Brands recognize star power of nerds

Toyota launched its Prius back in 2003 with the help of Hollywood elite, who wanted to be photographed while reducing their carbon footprint.

Toyota launched its Prius back in 2003 with the help of Hollywood elite, who wanted to be photographed while reducing their carbon footprint. Chevrolet, too, saw the value in associating its new electric car, Volt, with the silver screen. The car – which won't debut until 2011 – already appeared in the film “Transformers.”

What marks a departure of sorts for Chevy is its definition of “star.” The VIPs test driving the Volt at this week's SXSW Interactive festival in Austin almost certainly had not been nipped, tucked, or injected with Botox. They were nerds, albeit nerds with Twitter followings in the hundreds of thousands.

At the root of PR is identifying influential people with persuasive abilities to sway community opinion. Chevy recognized that at SXSW by giving the keys to its publicity engine to the likes of Guy Kawasaki, Jason Falls, C.C. Chapman, and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Fleishman Hillard supported Chevy, also fielding media inquiries for client AT&T, which received rave reviews for upgrading its Austin wireless network to handle the seemingly insatiable bandwidth appetite among iPod-clinging SXSW attendees.

Other agencies out in force were Porter Novelli, which acted as AOR for the interactive portion of the festival; Edelman, whose Rick Murray and David Armano were visible in-person and online; Weber Shandwick, who worked on the Pepsi Refresh social media campaign; M Booth & Associates, whose spirits practice was busy at SXSW parties for clients Harlem Kruiden Liqueur and Macallan Scotch; and Kaplow, who bestowed Skype headsets to lucky attendees.

Dave Armon is VP of strategic accounts at Context Optional.

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