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Many Special Events VPs still don’t get Comic-Con. While they may see the huge, wrap-around line, that doesn’t necessarily mean the experience or what they call activation is a success. The thought is akin to throw them a bone and they’ll lick it up. While it may not effect the property they’re trying to promote, a poor activation certainly doesn’t win over fans.

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AMC Dead Upon Arrival
Probably the most clueless of the bunch is the team at AMC. For the second year in a row, AMC has built faux sets in which attendees walk through. Utterly boring. Attendees waited over an hour to walk through a dressed-up box with a smattering of costumed show models stumbling about. Attendees can get the latter just walking around outside. The activation across the street from the convention center didn’t even bother renting out models. Instead it had staff traffic-copping people along what was supposed to be a shanti-town–basically a bunch of garbage with fake blood splattered about.
You had to use your own device for photos. And you didn’t get shit. Two violations of the Comic-Con fun policy. I sure hope the SVP in charge of events throws great internal parties because whatever monies devoted to that person’s salary would be better invested in bio-degradeable air.
ABC Improves
ABC still hasn’t figured out how to move lines. So intent on promoting a property that it’s the attendees that feel that their permanently residing in line. Last year, trailers for several shows for shown to attendees while they waited via giant screens on the outside of the activation. That worked although it didn’t stop them from showing an additional trailer to those brought inside. That was preceded by an introductory speech. Photo opportunities–one by one–followed. That makes time spent inside the actual activation about a 10-15 minute affair. It’s no wonder lines swelled.
This year ABC followed the same format however did not utilize its large outside screens. If you have attendees held hostage in line, why not give them something to be entertained with? Clumps of 20 went into a faux-set for the muppets, heard a speech, watched a trailer then waited in line for a photo. The big improvement was the photo experience in which attendees made photo gifs of themselves with a muppet or Once Upon a Time’s Regina. All the trailer intros can be done by the staff just shooting the breeze with the line. Get them working instead of lollying about, and the experience would work.

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It looks like the Muppet activation will be brought to D23 Expo in August. Maybe they’ll take my advice.
Adult Swim Drowning
In my quest to complete the outdoor activations on Thursday, I arrived a half an hour early for the Adult Swim activation. Attendees had to register online then wait in line to check the registration and be given a wristband. Only problem is there wasn’t a separate line for those who pre-reigstered. There was only one damn line that took forever. You stick people out in the sun waiting in line, and you don’t curry much favor.
And those who got there first thing were told that the carnival midway portion of the activation didn’t open until two hours later. Remember that one damn line? Even if you had a wristband, you had to completely wait in that damn line to get in. What a fucking waste of time. There was no sane explanation for why the wristbanded had to do that, and the staff looked as clueless as the procedure.
To make matters worse, the Meatwad dome which did open at the beginning, showed the same fucking video from last year. Make some new shit up, man. Time is money at Comic-Con.
The A’s and almost A’s
While its three activations were inconsistent–a zip line, an obstacle course, and a hide-a-dummy-in-a-box “game”–Square Enix: The Experience gets an almost A.

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Some of the staff were clueless and totally unhelpful, but the zip line company–the same from last year’s Gotham–were awesome. FX’s American Horror Story: Hotel activation had technological problems and a real anal manager but gave away $100 in merchandise to 1/8 of the people who played the money tornado. They gave away a lot of stuff as well including a bag that a person can fit into. FOX won with bringing a tower drop for Scream Queens.

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The large fountain installation Namco Bandai had in Petco Park to promote its Dark Souls 3 impressed however their Twitter photo print out system wasn’t well thought out since users had to scroll through tons of tweets to find their photo. And with a large fountain geysering blood the main draw, a close-up of the face wasn’t what was focused on in a shot. That made it difficult for attendees to find their photo but luckily the staff running it dispensed a selfie stick giveaway to those satisfied with a digital image saving them from an hour’s wait for a print out.
For addiction though, I liked the The Big Bang Theory slot machine. Didn’t understand all the different rules and levels of the machine, but it sure got me wanting to gamble. Some lady played for 10 minutes thinking it was real money. Guess her currency wasn’t time.

 

–Ken Choy

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