The Coachella festival, with marquee 2018 headliners like Beyoncé and The Weeknd, is a music fan’s paradise. Coachella is also something else, and something almost as important: One of the biggest annual scrums for the advertising industry. The celebrity endorsers, the social media influencers and the Instagram-friendly experiences that dominate advertising in 2018 are all coming to the music festival.
Brands become a big part of the festival’s attraction: they hire well-known performers for private parties, bankroll satellite events outside of the festival, court clients with nights out in Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, and set up huge experiential events that would be too pricey or logistically complicated to set up in a large city.
Old-school brands such as American Express and HP all have extensive Coachella presences in a quest to attract social media influencer eyeballs (and schmooze with clients). Then there are Instagram-ready events like Marriott International building a pop-up hotel made out of luxury yurts and Dior renting out a motel near Joshua Tree to promote their Sauvage perfume. Rihanna & Puma’s Fenty x Puma collaboration is holding a private pool party, Levi’s is hosting another of their large Neon Carnival events, and there are dozens of others taking place starting this week and continuing until the festival closes on April 22.
For Marriott, offering a pop-up hotel at Coachella is an easy way to generate buzz (and all important Instagram and Facebook mentions) among a crowd with lots of disposable income for traveling. In order to stay at the Yurts, potential guests need to bid their hotel frequent guest points on the SPG Moments platform. Requiring guests to bid on a chance to stay at the high-end yurts gave Marriott’s promotion an extra layer of buzz.
Coachella is a place for businesses to gain an entire season’s worth of promotion in a week or two, with near-guaranteed social media exposure along the way. Thanks to the combination of a massive number of attendees, proximity to Los Angeles, and a mostly well-off, free spending demographic at the festival that loves to post to social media, advertisers love the event. In a crowded musical festival landscape that also includes big names like Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and Lollapalooza, Coachella might just be the advertiser’s favorite.
In an email, Zev Norotsky, founder of ENTER, which worked on the Lucky Brand Desert Jam event, said “The weekend is truly a fashion season unto itself and the quality of attendees at the off-site satellite events is one of the largest advantages over all other pulse points that occur over the course of the year.” He notes that for Lucky Brands, their Desert Jam event offers tangible benefits: They are able to generate measurable ROI from media and sales by holding a well-attended Coachella offsite.
As with so many other things, a lot of it just comes down to the right audiences in the right place. This year, Adult Swim is partnering with the popular Desert Gold festival at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs for the first time for a two-day event. Desert Gold is a long-running event which takes place at the same time as Coachella; BMW is the sponsor of Adult Swim x Desert Gold, and is using the event to promote their new X2 car.
Jason DeMarco, senior vice president and creative director of on-air at Adult Swim spoke to AListDaily about Adult Swim’s approach to Coachella.
“For us, events are a way for us to gather up some fans in one place and give them an experience they might not get anywhere else,” DeMarco says. “I think that, digitally, as our culture becomes more spread out, people value real world experiences that much more and that sort of helps explain the rise of packaged events in general.”
The festival is an economic juggernaut whose financial impact matches its cultural impact; according to projections published in the Los Angeles Times, Coachella and the Stagecoach Festival (which takes place in the same space as Coachella a few weeks later) generate approximately $704 million in economic spending by visitors and businesses. Approximately 100,000 guests are expected at this year’s festival.