AUSTIN, Texas — Let’s say you’re a credit card company known for a certain level of class and distinction that’s trying to promote a new Twitter tie-in, and you want to get the word out in a way that doesn’t suck. What do you do?
If you’re American Express, you hire Jay-Z — the one guy who, when he speaks, everyone listens.
American Express brought in the rapper, long known for dropping references to the credit company and its uber-fancy “black cards” (four references by our count), to hold a concert here at the South by Southwest Interactive festival Monday. The product being promoted was American Express’ new Sync service, which allows cardholders to link their cards to their Twitter accounts and earn discounts for sending tweets with particular hashtags.
In a set that was much more lengthy than the average South by Southwest performance, Hova stayed on stage for nearly an hour and a half. The show took place at the Moody Theater, which also serves as the home for the Austin City Limits television show. The rapper, wearing Air Yeezy sneakers, barreled through a set of his biggest hits, including “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” But the highlight was “Glory,” the song he wrote for his daughter with Beyoncé Knowles, Blue Ivy. (The song was trending on Twitter during the show with fans requesting the rapper perform it.)
Many of the product launches and promotional parties happening here this week feature performances by big names from the music world. These shows often have a whiff of insincerity, as the performers and the attendees are acutely aware they’re only fanning the flames of hype for their corporate sponsors. If Monday’s performance proved anything, it was that not only can Jay-Z command a crowd pretty much anywhere, his clout (not Klout, mind you) is so high within the music, tech and business worlds, he can pull off a promotion for a product launch without making it feel like a gimmick.