You might be wondering why if FilmBuffOnLine had a correspondent at the San Diego Comic Con, why did FilmBuff’s exhalted leader have to run a round-up from other news sites. The reason is this:
This was the line for the Watchmen panel, about a half hour before it started. And this is just the line outside, the line continued in front of the main convention center doors up to the entrance to Hall H. People camped out from 4AM just to get inside. I got there about 45 minutes to an hour before and was about 100 people away from getting in.
More than one comic dealer bemoaned the fact that Hollywood has taken over the con. But lines like these are the reason. The movie companies and producers can create a relatively cheap way to create buzz for their films. These fans will post on their blogs, tell their friends, and post on message boards how awesome the footage they saw was.
Movie and TV studios took up almost a quarter of the already massive convention floor. And if you saw the size and opulence of some of the movie studio’s booths, you might question the use of the term “Cheap”. Warner Brothers created a replica of the water tower and brought a to-scale Owlship along. Marvel, as seen to the right, brought one of Jeff Bridges’ suits from the film along. Even Lionsgate, whose exhibit was tiny compared to some of the others, yet had a mechanism that made it appear that it was snowing.
They were all about creating spectacle and garnering attention. And it worked. The aisles around these booths were almost impassable. To put it in comparison, it was like trying to manuver around Times Square at Christmas time. It was jammed packed with people.
I think one of the biggest complaints longtime congoers have about the Hollywood invasion is that they are not there for the love of comics or the medium, but just to get their films promoted. There is a lot of truth to that. But the studios seem to be aware of this impression and work other ways to get their word out.
One way is through free swag. Warner Brothers is a master of this. Last year, one of the biggest stories of the con was the bags Warner Brothers were giving out. They were very popular because they were big and sturdy. You could fit a lot of stuff and not have it break on you. Yes, it was a big, glaring advertising for Smallville, but it was immensely popular.
This year, Warners played on this popularity by offering not just one style of bag, but five. I am modelling the Watchmen version. These bags caused a big furor at the Warners booth and supplies ran out almost immediately (My friend Shinky got this one for me. Thanks, Shinky!).
The popularity of these bags ensured that the convention was full of hundreds of people promoting Warners’ movies and TV shows. Pretty savvy.
Some other companies made fans do things to get their swag. Everything from getting a fake kiss from the Lionsgate booth to get a packet of collectable Spirit movie cards to IFC making people watch and give opinions on their programming to get a sturdy metal lunchbox.
The con was also filled with viral marketing. One of the most prevalent was for Alan Ball’s new HBO offering, True Blood. The show revolves around vampires and the convention was filled with actors portraying vampires asking fans to sign petitions for vampire rights and anti-vampire forces asking the same to limit vampire rights. And ads for the “synthetic blood nourishment beverage,” Tru Blood, were all over the comic convention.
Another effective example of viral marketing was for the film, Quarantine. A line of about 200 people wearing hazmat suites streamed past the convention center lobby. All had a stack of postcards they were handing out. I was so impressed about this that I just had to get one of these cards to find out more.
So, the San Diego Comic Con seems to becoming the San Diego Marketing and Promotion Con. The complaints of the old guard that comics are being marginalize appears to be valid. But, if a large percentage of attendees didn’t respond to these marketing efforts, they wouldn’t be increasing in size and pushing the comics out. It seem almost like the old guard should be blaming Hollywood, they should be blaming the new guard.