San Diego Comic Con – one giant ad?

When you think of San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), what comes to mind? Superheroes? Rows and rows of comics? Or lines of nerdy people? When I think of SDCC, I think of advertising. With over 150,000 people descending on downtown San Diego for five days, it is the ultimate chance for companies to expand their market or build their brand.  Every building, bus and pedi-cab was covered in ads. Everything distributed, whether a notecard or a tote bag, was an ad. Even the parades and protests were actually ads!

I realized that the ads for SDCC are like the commercials during the Super Bowl – people look forward to seeing what large and small companies alike will do to bring their A-game and stand out from the crowd.

SDCC is an advertiser’s dream just by the nature of the event. There is an expectation that attendees will be early adopters and the first to know about what is coming. When someone talks about the next big thing six months later, one can say, “oh that old thing? I heard about that at Comic Con.”

One unique aspect of SDCC is the exclusivity. Whether it’s toys, games or comics, people love getting their hands on items only available at the Con, and are willing to wait overnight in line to do it. Weeks leading up the event, Twitter is full of information about what companies like Hasbro and Mattel have to offer. A smaller company, by throwing in the word “exclusive”, is sure to get some attention in the blogosphere.

At this year’s SDCC, there were two cohesive campaigns that really stood out, TV shows that really made an impact.

Timeless, a new show premiering on NBC this fall, had a lock on traditional advertising. Prior to arriving in San Diego, I had seen their digital ad as it was front and center on the SDCC app. When we received our program for the event, Timeless had a full page ad that matched their digital ad. They also did a great job with bus advertisements, as I saw at least one bus per day wrapped in Timeless creative.

Timeless Collage

Mr. Robot nailed the experiential advertising campaign. While there was a panel during the Con, a majority of the marketing was outside of the official event. The Mr. Robot offsite was a chance for fans to walk through replicas of the set and see an exclusive virtual reality scene. As we walked toward the event, we noticed replica fliers from the show, inviting us to visit their computer repair shop. While waiting in line, we were confronted by an official Mr. Robot street team, inviting us to join the f-society and giving us the official mask of the shows heroes. Store “employees” also brought us branded water during our two-hour wait. While we didn’t get to experience it, Mr.Robot also partnered with Uber to share the virtual reality experience throughout downtown.

robot collage

The real winners of these advertising efforts are the fans, getting to learn about new shows or things that might have missed. And going home with lots of free swag that continues to be a reminder to keep buying what they’re selling!


Free swag from the Game of Thrones panel and offsite


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