While we all know the San Diego Comic-Con reigns as the biggest, loudest, most stressful and exciting media event in the world, we’ve also predicted that fickle Hollywood may someday not view it as the be-all and end-all of Marketing Existence. In a recent story on Deadline, Jen Yamato suggests that the SECOND biggest loudest, most stressful and exciting media event, SXSW, may be The Next Comic-Con For Studios:

Every studio with something to push books pricey space a year or more in advance at Comic-Con, which last year packed 130,000 fans into a downtown San Diego papered with promotional branding. But this year’s SXSW saw a sign of things to come as film and television brands took that strategy to Austin, targeting the festival’s estimated 64,000 registered attendees. Universal, Warner Bros Television, A&E Network, Showtime, and Syfy jumped ahead of the pack with marketing blitzes sure to multiply by next year as other entertainment brands set their sights on the plugged-in, social media-active demographic of influencers that pour into the annual multimedia festival. This year’s edition wraps this weekend.

The story is full of comparisons to how easy it is in Austin as opposed to San Diego:

They also held a panel for Chuck Lorre moderated by fantasy author Neil Gaiman and brought in CW star Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries), while Ashton Kutcher (Two And A Half Men) also visited the space. Three months went into planning the campaign, which SVP Marketing Sonia Borris explained aligned with WB’s “social television” programming: “Unlike Comic-Con where you’re focused on engaging with fans, getting them excited, and playing into their enthusiasm, this is about experimenting as a destination for tastemakers, fans, vendors, and networking”.

[snip] In contrast to Comic-Con’s highly competitive real estate, branding opportunities in Austin are much easier and cheaper to come by. (Last year at Comic-Con, Syfy put branding on San Diego Airport bins “because it was the one place people hadn’t been yet”, admitted Ortiz.)

[snip] “Comic-Con activations are pricey”, said Digital Marketing SVP Doug Neil. “Here we’re leveraging other partners’ opportunities and it’s very economical… do you buy a billboard in LA, or do you do something different?”

While SXSW may seem a more economical way to read decision makers—why spend for 130,000 fans when you just need to influence the 2500 media members, or as they put it “Leverage other partners’ opportunities”—SXSW has its own little bugaboos. The press has to PAY for their tickets and they are pricey—the cheapest for just the Interactive side is $695. Also it lasts 9 days—how could anyone even remain conscious after such a thing?

Our guess—SXSW and Comic-Con will peacefully co-exist for a while and marketing will adjust to TWO splurges,

A bigger threat to Comic-Con as we know it—that long dreamed of expansion for the convention center is still a loooong way off, even though the tax to fund it has technically been found legal. Opponents of the tax hope to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court, meaning the expansion may not even be finished until 2017.

“The number of what you’d consider primary large conventions that are sought after because of their higher level spending is not expanding, so as the facilities expand and the options are greater for people, the pie is getting cut up smaller,” acknowledged Joe Terzi, CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority, which handles bookings for most conventions at the center. “We already have conventions waiting on us that are going to make a decision right now. They’ve told us if you’re able to commit to 2018, ’19, ’20 we’ll come. Do we lose a lot in 2017? No, but if you don’t start selling the center for 2018 and beyond as soon as possible, you’ll lose those conventions.”

Comic-Con has signed to stay in San Diego until 2016, but it’s hard to imagine another threat of leaving if an expansion is in any way in the works. Still, don’t plan on a radically expanded event any time soon. Or, to put it anther way, we’ll probably see at least two Star Wars movies until we are lounging in the park new atop the expansion (above).


  1. SXSW has been all over the news outlets in various arenas from tech to entertainment to venture / start up. I agree with your view — that SDCC will coexist until SXSW forms a funnel that investors can identify. Right now it’s a hot spot, but it’s kinda like a hip place you’ve heard about, but still wonder why everyone is going there. There is a reason to go and it is hip… but the results are not so clear.

    But at this point, *not* being there could mean playing catch up when it does become clear.

  2. In the very looong history of NIMBYs suing to stop San Diego public works projects, not one has ever reached the State Supreme Court. Nor have they ever won. The Superior Court Judges usually dismiss the suits with prejudice and impose sanctions on the plaintiffs, eventually. While it might take until 2017, late 2014/mid-2015 is a more reasonable guess.

  3. Austin is hip, but not just for hips sake. I moved out here over six months ago, and am finding it to be a city growing in media, movies, TV, and music. Those (like myself) who found Hollywood to be to over saturated and want to be a part of a strong independent market, free of the major studios, would do well to set up shop out here now, before it really booms.

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