I moved to Austin and two weeks later it was SXSW.
SXSW? Don’t know what South by Southwest is? Also known as “South by” for those who don’t want to finish saying the long name, it is a music festival, film festival, and interactive festival all wrapped up into a two-week experience that draws thousands to Austin every year. You can read about it on Wikipedia here. Shows, events, and parties take place all over the city throughout those crazy, jam-packed days, and you never know what you might see.
You might see a hot dog.
I was that hot dog.
(More photos below)
You see, I am still new to the city and currently unemployed. A few days before the start of SXSW I had an idea. I bet I could get a temporary gig doing something at the event! Might as well make some money. There are probably some postings on craigslist, let me see…
There was a slew of opportunities. I perused the options for a while and found one that seemed to be a good fit for me. “Costume character” it said. “Promote a new app on a street team” it said. I can do that! It didn’t hurt that it was the highest-paying gig that I saw. Knowing that “costume character” is vague and could have been anything, I wrote to the company and applied. I got it! And the job was to be a hot dog. A hot dog that danced around, got people’s attention, took photos with them, and told them about “TheDrop” – a new free music app that gives you updates on your favorite artists so you don’t miss out on their newly-released content or tour dates. If they took the time to download the app or follow “TheDropApp” on twitter or post a photo on instagram with #thedropapp#sxsw then we gave them a coupon for a free hot dog at the Hot Dog King – a local food truck. The app has nothing to do with hot dogs. But the free hot dog was our persuasion for people to generate buzz around the app.
I walked the streets of SXSW – mostly 6th street and Red River – with two other (non-costumed) street team workers … for six hours a day for four days. We were able to get nearly 200 followers for thedropapp on twitter, a bunch of photos on instagram, and quite a few downloads. We would have gotten more app downloads if it wasn’t for the terrible phone service everyone in downtown Austin was experiencing from the overload. Btw… people with Sprint had the worst time of it.
Now that I am a professional costume character, I can tell you what it take to be a hot dog at SXSW. This is what you must be able to do:
- Smile – a lot.
- Take weiner jokes in stride.
- Keep a good sense of humor.
- Accept the hyper person who runs up to you and says, “I love hot dogs! I must have a photo with you!”
- Pose for photos. Countless photos.
- Allow people to pretend to bite your hot dog costume in those photos.
- Be in photos that random people take of you as they walk by. They think they are being discreet, but I saw all.
- Insist to strangers that they may not pick you up. (They could be drunk. They should not be trusted.)
- Tell people they may not keep your hands. That is a part of your costume.
- Get people to stop and talk to you about your work. Get them excited enough about the free hot dog to take a minute and download/tweet/instagram.
- Walk around for six hours straight.
This job is not for the faint of heart. Or the shy. The first day I heard several people – as they were walking by – yell out, “Ask me about my weiner!” A few of them posted that line in their instagram feed alongside their photo with me. I quickly figured out it must be a line from a movie or skit in which I was unfamiliar, and I nervously laughed, hoping it wasn’t too crude a reference. That night I went home and found it on google. It comes from the 2006 movie ‘Accepted’ in which Jonah Hill plays a character who was forced to dress as a hot dog during pledge week and yell that line again and again. If you’re curious enough, you can see the clip on youtube here. Thankfully, his character yells that line in more of an embarrassing way than a gross way. And thankfully, my costume wasn’t as big and ridiculous as his.
Actually, no. I think I would have enjoyed a crazier costume. My employers found the hot dog that I wore for $30 on Amazon, and for that price you cannot expect anything too big or exciting. It was a piece of materials that would have laid very flat and “frumpy” (as one amazon reviewer put it) had it not been for the foam padding my employers added to the inside to fill it out more. When I was first told about the gig I had pictured something that would make me stand out even more – maybe with the head included. But I took what I got and still was able to turn a few heads.
My favorite part of wearing the costume around town was the reaction of the kids. There were not many children at SXSW – thank goodness – but the ones who were there were intrigued with the costume. They wanted to hug me and dance with me. It made me think that it could be really fun to be a character at Disney World … I’d want to be a princess, of course.
Now that SXSW is over I am looking for more … ummm… dignified work. Still, I am happy I took the plunge and did something outside of my comfort zone. I’m happy TheDrop was willing to hire me (they really are cool people and have a great app for music lovers) and I had fun getting to know my fellow street teammates. I wonder what I’ll do at the next SXSW……..?
Kids! I love the little ones (yay for matching sunglasses):
- Telling a passer-by about the TheDrop:
This media person asked me to dance around beside her while she spoke on camera:
My husband came by to say hello:
Don’t eat me!!!!
Here’s a side view. See the green foam?
And there’s the back. We added a few stickers to help promote. Not my best side:
Hugs! If you’re wearing a costume, watch out. People will want to hug you:
Downloading the app:
See those hands? They were inspired by Justin Timberlake skits on SNL:
I was not the only one walking around in a costume! Here’s one of my favorites:
*First photo in blog, courtesy of Austin Statesman.