Now in full swing: Comic-Con International, San Diego’s annual showcase of all things sci-fi-, fantasy-, superhero- and comics-related. Taking place over four packed days (it ends Sunday), it’s a chance for fans to get a first look at new movies, TV shows, video games and knick-knacks — and the chance for marketers to make everything seem essential.
Comic-Con’s grown tremendously since its early days in the ’70s, as have the marketing budgets movie studios allot for the convention. But a recent New York Times article contends that some studios are now re-examining the value of Comic-Con promotions.
According to the article, “studios come seeking buzz.” But if fans aren’t impressed or “hard-core enthusiasm doesn’t spill into the mainstream,” the impact of Comic-Con “can be more negative than positive.”
The take-away? Comic-Con isn’t the ideal platform to introduce every property. But it does give studios (and other entertainment marketers) the opportunity to engage thousands of interested, targeted consumers.
For those who’ve reconsidered their Comic-Con strategies, plenty of other promotors have eagerly snapped up vacant spots on the agenda. When 130,000 genre fans descend upon downtown San Diego — as well as lots of media coverage — along with them come every sort of publicity campaign imaginable, from TV series’ gearing up for fall-season debuts (this year: Dexter, Big Bang Theory, Sons of Anarchy, etc.) to studios pushing movies with round-the-corner release dates: Universal’s Cowboys & Aliens (July 29); Twentieth Century Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Aug. 5), and FilmDistrict’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Aug. 26), for example, are very much in the spotlight.
Oh, and Deepak Chopra. Can’t forget about him.
Here are a few more standout outreach efforts from Comic-Con, Day 1:
- Exclusive Experience … and Breakfast
It doesn’t take much to please Twilight fans, as Thursday’s panel made apparent. Director Bill Condon (best known as the director of that other brooding vamp movie, Dreamgirls) unveiled a brief clip from Breaking Dawn – Part 1 — “the honeymoon scene” — and drove the crowd wild.
But reps from Summit Entertainment, the movie’s distributor, gave Twi-hards a little something extra. Fans waited in line — some since Monday — hoping to hear Condon and cast reveal details about the upcoming duo of Breaking Dawn movies, the first of which hits theaters November 18.
At 6:30am Thursday morning, waiting fans were rewarded: Five cast members (Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene, Elizabeth Reaser, Julia Jones and yes, Kristen Stewart) popped by the line for a surprise meet-and-greet. They signed autographs and posed for pics while staff passed out Breaking Dawn posters and coffee mugs — plus juice and muffins. Because unless Rob Pattison’s within sniffing distance, the way to a Twilight fan’s heart is probably through her stomach.
- Nostalgia 2.0
Sure, there was talk about Sarah Michelle Gellar’s TV comeback — as mysterious, estranged twins on Ringer — and that Walking Dead season-two photo. But only one panel featured the word “bunghole” multiple times, and Johnny Knoxville as moderator.
It was at this panel that Beavis & Butt-head creator Mike Judge announced the return of the dynamic doofuses (after a 14-year absence) and screened the first new cartoon. The time was right, Judge explained, because “I felt like TV was getting too smart.”
Set to return to MTV’s schedule this October — and still sporting their Metallica and AC/DC tees — Beavis and Butt-head haven’t aged a bit. Their mumbled media commentary, though, has evolved with the times. Their insight into UFC fighting, Twilight, and Jersey Shore’s Snooki, in fact, may surprise you.
- Early Signs of Viral
Comic-Con’s earned a rep for being (among other things) a viral-marketing launchpad; the first effort to surface this year is on behalf of Elysium, director Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to 2009’s District 9.
A recruitment poster for a faux corporation called Armadyne points to a website featuring a short video clip urging “zero g welders, mega-structure engineers, quantum networkers and experts in zero g coupling, and multi-generational planning” to apply for “the most amibitous project ever undertaken by mankind.”
Not much is known about the Elysium storyline yet — the film’s not due in theaters till March 2013 — but it’s said to be a sci-fi-social commentary set 100 years in the future, and stars Matt Damon as an ex-con, Jodie Foster as the Leader of an alien race, and Wagner Moura as some kind of villain.
- Interactive Lion Hunt
Along with one of the most-hyped events of this year’s convention — Voltron’s first-ever Comic-Con panel presentation — fans of the obsessively popular animated series can participate in “The Hunt to Form Voltron” scavenger hunt, through Saturday in the area surrounding the Convention Center, where Comic-Con is taking place. Using their smartphones as guides, players must go on a mission to find the five Voltron lion standees and their corresponding QR codes. At each standee, players receive an “exclusive button” and chance to win “classic Voltron action figures,” “Voltron retro T-shirts, Voltron DVDs, and various other non-Voltron prizes.
There’s a whole two days of Comic-Con to go. Still don’t think spending the weekend with several thousand costumed fantasy fans sounds like a good time?