Quiz Master Scott Rogowsky Ran the First Live HQ Show at SXSW With 300 Attendees

'I don't get to see HQties in the flesh that often,' the app's host told Adweek

Now that Rogowsky has his first HQ live show under his belt, he's already gearing up for the brand's next move: an integration with Amazon's Audible. Dianna McDougall
Headshot of Sammy Nickalls

One year after Adweek sat down with Quiz Khalifa Scott Rogowsky to discuss HQ Trivia dictating when and how consumers use apps, Rogowsky is celebrating a new win—and an HQ landmark. On Sunday afternoon at Austin’s SXSW, he hosted the mobile trivia app’s first live gameshow. And while plenty of mobile fads end up being just a flash in the pan, the event proved HQ is still going strong: Rogowsky said it was a packed house, with a “line around the block.”

“I don’t get to see HQties in the flesh that often,” he told Adweek at Austin’s JW Marriott. “I never get to do the show with people there. … It was a nice twist.”

The game, which took place at the Comcast NBCUniversal House, required players to attend the event for the chance to win $10,000. With approximately 300 people in attendance, that math works out to be quite the prize compared to your typical HQ game—but, as Rogowsky explained, “there were definitely some wrinkles in the production.”

One of those wrinkles came after they provided event attendees with the URL to play the game. “But of course, [at] SXSW, these are very Twitter-savvy people,” Rogowsky said, chuckling. “A few people tweeted and Instagrammed the link, and it got out a little bit. So we actually had about 3,000 people playing in that game, which was an unforeseen complication. But it was still great. We had a lot of winners in the house, and some people saw the right tweet at the right time and got in there and were able to have a little bonus game on a Sunday afternoon, so god bless ‘em.”

The SXSW HQ team on the ground worked together with a team back in New York to run the show, Rogowsky explained. “We actually had to run the show from New York,” he said. “They were triggering the questions.”

“SXSW has become the de facto, numero uno place for tech, media, especially the blending of tech and media, which is kind of exactly what we are."
-HQ host Scott Rogowsky

It’s a bold choice for a brand to hold its first live activation thousands of miles away—let alone at a major festival like SXSW—instead of test-driving at its New York headquarters first. But SXSW was the perfect fit for HQ, Rogowsky explained. “SXSW has become the de facto, numero uno place for tech, media, especially the blending of tech and media, which is kind of exactly what we are,” he said. “A lot of companies come here … trying to figure out this space, because it’s been a very new space. And we came along out of nowhere and just dominated it.”

He added that SXSW is still the place to be, because “all the dealmakers are here. All the head honchos. There’s no other place where you can walk down one street and run into the heads of every major studio.”

While SXSW attendees outside of the tech and media industries may not know the faces of those studio heads, even those who don’t play HQ would likely recognize Rogwosky in a second—and not just because of his funky suits (one of which he wore during Sunday’s game, naturally). As the face of the brand, Rogowsky has become synonymous with HQ, a responsibility that he jokingly called “very heavy.”

He added: “I have to moisturize the face, I have to keep the beard trimmed neatly, haircuts every three weeks.”

But after taking time to acknowledge the rest of the HQ team behind the scenes, Rogowsky called the live show a “really humbling” experience. “It’s great to have interactivity and to get to talk to [some of the] millions of people playing that I never get to meet until I come to events like this,” he said. “[Even then,] I only get to meet a small fraction of them.”

"All the dealmakers are here. All the head honchos. There's no other place where you can walk down one street and run into the heads of every major studio."
-Scott Rogowsky on SXSW

Of course, Rogowsky is used to performing live in front of a real-life crowd—he hosts his own comedy show, Running Late With Scott Rogowsky—but he beamed as he recounted his first opportunity to interact with HQ winners in real time. “Each winner took home about $140 bucks,” he said. ” … Getting to hear from our fans, people who have been playing for a long time—they say, ‘I won three dollars before this!’ Well, now you’re a hundred-aire. You’re welcome. Only at SXSW can you get that kind of experience.”

Now that Rogowsky has his first HQ live show under his belt, he’s already gearing up for the brand’s next move: an integration with Audible. For HQ’s Bookworm Trivia Night on Thursday, Rogowsky will incorporate the Amazon brand’s selection of audiobooks in his 12 book-themed questions. And while the app has partnered with brands for past games, this marks another first, as it’s never before used a brand’s product to ask questions.

“We have a lot of literary people who play HQ,” Rogowsky said of the choice to partner with Audible. “It caters to a certain intellect if you’re into trivia. … We have a lot of book lovers in the HQ community, and they’re gonna really appreciate this one. We’re getting lit with literature. It’s getting litty.”


@sammynickalls sammy.nickalls@adweek.com Sammy Nickalls is a freelance writer and the former departments editor at Adweek.
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