This weekend the New York Times looked at Hollywood’s reliance on San Diego as a marketing toolm but it isn’t all good news:

For those planning to attend Comic-Con International, the giant comic-book and fantasy convention scheduled to begin on July 24 in San Diego, the event’s organizers have published some helpful hints. No. 21: “Please don’t smell bad.”
The Cannes Film Festival this is not.

The Con, as devotees like to call it, is disconcertingly large. Last year a capacity crowd of about 125,000 crammed into the San Diego Convention Center, while a ticketless 25,000 or so were left sweating in the hot sun. (The Sundance film festival, by contrast, draws 45,000, spread over 10 days.)

The article rounds up such misleading factoids as the following:

It is weird. The convention officially requires that model weapons remain holstered or sheathed.

And it is decidedly low-rent. No. 33 on the official tip sheet lists the grocery chain Ralph’s Market as an alternative to dining out. The Bio International Convention in San Diego, a gathering of the biotechnology industry, with one-sixth as many attendees, produces about double Comic-Con’s $41.5 million in economic impact on the city.

…which, we’ve all decided, is total malarkey spawned by a nerd-hating CVB. But whatever. One notable factoid from the story: Lionsgate will be sponsoring the Eisners this year.

Seriously, we know fans don’t like to bathe, but there are also stinky people at the Cannes Film Festival and we know this for a fact because we used to work with some of them.


  1. I would never defend a lack of bathing from fans or anyone; just pointing out that as a veteran convention goer, I have smelled many many smells over the years and not just from stinky fanboys.

    That said, everyone should remember to bathe at least once daily. I also recommend the use of a toothbrush and gum.

  2. “It’s not merely the big-budget superhero movies that come to woo the mostly male crowd. The surprise success last year of “300″ […] was helped along by an appearance in 2006 by the movie’s director, Zack Snyder.”

    The article doesn’t even mention that 300 is based on a comic by Frank Miller. Did Frank Miller make an appearance to promote the movie? I think with the comic book crowd Frank Miller is more of a draw than Zack Snyder. But I guess only Hollywood has the power to make people exited, right? I, on the other hand, am more impressed that Zack Snyder directed a Morrissey video.

    I wonder if our inner criticism has become the focus of outsiders. We complain and joke about stinky people, overzealous fanboys, and costumed annoyances, and the outside media picks up on it. Or maybe it’s just that they go to Comic-Con and see and smell it for themselves.

  3. They should try visiting role-playing game conventions. Holy guacamole, the stench in some of those will make your eyes itch.

  4. Oh, wait, it does mention 300 is a comic, toward the bottom, but not in a way that links it to the movies success. My comment about the article crediting Zack Snyder for the movie’s success stands.

  5. “…which, we’ve all decided, is total malarkey spawned by a nerd-hating CVB”

    As an attendee of both SDCC and those big biology- and biotech-related meetings, I buy the “smaller meeting yields more returns” concept. The people-to-hotel-room ratio at a bio meeting approaches 1:1 (rather than the N:1 where N is “large” that SDCC has), and the biotech meeting has concentric halos of expensive parties and events designed to entice people into buying your new product.

    That said, it’s also plausible the CVB tilts things in favor of what it views as more glamorous meetings. And when I attend the comic con, I eat at all the nice (and pricey) restaurants in the Gaslamp and make my contribution to the local economy. Nonetheless, the archetypal biotech convention is a confluence of many, many companies that all have far more money to throw around than DC, Marvel, or, say, Lionsgate. It’s not weird to think that they end up dumping more cash on the San Diego area.

  6. I wonder in terms of total cash spent, how close SD would be to, say, a biotech convention. At SDCC, people spend their money inside the Center, and less (supposedly) outside. While biotechs are spending it outside in hotels, expensive dinners, etc.
    At a biotech show, presumably attendees are not buying Heroes of Vat Grown Meat show exclusive action figures, the latest exciting crossover between Eli Lilly and Genentech, or even line up to have their picture taken with Chiron’ mascot the Cuddly Centaur.

    I suppose it’s relevant to point out here that San Diego is one of, if not THE largest biotech cluster in the U.S., and San Diego-based BioCom hosts two events, and sponsors a third in San Diego.

    Methinks BioCom has a prestige edge on San Diego. I’d want to see genuine stats on spending.

  7. Not to mention, nearly all of the attendees of events such as Bio Tech conventions are employees and executives of some corporation or other which is paying them to attend, and giving them expense accounts. At SDCC, otoh, most of the attendees are fans spending their own personal dollars.

  8. I could go off for a really long time, since I’ve worked in the trade show biz (pharma, which is close enough to bio), but let me sum this up:

    Everyone at a Bio show is on an expense account. There is no eating at the grocery store. Period. Not even discussed. The spending patterns are not in the same dimension. The question to you, as an attendee, is how many steaks the exhibitors are going to buy you?

    If 125K people brown bag it and spend all their money inside the convention center, other than the hotels, its a waste of a weekend where visitors could be spreading cash around the city. Now I don’t think its quite as big a difference as all that, but the community almost certainly gets a bigger economic push from a bio/pharma/tech _trade_ show, than a _consumer_ show where people are more likely to have their own budget.

  9. Yup… all those movie celebrities coming to Comic-Con are not as glamourous as Bio Tech.

    Some solutions: Hand out pre-printed Comic-Con coupons. When an attendee makes a purchase at a restaurant, you fill in the amount spent and hand it to the cashier. Maybe allow the retailer to redeem the coupons for ad space in next year’s convention guide.

    Wednesday night, hold a costume parade open to everyone. Model it on New York’s Village Halloween parade. Have it end at the baseball stadium parking lot, with vendors, activities, fun for the whole family.

    Us cool kids know about the San Diego Comic-Con. What needs to be done is to brand and link it to the city of San Diego, so that everyone knows about it. Make it a destination, like New Year’s in Times Square, or Halloween in Key West.

    The Con should also program more events outside the confines of the Convention Center, and at various dates throughout the year. This creates goodwill with the local citizens, which in turn creates goodwill with area politicians, pundits, and leaders.

  10. How did “we” all decide that it’s not true that biotech drops a ton more money on the city that comic con attendees? I’ve worked for big pharma and I’ve been involved in event planning in conjunction with an oil & gas trade show and I’m confident in estimating that the amount spent by corporations splashing out on parties and those with corporate expense accounts is orders of magnitude greater than the average Comic Con attendee. Easily. But that’s not including the impact beyond just the hospitality industry. The Global Petroleum Show is happening here in Calgary at the moment with 62,000 attendees and is estimated to generate $11 BILLION in local economic impact. Yes, that’s because Oil & Gas is based here. But if a lot of biotech is based in southern California and San Diego, you’re talking about a similar type of “local economic impact”. It’s not merely the $2000 bottles of scotch at the local bar. There is absolutely no comparison with Comic Con. It seems big because of the 125,000 attendees, but economically, it’s peanuts.

    And whatever the Comic Con attendee is spending is spent largely inside the convention centre on retailers who are going to leave town with the money.

    Torsten: Make it a destination. Really? More people need to be attracted to San Diego during Comic Con? You think that less parking and worse traffic jams on Harbor Drive would make the event more endearing to San Diegans?

    As a Calgarian who suffers through 10 days of the drunken redneck Mardi Gras that is Stampede every year (which is estimated to contribute $300 million to the local economy, yes three hundred and forty-five million), I can sympathise with San Diegans, and assure you that tacking a fun, family-oriented parade and other events onto it won’t make it any more attractive to those who are annoyed by it. Spreading the party around only makes it more obnoxious to those who are not interested.

  11. *$300 million to the local economy, yes three hundred and forty-five million

    Hahahaha, man, I’d better have some breakfast.

  12. BTW, the Bio Inetrnational covention does not always happen in SD, as this implies:

    ” The Bio International Convention in San Diego, a gathering of the biotechnology industry, with one-sixth as many attendees, produces about double Comic-Con’s $41.5 million in economic impact on the city.”

    In fact, it won’t be in San Diego until 2012, if it’s in San Diego at all.

    So, $82 mil for one year, as opposed to what the con brings in year after year?

    I give Cieply the benefit of the doubt that neither he nor his editors caught that big difference between and “s” and a “d” after “produce.” “Produces” suggests the Bio Int. show happens in SD annually, “produced” is the accurate word for a how that isn’t happening in San Diego again for some years, if at all.

    Again, I challenge either Cieply, the writer of this article, to cite the source of his numbers, or the City of San Diego to show the numbers, because I call bullshit.

  13. All of you have made valid arguments for why this article was a little off the mark, but for my money, Paul Pope wins.

  14. Not quite conscious right now, but does it really matter how much (for example) biotech v. comic book convention attendees spends at a con? The number of people attending is drastically different. Sheer numbers make up for the amount spent.

    If anything it’s a matter of where the money goes. It’s the difference between dining at Osetra Watergrill or running over to Tin Fish.

    If one were to discuss hotels, I think all of San Diego County benefits from the weekend of Con. When rooms in Hotel Circle and as far out as National City and Chula Vista get booked it kinda spreads the wealth outside of downtown.

  15. Lea, these kinds of analyses are not hard to find as I wrote a while ago:

    These 15,000 map-muddlers generated some $46.5 million in economic impact for San Diego in 2006. Comic-con? A mere $32.1 million. Doing the math, a geographer computer nerd spends $3100 in San Diego. A stormtrooper, a scant $267 (based on an estimate of 120,000 attendees in 2006.)

    Something about these numbers seems a bit wack. For instance, say only 20,000 of those 120,000 stayed in hotels. Let’s say they averaged $1000 for their hotel stays. That alone is $20 million. Now, say each of those 120,000 people had subsisted on a single can of tuna fish a day from Ralph’s. That’s another million dollars right there.

  16. When I was doing the research for my now (im)famous article about why it makes sense for CCI:SD to become CCI: Las Vegas, I emailed the the Dean of the UNLV Hotel College, Dr. Patti Shock, explaining what Comic-Con International was, and how many people it drew and asked if I could pick her brain. She cc:d the president of Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority on her reply to me.

    Very shortly after she sent that email, I had a high level person from the LVCVA on the phone to me, DURING THE BUSIEST CONVENTION WEEK OF HIS YEAR, offering to assist me in any way possible.

    San Diego sneers at us. Las Vegas really, really wants all 120k+ of us.

    I’m just sayin’ is all.

  17. Bio’s own Web site says, “The BIO International Convention typically brings over $30 million in economic impact to the city in which the event is held. This includes direct spending, tax revenue and hotel room nights during convention.” So in San Diego, that figure jumped to about $83 million? Wouldn’t Bio then use the phrase “more than $80 million” in its own literature? Also, according to their Web site, Bio had workshops running from June 14 to 16 in San Diego, with the main convention taking place from June 17-20. That’s another three days in which some attendees can spend money. The comparison doesn’t seem fair at all.

  18. Vegas in the summer isn’t bad. It’s not like you’re outside all that much, except in the pool, and even if you are out it’s fine in the shade.

  19. I think the idea should be to make Comic Con smaller anyway. I wish the film companies would just go away. How does Tropic Thunder this year have anything to do with comics or fandom? Answer: It doesn’t. Hollywood has co-opted nerd prom and we should take it back.