Exhibition News April 2019 - Page 78

Last Word The show as the spectacle Following the sale of the MCM Comic Con to ReedPOP, founder Bryan Cooney reflects on building the brand I never ever set out to run a comic con. I was doing weekend-based events in my spare time for TV shows like Stargate or Star Trek and someone came along and said to me ‘how would you feel about doing a very large-scale collectors fair at ExCeL?’ It was never envisaged as a comic con, it just happened over the years by doing research and visiting events in the US. If somebody is doing something well, see how it works and see if you can do it better. There was a transition from sort of a collector/autograph market into a very buoyant brand- orientated market; comic con is all about brands and products. When I set out to develop the brand, I figured that by having MCM – which nobody remembers stood for Movie Comic Media – in front ‘London Comic Con’ gave us a brand in its own right. People went to an MCM Comic Con and they knew they were going to get something extra special, above and beyond what anyone else in the marketplace was offering. We gave community a place to meet and created an environment that they felt comfortable in. It was a one-stop-shop for people who had a love of genre and in turn that led the brands and the product holders to go, ‘there is an audience here that is our 78 — April demographic’. The cosplay element was a significant part of that. It still exists now but it had this explosion around 2006/2007. It gave you a large concentration of young people who were looking for a home and dressing up and showing how much they appreciated a show or a brand. My feeling was always that MCM was the destination in itself. Talent or celebrities were secondary; people came to see the show and the show was the spectacle. A lot of these shows are playing a game of armageddon with celebrity; it’s about who can get the biggest guest, when actually the money should be put into creating activities for people to enjoy and interact with. It’s better to get things that appeal to a broader audience and don’t cost you huge amounts of budget, but which collectively will get you a better response. It can be surprising what does and doesn’t work. That’s the challenge: identifying the marketplace. You have to be watching television, going to movies – I went to the movies at least once a week. I binge Bryan Cooney (left), and MCM Comic Con (right) watched at least three episodes of something per night so that I kept up with what was current and what people were enjoying. I would look at where people were commenting and what was big at panels in the US. If this particular group of people appeared on a panel and they packed out a 4,000-seater auditorium then clearly there’s a market behind that. You just you have to be watching your market and if you don’t know the market surround yourself with people that are involved in different aspects of it, so they can advise you. Brands needed to have people to try their product. It was a way to get customer feedback ahead of launch. If they did a show like ours ahead of launch and the reaction to aspects of the game wasn’t quite right then they could at least get direct feedback. You can do all the market research you want. Everybody thought years ago that events would become virtual, but brands have all realised that they have to physically interact with their audience otherwise they lose touch. EN