Swapping awful swag at SXSW

Raise your hand if you’ve gone to an advertising (or other business) festival and ended up with a pile of useless drink can cozies, t-shirts with ill-conceived, meant-to-be-ironic slogans and various bric-a-brac that ends up cluttering your desk. Ah, you did raise your hand — and you want swag (stuff we all get) that you actually want, right?

Hershey’s, in their first SXSW activation, set up an area this week where attendees could trade their seemingly useless stuff for much better options including iPhone portable projectors and reservations at impossible-to-reserve Austin restaurants (including a $250 gift card for the meal).

The TAKE5 Swag Exchange was the brainchild of Kansas City-based agency Barkley and festivalgoers traded in roughly a thousand items each day, from the usual shirts to a SXSW yarmulke — to VR goggles pre-loaded with porn (yes, you read that correctly). When attendees handed over their swag, TAKE5 ambassadors with tablets entered the items and matched them up with the appropriate exchange.

The activation marked the brand's relaunch of their TAKE5 candy, which they call a “remixed snack.” The experience “remixed” the swag experience so that people got things they actually wanted. But the most expensive items didn’t necessarily yield the most expensive freebies — an algorithm took into account the most commonly traded items each day and set a premium for the rarest items.

One man brought in a rare cardboard drink coaster and walked away with a Bose speaker system — a good reward for trading in something truly unique.

The exchanged swag will make it way, where appropriate, to local Austin charities — for example, leather-bound notebooks are going to a foundation helping women start professional careers.