Coachella 2018 Roundup: Experiential in the Desert

Coachella 2018 Roundup: Experiential in the Desert
Coachella 2018 Roundup: Experiential Marketing in the Desert

Coachella 2018: Experiential Marketing in the Desert

Festival season is upon us and kicking it off in style was the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which continues to serve as a breeding ground for compelling brand activations and events. Taking place in Indio, CA, over two weekends, this year April 13-15 and April 20-22, the event once again attracted droves of couture-clad millennials, music buffs and influencers—and brands were ready and waiting to spice up their experiences. From immersive tech to Insta-worthy design, brands engaged attendees through shareable, and in many cases, exclusive, live experiences. Here’s a taste of the action from the desert.


HP Creates Eye-Popping, Color-Rich Activations

Similar to 2017, HP’s activations were divided up into three areas—the HP Lounge, Antarctic and the Drone experience—but with new concepts and themes this year. The goal behind all of the eye-popping, color-rich activations was to immerse attendees in the power of HP’s technology. “Through HP technology, we are able to tell our reinvention story and build unique brand activations that connect with our audiences in emotional, authentic and sharable ways,” says Lisa Baker, senior director-personal systems Marketing, Americas.


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The Antarctic Dome enlisted digital artists with large social followings to create content on HP workstations.


The 2018 motif was “Digital Eden,” where digital artistry meets sustainability. Upon entering the HP Lounge, festivalgoers were enveloped by gigantic, blooming, colored LED flowers and vines overhead, powered by XBook X2s. Guests could use HP’s Digital Inking stylus technology to control color combinations and witness their creations come to life. At the “Hydration Art” station attendees designed their own graphics that were printed and placed on water bottles using the technology of the HP Pavillion x360, with water refill stations on hand as well. A light painting experience allowed participants in pairs to paint text or images with their desired color, thickness, patterns and stickers, which transformed into a custom, shareable video art piece.

The massive Antarctic Dome enlisted digital artists with large social followings—Esteban Diacono, Beeple and Teun Vanderzalm—to create content on HP workstations. Each artist expressed their interpretations of the journey and formation of a creative idea. The 3.5-minute experience, set to a licensed song from headlining act Odesza, enveloped the audience, creating a 360-degree experience. Guests were able to create a shareable GIF in the space as well. Festivalgoers also watched an immersive film scored by St. Vincent and directed by Meta ceo Justin Bolognino. Dubbed “Flatland,” the piece explored dimensionality through technology, design, sound and storytelling. HP collaborated with Odesza once more during the group’s main stage set when Intel drones powered by HP lit up the sky in a light show. Adding another notch in the sustainability theme, HP partnered with non-profit Global Inheritance, an organization dedicated to inspiring people to take action on global environmental and social issues, by incorporating HP branding on its artfully-designed recycling bins populating the Coachella grounds. Agency: Infinity Marketing Team, Culver City, CA.


Step Inside HP and Intel’s ‘Digital Eden:’

Photo courtesy: VolvoxLabs


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T-Mobile and Pandora Create an Instagrammable Oasis

T-Mobile Indio Invasion, Powered By Pandora Featuring Dillon Francis

The climax of the event was a “Trojan Horse” moment featuring a piñata named Gerald.

For many, the T-Mobile Indio Invasion Powered by Pandora is one of the top special events surrounding Coachella and the fourth iteration was another one for the books. This year’s experience, in addition to dj sets from Mia Moretti, Jim E. Stack and headliner Dillon Francis, featured myriad photo ops and a “Trojan Horse” moment at the chic Cree Estate.

Los Angles-area Pandora listeners, clients and media were all invited to attend the free event. Touchpoints included custom-designed lounging tents comprised of ribbons that created an ombre effect; a Gaming Lounge offering classic lawn games like cornhole, Ping-Pong and croquet; a Braid and Glitter Bar; and a Magenta Dessert Bar.

The climax of the event, however, was a “Trojan Horse” moment. Inspired by headliner Dillon Francis’ “pet” piñata, T-Mobile and Pandora erected an eight-foot-tall by six-foot-wide replica Gerald installation. The display served as a popular photo op—until it was time for the main act. As Dillon took the stage, the brands set off magenta-colored smoke bombs just as the piñata’s chest opened up, unleashing hundreds of mini magenta Geralds. The items could be found popping up across the festival grounds all weekend long. Agency: The Visionary Group, Los Angeles.


W Hotels Upgrades Glamping With Lavish Yurts and VIP Access

“Glamping” reached new heights this year thanks to W Hotels, one of Marriott’s luxury brands, which designed four lavish yurts to simulate its Bali, Hollywood, Barcelona and Dubai-based properties. Of course, this is Coachella we’re talking about, where exclusivity is the name of the game, so the experience was only available to Marriott Rewards and SPG members through a highly competitive bidding process. It was even reported that one yurt went for 800,000 loyalty points, the equivalent of about 80 nights at a W Hotel (or about $38,223 if you were to stay at the Hollywood property).

Needless to say, the rewards members who scored access to the yurts, which were located on the festival grounds in what the brand dubbed the W Village, were treated to a high-touch experience dripping with extravagance. In addition to two three-day artist passes to Coachella on either weekend of the festival, guests were provided with an array of standard W Hotel amenities including a refrigerator personally stocked with their favorite snacks and beverages, maid turndown service, a personal concierge, a private bathroom and shower and 24-hour security.


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Guests were provided with an array of standard W Hotel amenities like maid turndown service and a personal concierge.


The guests could also participate in morning yoga classes; access artist catering for gourmet meals; take complimentary shuttles to and from the event venue, enjoy free Wi-Fi and hang out in the Artist Compound or Safari Lounge, among a host of other amenities. As if that weren’t enough, the yurts also included Sound Suites, a feature available at select W Hotel properties. The Suites function as music studios and writers rooms for artists to use as needed, helping reinforce the brand’s dedication to music, and tying back to its festival presence.   

And for the everyday festivalgoer who didn’t have thousands of rewards points to spend, the brand offered a Loyalty Lounge located in the general admission area. The lounge served as a respite from the chaos and climate of Coachella, offering attendees a place to cool down in the air conditioning, charge their devices and enjoy refreshments. Agency: IMG Live, Norcross, GA.


Take a Tour of The W’s Lavish Yurts:


Google’s High-Tech Experiences Reach Fans On-Site and at Home

Google expanded its partnership with Coachella this year by leveraging its digital voice assistant, Google Assistant. In the days leading up to the event, users could say, “Hey Google, talk to Coachella,” on Google Home, Mini and Max devices or an Android phone, to gain access to a slew of festival information. Access to music lineups, artist interviews and travel info was provided, as well as a Coachella-themed trivia game and the option to create a personalized schedule, both of which were integrated into the Coachooser app.

On-site at the festival, Google provided fans at home with unprecedented views of more than 25 performances by leveraging VR180 cameras for an exclusive live-stream available on YouTube. The brand captured 20 hours of content including behind-the-scenes footage of fans and artists, as well as Tilt Brush art created by artist-in-residence Cesar Ortega, who drew live scenes of the Coachella landscape during daylight hours, at dusk and at night. The footage also featured augmented reality overlays in real time, offering a more interactive experience by showing digital confetti that fell when the beat dropped, for instance, or virtual objects that extended into the audience.

Google also did a takeover of a handful of gondolas on the iconic Coachella Ferris wheel by turning the pods into Pixel photo booths in an effort to promote the Pixel 2 smartphone. (The installations could also be found in the area just outside the Ferris wheel.) The booths featured share-worthy iridescent backdrops that made for compelling selfies above the festival grounds, and likely induced a little FOMO among folks at home. Agency: MKG, New York City.


Get a Glimpse of Google’s VR180 Footage:



Heineken House Serves Up a Limited-Edition Lager


Heineken House featured music acts, a sustainable dance floor and a limited-edition lager.

For Heineken’s 17th year at Coachella, the brand brought back the popular Heineken House for the festival’s two weekends, featuring music acts, a sustainable dance floor, a responsible consumption initiative and a bar dedicated to its new, H41 limited-edition lager. The music highlight? Headliners during weekend one: hip-hop icon Busta Rhymes, alongside Diddy, Mase, Warren G and Snoop Dog. Music is key to Heineken’s sponsorship strategy, and Heineken House helps bring that sponsorship to life wherever it takes up residence. “Our strategy with music is to connect to people, at all different levels—from a 100,000-person event like Coachella with Heineken House, for 500 people, to a venue in Brooklyn where people are being introduced to a new artist at our green room sessions,” says Pattie Falch, director of sponsorships and events at Heineken.

Heineken again built a sustainable dance floor, which uses attendees’ movements to power the floor’s LED lights. This year that fan-generated kinetic energy also powered sustainable charging bars for iOS and Droid devices. Pinball machines were a new activity on the patio, and in keeping with the analog trend, brand ambassadors roamed the space offering Heineken’s version of an “old school snapchat” (basically a polaroid picture). Other Instagrammable visuals included graffiti art from Adam Lucas (known as Hanksy), titled “Like No One’s Watching.”

Heineken offered free water for its “This One Is On Us” activation, a reminder to keep responsible consumption top of mind. And for the first time the brand served something other than Heineken and Heineken Light. It’s launching H41, a limited-edition lager made with a rare yeast discovered in Patagonia and developed by Heineken’s master brewers. Named for the latitude coordinate of the beech forest in Patagonia where the yeast was discovered, this newcomer had its own bar within the House. Elsewhere on the festival grounds, Heineken sponsored Revolve and Republic Records ancillary events and served product on site so as to deliver a full, 360-degree activation. Agency: Corso Agency, New York City.


Scenes From This Year’s Iteration of the Heineken House:



Peet’s Coffee Helps Sweltering Festivalgoers Beat the Heat 

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Peet’s leveraged a branded keg trike to deliver samples of its signature Baridi Black Cold Brew.

Coachella attendees tend to be in constant motion, whether they’re hustling to the next show, dancing their hearts out or participating in on-site activities. That’s where Peet’s Coffee comes in. The craft coffee company poured on its “better energy” messaging to demonstrate to festivalgoers how its preservative-free cold brew provides the natural energy boost they need to continue rockin’ (and keep cool) throughout the weekend.

To that end, Peet’s leveraged a branded keg trike to deliver samples of its signature Baridi Black Cold Brew across the campground and outside the festival’s Sahara tent. The brand also lured attendees with influencers liking performing rock band PVRIS, a funky branded bus and an “Ice Sauna” photo booth at the DayClub Palm Springs. Attendees seeking escape from the heat could enter the booth and have their reactions captured as blasts of arctic air were blown at them. Rounding out the activation were VIP ticket upgrades for a few lucky attendees who found a special message on the bottom of their sample cup.


Inside Peet’s Cold Brew Sampling Experience:



American Express Crafts a VIP ‘Secret Garden’ at Platinum House

American Express Creates a VIP ‘Secret Garden’ with Platinum House at Coachella 2018

The ‘Secret Garden’ was designed to transport guests into a dreamy, ethereal world.

Returning to Coachella for its fourth year, American Express created a signature destination for festivalgoers with new experiences and benefits to cardmembers both within the festival grounds and, for the second year, at the Parker Palm Springs hotel for two days. Offering respite from the hustle and bustle of what has become a defining cultural moment in the California desert each year—and a prime location for accessing a millennial market with spending power—Amex kicked off its calendar year with a secret garden-themed lounge, a pop-up SoulAnnex, festival beauty tutorials and more.

For the second iteration of the Platinum House at the Parker Palm Springs hotel, April 14-15, American Express took inspiration from the relaunch of its Platinum Card last year, enlisting its Platinum Collective, an advisory group of influencers across the passion points of music, fashion, dining, wellness and culture, to help create the experiences this year for cardmembers.

Platinum House also served to attract new potential card holders, as Platinum Card members were allowed to bring three of their friends into the space. “It’s a really exciting prospecting opportunity for us as well to help really bring to life the benefits and services of the Platinum Card membership in a way that feels super tangible that people can touch, feel and interact with,” says Amy Marino, vp-global brand marketing, experience and partnerships at American Express. It’s a different approach to prospecting than Amex has taken in the past.

The brand also had an on-site presence. When you’re in the desert—all day, possibly for an entire weekend—shade is a commodity. That was the insight behind creating spaces where cardmembers could find respite from the open-air festival grounds. “One of the biggest needs of the festivalgoer is to escape the crowd and the heat, so we built an environment that’s based on those core needs,” says Walter Frye, vp-global experiential marketing, entertainment partnerships, at American Express. The creative inspiration for the exclusive cardmember lounge in the general admission area was a secret garden that provided a cooling, calming atmosphere for attendees. And this year, it was exclusively for cardmembers (and their invited guests).

Amex plans to carry over these experiential strategies at events throughout this year. Next up is U.S. Open Golf in the Hamptons, then Panorama Music Festival in New York City, the U.S. Open tennis in Queens, N.Y., and finally Austin City Limits. Agency: Momentum, New York City.


BMW i Sends 15 Influencers on a Content Creation Journey

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A neon photo booth experience with the new i8 Roadster could be shared instantly.

Riding on the heels of its successful Road to Coachella campaign in 2017, BMW i put its show on the road once again this year to drive awareness of its i Series electric and hybrid vehicles, reach new audiences and engage the creative, passionate (and eco-friendly) demographic Coachella tends to attract. The brand’s presence reached far and wide, encompassing an artist partnership with John Gourley, a robust influencer program and two special events. It was the second year BMW i served as an official sponsor of the festival.

The brand partnered with 15 influencers from around the world, including Kellan Lutz and Dorothy Wang, to share their own Road to Coachella journey in custom-wrapped BMW i8s. The tastemakers documented their entire road trip, stopping at iconic locations along the way and, of course, sharing the content with millions of followers.

BMW i also teamed up with lifestyle company The h.wood Group to deliver two large-scale events that collectively drew 6,000 attendees: Poppy’s BMW i Powered Paradise and Poppy’s BMW i Recharge Oasis, both of which took place at a sprawling estate just outside the festival grounds. Engagements included included a neon art installation featuring a metal BMW i3 frame traced with neon flex lighting, and a neon photo booth experience with the new BMW i8 Roadster.


See BMW i’s Partnership with John Gourley Come to Life:


Menu-Inspired Photo Ops Boost Sharing at McDonald’s VIP Event

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The multisensory Ice Cream Room served as a popular photo moment.

The sixth annual  Bootsy Bellows Pool Party presented by McDonald’s and PacSun was once again one of the hottest tickets in town, taking place off-site at a lavish estate. Celebrities and influencers who let their hair down at the exclusive event got a chance to cool off, chow down, catch live tunes and share it all socially thanks to playful photo ops and scenic backdrops.

New to the event this year, and a key driver of social amplification, was the Ice Cream Sundae Bar and Ice Cream Room. Attendees battling the sweltering desert heat flocked to the engagement to build their own vanilla soft serve sundae at a branded bar before stepping into a shareable, multisensory experience in the Ice Cream Room. The space featured walls that looked and felt like the wafer cones McDonald’s serves its ice cream in, while the ice cream-inspired ceiling appeared as if it was melting down the walls. Attendees were invited to hop on a swing hanging in the middle of the room to create a Boomerang for social sharing.

But McDonald’s was serving up more than ice cream to keep attendees satisfied. Between the lavish cabanas, gargantuan pool and throngs of VIPs on-site, McDonald’s found a place to park the McRig—the brand’s 57-foot-long mobile restaurant, which is used to sell “gold standard” menu items at events. The vehicle was on-site throughout the experience, serving up quarter pounders and fries, among other fare, and ultimately dishing out more than 6,000 samples.

There was also the McCafé Mango Pineapple Smoothie “Handsy” Wall, which featured real pineapples and windows that opened at various intervals to reveal mysterious hands offering up McCafé smoothies. The wall also served as a popular photo backdrop.

And rounding out McDonald’s festival presence was the first-ever Desert House where a curated group of “brand fans” created original content and conducted takeovers of the brand’s social channels throughout the weekend.


Featured photo courtesy:

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