There are plenty of brand activations at Comic Con, but quite a few of them just seem desperate. "Who can we get to help pay for this?" many clearly ask themselves—fair enough, it's hellishly expensive out here—but the easiest choice is not always the right one.
Accordingly, we found a few folks who have it figured out. From pizza to local bars to makeup, brands big and small from every part of the consumer experience can find a smart place at San Diego. It's just a matter of thinking creatively about where you might fit in.
Entertainment brands understand the value of having it click, too. "Partnerships that make sense are absolutely key for us," said Barnaby Legg, vp of theatrical marketing for Legendary Pictures, which is promoting upcoming films Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim 2, the latter with an integration with Oculus Rift (which is everywhere this week).
Pizza Hut and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This one makes so much sense it hurts a little bit. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles teamed up with Pizza Hut for A) free pizza outside their integration in the middle of an area where you don't need a badge (if you want to be popular at SDCC, give away something covered in cheese or fried, outside the convention center) and B) a replica of the Ninja Turtles' pizza-shooting van, atop which fans can indeed shoot pizzas at little stand-up targets decorated to look like the soldiers of the Foot.
Pizza Hut is promoting its Cheesy Bites menu item (they're even branding it as Katana Cut Pizza) and Nickelodeon and Paramount are in full swing pushing the Aug. 8 opening of the next Turtles film, TMNT.
Pacific Rim, X-Men and Oculus Rift
True, plenty of people are having fun with innovative Oculus integrations this week, but nobody is doing it better than these two mind-control themed movies. If part of your sales pitch is psychic powers, you can hardly do better than the Rift, which gives the distinct impression of being a tourist in somebody else's brain.
"We have a longstanding relationship with them and we've been keeping a very close eye on the technology they've been developing, but we didn't just want to jump on the virtual reality bandwagon," said Legg. "Our movie is about human pilots using this neural technology to fuse their minds with the body of a 250-foot mech, and there's something very analagous to that with the Oculus technology—you to strap on this thing and it allows you to connect this neural bridge between your imagination and the content."
The X-Men activation works in much the same way, except with a more involved narrative about Professor Xavier having taken over your mind and brought it into his body so you can help him locate Mystique. The effect of both experiences is a lot like a theme park ride in the confines of a single chair, and it's as good a selling point for Oculus, which is one of the highest-profile projects in the tech world at the moment, especially since its $2 billion acquisition by Facebook closed last week.
The Simpsons and MAC
It started rolling out slowly but if there was any doubt about the mania of Simpsons fans at SDCC, let that doubt be put to rest: everybody loves The Simpsons. The partnerships the series has gone through have been many and varied (remember when Fox skinned 7 Elevens as "Kwik-E-Marts" for the movie?) but perhaps the least expected is the makeup line pegged to the stylistically unique Marge. High-end makeup brand MAC has a full line of Marge products, but today they're actively making people over starting in about an hour. No word on whether they're offering yellow foundation yet, but I'm holding out hope for Homer's brilliant invention, the makeup gun ("Homer, women won't like being shot in the face").
Several San Diego Bars and Vikings
Vikings wins the award for most-local activation: the hit series has partnered with local watering holes Jolt'n'Joe's, Tavern + Bowl, Florent and La Puerta to offer half-price brews (and free chips in some places!) to bearers of this drinking horn that signifies successful passage through the show's gigantic activation in the Gaslamp. San Diego eateries always have to batten down the hatches when the nerd herd swarms through downtown, but most are willing to embrace the craziness. Play your cards right and you can have a four-day busy season, and if Vikings fans go out and sing lusty sagas, so much the better.
Schick and Assassin’s Creed
We wrote about this in part yesterday: The gigantic Ubisoft activation for Schick features not just an obstacle course and a leap into an airbag, but a shaving station featuring the closest shave of all: a guillotine.
Schick has partnered with Assassin's Creed before, but their execution of last year's enormous pirate ship was fun but didn't make a whole lot of sense. With Mme. Guillotine in the background, showing off both the French Revolution setting of the new game and the much-advertised sharpness of Shick's razors, it's a match made in a very strange heaven.