Courtesy of Bang With Friends The banned posters. What could SXSW have possibly had a problem with?
"All the single dudes put up your phone. Now all the single ladies put up your phone. Turn to the nearest person with a phone up. Now type in your phone number. Now you have something to do after this."
That was Chuck D, talking from the Doritos Main Stage. Or at least I think it was Chuck D. I was just passing by on the street and I couldn't see through the green mesh set up on the fence.
A lot of SXSW is experienced that way: In passing. People are looking for something new, for something that impresses them. Bands? Yes. "Professional" networking connections? Oh so exhaustingly yes. And also, you will not be surprised to hear, hookups. SXSW is the Olympic Village of music dorks, right down to the giving away condoms everywhere. I was offered over a dozen condoms in three days.
That dude in the middle got laid last night, I bet. Marco Torres
That conversation happened early in the day, just around breakfast time. At 4:15 p.m., I saw my first purposeful groping of the day - a cute blonde woman in a polka-dotted shirt and orange jeans grabbed a tall smiling man standing in front of her around the middle and thrust, hard. It only got more brazen from there. By the time the sun set, all the innuendo was gone. Dudes strut down 6th talking loudly to passersby about the size of their dicks.
And if that strategy proved unsuccessful (somehow), there are, amazingly, even more explicit options for those hoping to find a little strange to rub against. It comes, of course, in the form of a Facebook App.
Bang With Friends basically works like this: You sign up, tell the app which of your Facebook friends you'd be "down to bang" and wait. Apparently, if your friend logs in and tells the app he'd be "down to bang" you, too, then you get a notification of some sort, thereby setting up the most artless date imaginable.
Bang With Friends, seeing untapped (sorry, sorry) possibilities in the clusterwhoops of interactive excess and desperate hormones hanging over Austin like a fog in early March, bought the URL sxsw.bangwithfriends.com. It works just like the regular app, except instead of the list comprising your Facebook friends, it's just anyone in Austin who logged in. SXSW, noted staunch protector of brand image, was not pleased.
They made Bang With Friends remove its posters from the Austin Convention Center and sent them a cease-and-desist letter, claiming the use of the sacred acronym in the URL was infringement. Bang With Friends set up a redirect to austin13.bangwithfriends.com. You can practically hear the glee with which they added a disclaimer on the bottom of the page, "Bang With Friends is in no way condoned or affiliated with SXSW -- in fact, it turns out they are not big fans of bangin."
Of course, you're only hearing about this app because SXSW reacted the way it did. That's the head-spinning world of marketing we live in, where companies do things they know for sure will not fly. You know what's more effective in spreading the word than a poster with silhouettes going to town on each other? A cease and desist letter.
So here we are, talking about a hookup app in a blog post, and the founders of Bang With Friends reported 221 successful "Bangs" as of Tuesday and several thousand sign-ups.
Still, those odds are pretty terrible. And naturally the ratio of men to women signed up for the app is infinity to one, meaning I got bored of letting the page keep reloading dude's names and never found the bottom. Who needs Bang With Friends when you have Chuck D inciting rampant number sharing by the blaze of the Doritos stage?
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