Vulture Festival is known for engaging pop culture fanatics through creative live events and sponsor activations, and as New York Magazine puts on its fifth edition this year, the event is doubling down on fan experiences.
The festival’s third West Coast edition, which runs Nov. 9-10 at the Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, comes after New York Media finalized its merger with Vox Media this week. This year’s event will leverage the magazine’s partnerships to produce new and reworked brand activations and standalone events from AT&T, Virgin Voyages, Heineken and Mailchimp.
Jackie Cinguina, senior vice president of marketing for Vox Media, said the company has been deliberate in choosing partnerships for Vulture Festival, keeping in mind that the event opts for quirky experiences for superfans over run-of-the-mill panels.
“We like interactivity, and we go after clients who are like-minded and willing to go with us to a space where we can have fun and engage with fans,” Cinguina said. “We work with them to create things that will enhance the overall experience.”
The festival’s presenting sponsor, AT&T, is bringing a Friends-themed activation to the attendee lounge. The traveling activation marks the sitcom’s 25th anniversary this year and features photo ops that include a replica of the sitcom’s Central Perk couch and the fountain from the opening credits.
Other activations include the Heineken Green Room, a video studio where participating festival talent are interviewed for Vulture’s editorial content. And Mailchimp will host a live taping of its original podcast, Going Through It, featuring Tracy Clayton in conversation with broadcast journalist Tamron Hall.
Another standalone sponsored event is from Virgin Voyages, Virgin’s upcoming cruise line, which will host a ticketed screening of the hit film A Star Is Born. The poolside event will include a sing-a-long to the 2018 film’s songs by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, led by Vulture staff writer Hunter Harris.
The event came together after Virgin asked to do something music-themed, with Cinguina explaining that the process of coming up with concepts for the sponsor activations is often collaborative.
“When we first have these conversations with clients that are intrigued with Vulture Fest, we discuss the message and personality they want to bring, their goals and how they want to be seen,” she said.
New York Magazine’s events director Tara Reilly then works with the clients to determine their activation’s potential takeaway and how her staff might create content for it. Reilly and New York’s editorial team then brainstorm activation concepts, which are proposed to the client.
Cinguina said future editions of Vulture Festival will be affected by Vox Media’s acquisition of New York Media, specifically with how sponsored and editorial content from the events is distributed.
“We now have an amazing network to bring the festival to people in different ways,” said Cinguina, noting that Concert—Vox Media’s publisher-led advertising marketplace—is an example of a platform where future festival content could be distributed.
Vulture Festival launched in New York in 2014 and headed west in 2017. This year marks the first time it will only take place in Los Angeles. Cinguina said the change was made because of a positive attendee response to L.A.’s first two editions, as well as the company’s decision to launch smaller, satellite Vulture Fest events in New York as well as L.A. this year.
Cinguina noted that these smaller events are how Vulture will continue to evolve the festival model, with a possibility of traveling to new cities. To coincide with the L.A. festival, Vulture this week announced a satellite event in New York on Nov. 9, which will celebrate actress Laura Dern and present her with Vulture’s first “honorary degree” for her career in film and television.
“We do see Vulture Festival having legs beyond New York and Los Angeles. It will depend on where our audiences are growing, and speaking with sponsors to find out what gaps they have,” Cinguina said. “We want to find pockets of fans who are asking for events like Vulture Festival.”
The festival’s slate of ticketed events is another major draw, with programming curated by Vulture senior editor Jesse David Fox. Over the weekend, attendees can participate in a game night with contestants from The Bachelor, see cast reunions of Community and Party Down, and take a bus tour of Hollywood with Happy Endings stars Adam Pally and Casey Wilson.
“There’s a lot going into the calculation of what would be a good event. The most basic is: What do our readers love, watch or miss?” Fox said. “Then it’s a matter of, ‘How do we build an event so special that it’s worth giving up a portion of their precious, precious weekend?’ Which often means: ‘What have they not seen before?’”