Austin Remains Optimistic Without SXSW; Surviving a Brand Quarantine: Friday’s First Things First

Plus, how hard will coronavirus hit the airline industry?

The cancellation prompted a South by alternative.
This marks the first year in SXSW's 34 year history that the conglomeration of festivals won't be held in Austin, Texas. Photo Illustration: Dianna McDougall; Sources: SXSW, Getty Images
Headshot of Jess Zafarris

Welcome to First Things First, Adweek’s new daily resource for marketers. We’ll be publishing the content to First Things First on each morning (like this post), but if you prefer that it come straight to your inbox, you can sign up for the email here.

In the Face of SXSW Cancellation, Austin Chooses Optimism

Last year, SXSW’s conglomeration of festivals brought an estimated $356 million to Austin, Texas. This year, for the first time in 34 years, it’s not happening. After Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared a local state of disaster in the city in response to COVID-19—effectively canceling two weeks of simultaneous music, festivals, conference tracks and some of the ad industry’s most talked-about brand activations—bars, restaurants, music venues and other businesses started to worry about their prospects for the year.

Read more: But many of them are hanging on to hope—and pivoting. Our Austin, Texas-based reporter Katie Lundstrom explains how locals are adapting.

Top Coronavirus Developments Today

Coronavirus headlines today were dominated by a wave of suspensions and developments from the sports world. Other major announcements included Governor Andrew Cuomo banning gatherings of 500 people or more in New York, as well as the DNC moving Sunday’s Democratic debate from Phoenix to Washington, D.C. Check out the highlights below, and keep up with the latest using our coronavirus tracker, which includes event cancellations and other impacts of COVID-19 on the advertising and marketing world.

  • Sports: Major League Soccer announced a suspension for the next 30 days, while the NHL suspended its season indefinitely, pending additional news. After college basketball conference tournaments were canceled, the NCAA pulled the plug on March Madness. Major League Baseball canned the first two weeks of the season, while the PGA canceled a number of its upcoming tournaments.
  • Upfronts: At the start of Thursday morning, every major event planned for upfronts week in May was still going forward. Now, they’ve all been canceled in response to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. First, ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal said they were canceling their presentations, followed a few hours later by news that WarnerMedia/Xandr, The CW, Discovery and Fox had pulled the plug as well. The day ended with Disney canceling its May 12 upfront presentation, as well as Hulu’s NewFronts event on May 6. Additionally, Digitas and Roku both switched to streaming for their NewFronts presentations.
  • More Advertising and Marketing Events: The ANA Media Conference, originally scheduled for late March, has been canceled, and Design Week Portland has been postponed from April to August.
  • TV & Movies: CBS This Morning broadcast from D.C. Thursday after the CBS Broadcast Center was shut down following two positive coronavirus tests for CBS News employees. Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Late Show with James Corden soon tape without audiences, and the worldwide theatrical release of the ninth Fast and the Furious movie was pushed back almost a year, from May 2020 to April 2021.

How Hard Will the European Flight Ban Hit the Airline Industry?

While the sweeping measure caused near-instant confusion at international terminals in the United States and will disrupt travel plans for millions, the biggest impact of the lockdown will be reserved for domestic carriers that fly international routes.

Read more: Layoffs seem likely, and bailouts could be down the line, among other impacts.

How to Survive a Brand Quarantine During Coronavirus

Coronavirus will impact every sector and industry, so how can brands and agencies market and publicize in an environment where every other story is about COVID-19? “In the agency world, how marketers handle coronavirus will separate the pros from the amateurs,” says Ruby Media Group CEO Kristen Ruby. The pros, she contends, will focus on marketing, branding or PR projects that have been put on the back burner.

Read more: Ruby shares several ideas for those back-burner projects you can start working on right now.

Can Food Bloggers Save Chinatowns From Coronavirus Panic?

Although the CDC has stressed that coronavirus has nothing to do with race, and that the transmission of COVID-19 does not appear to be associated with food, stigma against Asian-Americans persists. Food bloggers and foodie influencers have become the first line of defense as fears around coronavirus have spurred a mass exodus away from Asian restaurants and small Chinese-American businesses in Chinatowns around the country.

Read more: Here’s how these food bloggers are using their social platforms to reverse the stigma and encourage more business in these communities.

Best of the Rest: Today’s Top News & Highlights

Yeah, That’s Probably an Ad: Bonus: Fernando Machado on Coronavirus, Criticism and the Catchy Moldy Whopper Campaign

“It’s just a bit chaos at the moment,” said Burger King’s global CMO Fernando Machado on the latest episode of the Adweek Podcast. He speaks with Adweek’s Ko Im about monitoring how the coronavirus situation is evolving in key markets, looking at current lessons learned from China and receiving continual feedback on the boundary-pushing moldy whopper campaign.

Agencies Discuss Their Event and Travel Policies in Light of Coronavirus

“We are evaluating on a case by case basis for events, as we believe that health risks will always outweigh any potential business benefits for our employees attending. Whether a conference is canceled or a company decides to no longer attend, many in the industry may find that skipping conferences outside of the big, ‘must attend’ events may have little impact on their business.”

—Amanda Martin, vp of enterprise partnerships, Goodway Group

“We are already cutting travel as part of a long-term commitment to cutting our environmental impact, but regarding COVID-19 specifically we’re following recommendations from the CDC and other government agencies on travel. We are still taking part in some events, but are monitoring the developments in those regions. If we see that there’s a risk to our staff’s health, we will cancel.”

—Anders Wahlquist, co-founder and CEO, B-Reel

More of the Latest

@JessZafarris Jess Zafarris is an audience engagement editor at Adweek.