Commentary

Activations Steal The Show At Comic-Con

Comic-Con 2018 wrapped up in San Diego last night, deactivating what has become one of any year’s major events both for entertainment brands and Hollywood types — MSN.com has 94 slides featuring stars from Gal Gadot to Johnny Depp.

But “this year, the hottest fan opportunity at Comic Con wasn’t a star-studded panel in Hall H or autographs on the convention hall’s main floor. It was entry into the futuristic Taco Bell pop-up at Greystone Prime Steakhouse and Seafood in the Gaslamp Quarter — not just any Taco Bell, but a neon-lit futuristic replica of the one seen in the 1993 Sylvester Stallone sci-fi pic ‘Demolition Man,’ recreated in lavish detail for the film’s 25th anniversary, complete with bright blue cocktails, robot waiters and Crunchwraps from the ‘future,’” writes the Los Angeles Times’ Jen Yamoto in a story about why “marketing execs love” Comic-Con activations.

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“It helps to have a gimmick, a good location and a budget, even if most companies decline to divulge just how much they spend; the best activations have a physical presence passersby want to snap even if they don’t have the stamina or time to wait in long lines,” Yamoto points out.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Natalie Jarvey has a piece about how SWSX and Comic-Con have “fueled the rise of activation culture” as a way for entertainment companies “to be the thing everyone is talking about” at what a hed refers to as “overstuffed entertainment festivals.”

Jarvey leads with a recreation of Stephen King’s fictional town of Castle Rock “just steps away from Comic-Con’s bustling hub at the San Diego Convention Center. There’s the Castle Rock B&B, where the more daring visitors can check in for a chilling experience. Nearby is the forest, which hides a few secrets among its trees.” 

The show, which combines elements drawn from a number of King’s works, debuts on Hulu on Wednesday.

“The Streamer is expecting some 5,000-plus people to come through Castle Rock over the course of the weekend, the signature piece in a full-throttle marketing push for its J.J. Abrams-produced show of the same name, including a screening of the premiere for attendees on Friday. ‘It is a big endeavor,’ notes Hulu vp content marketing Ryan Crosby. In fact, it’s Hulu’s biggest ever presence at Comic-Con.”

In a similar vein, “with the money it apparently saved on plugging ‘Deadpool 2,’ Fox is celebrating ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’… with a scavenger hunt. Fans can register online and then look for vampire nests throughout the city and the San Diego Convention Center to help defeat classic Buffy foe The Master. At each location, fans can win prizes like t-shirts, pins, stickers and Funko Pops,” writes Beth Negus Viveiros for Chief Marketer.

Jarvey’s Hollywood Reporter colleagues, Jean Bentley and Marisa Roffman, round up the “hit and misses” among the activations including a “Bob’s Burgers” activation featuring “an exclusive burger of the day (a la the running, pun-tastic gag on the show): The Can I Have Your Slaw-Tograph Burger?”

Meanwhile, with sales lagging in the face of a rash of competition, comic book publishers “are creating their own digital platforms to directly connect with readers and encourage more engagement from fans,” reports Gregory Schmidt for the New York Times. Examples include DC Universe, a platform from DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Digital Networks.

“The goal is to reach readers who may not live near a comic book shop but want to keep up with the Avengers and the Justice League. Experts say the direct-to-consumer model also helps compete with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video,” Schmidt writes.

And the publishers “can use the direct-to-consumer efforts to create a stronger relationship with their readers,” according to Milton Griepp, the chief executive of ICv2, an online magazine that covers the industry. “They present their brands and their content directly to these fans and expand their brand footprint,” he tells Schmidt.

Which nowadays is measured in bits, not inches.

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