snap of the Tag from their mobile phones.

Microsoft Tag uses colorful, triangular barcodes and mobile phone cameras as a quick link between real life and digital life. The technology is gaining momentum, and Microsoft wants to give Tag more visibility by sponsoring an interactive contest at one the most popular festivals in the country, says Marja Koopmans, general manager of marketing for the Startup Business Group at Microsoft.

“South by Southwest is the perfect showcase for Tag because it’s very creative, and at the same time there’s a technology focus as well,” Koopmans says. “That aligns very well with Tag, where the sky is the limit as far as coming up with new scenarios in which to use the technology.”

This includes holding contests at big events.

During the interactive portion of SXSW, the Microsoft Tag street team will give away up to 4,000 unique Tags – colorful, triangular barcodes that attendees will wear on their entrance badges. The person who wins the $5,000 prize will be the one who gets the most people to “snap” the Tag, or scan the barcode by hovering their mobile phone camera over the symbol. Participants will need to have the free Tag application on their mobile phone in order to compete.

Since its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show a year ago, Tag has been adopted across a number of genres, Koopmans says. Golf Digest, Lucky, Get Married, and Details magazines publish Tags with content to give readers an instant link taking them to more information online, whether it’s enhanced golf tips, the season’s latest trends, finding the perfect dress, or learning more about a favorite celebrity.

According to Koopmans, consumers and businesses alike are starting to catch on to the benefits of using Tag over other mobile barcoding technologies. For use in printed materials, Tag allows a much smaller size than other formats like “quick response (QR)” matrix codes. When designing marketing collateral or ads, every last bit of space has to count, and Tags are the same size regardless of the length of the URL or message.

For example, American automaker Ford, rather than bogging down print advertisements with full specs on a vehicle, in August announced that it would use Microsoft Tag on its 2010 Ford Taurus campaign ads. Users can scan the barcode in the ads with their mobile phones, which will then take them to a site with video clips and more information about the car.

With traditional 2D barcodes, people are locked into one look, the traditional barcode stripes, and unable to add much individual “flavor” or brand identity. With Tag, the option to make customer Tags allows people to integrate their personality, or a brand’s personality, into a colorful code that doesn’t distract from the message. There is an “enthusiastic, vibrant community” around Tag, with an active Facebook Fan Page, Twitter feed, and blog.

Microsoft Tag connects Ford customers to video animation content, showcasing many of the innovations featured on the 2010 Ford Taurus including its new EcoBoost technology, featured here.

“Tag makes your world clickable; that’s the bottom line for consumers and businesses,” Koopmans says. “Everyone can benefit from technology that makes the physical world clickable and links it to online experiences. The easiest way to explain Tag is to show it and let them see what they can do.”

Once Koopmans demonstrates a few examples of how Tag has been used, she says, people get it. She uses the example of a movie with a Tag barcode printed right on the DVD cover that consumers can scan with their phone to go directly to related content online, such as a movie trailer.

Tag is also responsible for getting creative juices flowing. “Every time I talk to someone about Tag, they come up with a new scenario to use it that I hadn’t heard before,” Koopmans says.

That inventive energy is one of the reasons why Microsoft Tag is hoping to catch the attention of SXSW attendees with its interactive contest. Whether for a new band, a film, or a technology product, the buzz from SXSW can be staggering, and it’s an event where interactive technologies can be propelled into the mainstream. Koopmans hopes Tag and the creative participants at SXSW will converge, and that people will start recognizing the many positive ways in which Tag can impact their lives.

“South by Southwest attracts people who have their eye on emerging and innovative digital technology,” she says. “These are the people who are going to be really interested in mobile barcoding. It’s a great venue for a creative contest like this, too.”

The SXSW music and media festival features more than 1,800 musical acts from around the world on more than 80 stages. SXSW Interactive includes five days of presentations and events showcasing experts in the industry, new and emerging technologies, Web sites, video games, and startup ideas. In addition to Tag, many other Microsoft groups will be participating at SXSW, including Bing, Silverlight, WebsiteSpark, and more.

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