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Beyond the Ads: Comic-Con 2011

// August 11, 2011 // Advertising // 6 Comments

Comic-Con International: San Diego is a comic book convention, hosted in San Diego since 1970. The modest comic book convention, however, has grown tremendously in the past few years, becoming more than just a place to talk about comics. Comic-Con is a cultural icon, a show that is unique to San Diego. It’s a valuable opportunity for people who love and work in independent arts, comics, animation, video games, etc. to experience their virtual/imaginary world in real life.

My first experience with Comic-Con in 2002 was a complete culture shock. I couldn’t believe that people were so proud to dress up as their favorite comic hero and fight for freebies like t-shirts, pins, and rub-on tattoos. These promotional items essentially turn attendees into “walking advertisements”  for TV shows, TV networks, movies, video games, and anything remotely related to the entertainment world – these advertisers have become ingrained in the annual experience that is Comic-Con.

A giant bag was given to all attendees

Non-traditional ads have become a crucial part of the Comic-Con culture — the more swag one accumulates, the better, making this an essential marketing strategy for companies to tap into at the conference.

The most noticeable difference in marketing at Comic-Con this year, was the massive influx in social media promotions at the conference. In the past, companies gave out freebies and didn’t gain much back from the consumer, besides brand awareness. This year, companies took advantage of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and FourSquare combined with QR Code technology to engage attendees with the brand while also building their networks. I noticed a much stronger attempt to reach attendees through social media in conjunction with non-traditional ads. It’s no surprise that companies would tap into the power of social media to create buzz around a brand at this opportune time, but there were definitely a few key players whose social media strategies stood out to me.

Here are some key examples of companies that were using social media just right at Comic-Con this year:

  • Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim offered a free Ben & Jerry ice cream bar when you became a fan of them on Facebook or Checked in on Foursquare from your mobile phone.
  • FOX’s It’s always sunny in Philadelphia offered an exclusive Comic-Con 2011 sticker when you checked-in via Get Glue. A QR code was inserted on a poster to allow the user to scan and access their fan page via Get Glue.
  • CBS Photo Booth allowed people to take a photo with their favorite show art and share instantly with their Facebook friends.
  • Warner Bros used a Microsoft Tag to get fans to download digital souvenirs on Facebook.
  • Total Film’s Shark Night 3D booth also offered instant photo sharing to Facebook.
  • Comedy Central at the Ultimate South Park Fan Experience asked people to check-in on FourSquare to get a free t-shirt.
  • Warner Bros's Microsoft Tag

    Shark Night 3D Photo Booth

    Moral of the story, finding ways to market your brand at a huge conference like Comic-Con isn’t just about shamelessly promoting your brand everywhere, but it’s more about offering a special experience or exclusive offer to gain loyalty and support. When advertising is integrated into the overall cultural experience of the event, a company will get more fans who are more likely to act as a brand ambassador.

    Did you attend Comic-Con this year? If you did, what did you think about the marketing? If not, what are some of the examples you’ve heard about?

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      1. Brilliant post I must say !! As one who is just getting down to business, this is just great for me .


      2. I’m really happy that you reviewed the comic con, i was always wondering what these people are thinking…now it makes more sense :)

      3. everybody want to have a chunk out of the social media. it is never enough for the big players

      4. Excellent idea in promoting ads in social media by using the established and well-known advertising agencies around the world.

      5. There’s nothing wrong with promoting and giving free gifts and is quit helpful – a gift will always remind a person of that company , however it favors big companies that can afford it

      6. Interesting and smart marketing tactics of these companies that were using social media for promotion. Impressive!