EXHIBITION NEWS July 2017 - Page 23

“When you’re dealing with the public, particularly families, it’s all about the finer detail” – Simon Pilling parents – can easily understand the show and what it is before they buy tickets. With consumer exhibitions, arguably far more than in the world of B2B, whether or not visitors attend can be dependent on spontaneous decisions. “People don’t read everything you put out on websites, or everything you put out in marketing, but they still have an idea of what the event is,” says Pilling. “Your branding has to demonstrate as clearly as possible what you’re creating, because people can make snap decisions based on a picture.” Sometimes visitor demographics can move towards young families without much direct input from organisers themselves. In recent years, Showmasters, organiser of London Film & Comic Con, has seen attendees at the show change from largely sons and fathers to whole families. “Comic Cons used to be dominated by TV shows like Doctor Who,” explains marketing director Jill Ubdegrove. “Now there are elements like the Marvel cinematic universe, which has certainly had an impact. There are also stronger females role models in fi lms and TV and the cosplay element has defi nitely appealed to the family side of things.” The expanded audience hasn’t gone unaddressed in marketing for London Film & Comic Con, which emphasises the appeal of the show as a fun family day out and as something to do on a rainy day weekend. The show has also launched a co-locating sister event catering to the family audience: the Young Adult Literature Convention. But where is the best place to advertise a family-centric show? And, more importantly, do you appeal to the children or their parents? “That’s the question,” laughs Pilling. “Is it about ‘pester power?’ Or do you target the parents because they’re the ones actually buying the tickets? We see it as a bit of both.” Kidtropolis uses a variety of the usual platforms to market the show – such as radio and social media – along with the more unusual idea of enlisting schools in East London and Essex to put fl yers into children’s schoolbags. “We ended up sending out about 100,000 of those last year, which was phenomenal,” enthuses Pilling. Kidtropolis also makes full use of online content and celebrities to create a buzz around the event. “You can create the visuals and build excitement with online content and maybe engage some YouTubers or celebrities to talk about the brand and event on your behalf,” continues Pilling. “We had a couple of people from YouTube celebrity stardom last year, there are always people who are desperate to see their YouTube idols. There are particular people that kids see online and they interact with their videos like modern soap operas. “I’ve got three boys, so I know what radio stations they listen to and how they interact with the internet. Having fi ve, seven and nine year-old consultants for the show is quite handy (but they’re not on the pay roll quite yet!)." While appealing to the kids is key, both Pilling and the team at Showmasters are careful not to underestimate the appeal of nostalgia for drawing in parents to the shows. “A lot of our guests were stars in the 1970s and 1980s so there’s something there for the parents too,” Ubdegrove tells EN. “If you’ve got parents coming along then you can introduce nostalgia and retro brands as well,” agrees Pilling. “The idea being that mum and dad used to play with this or what this when they were a kid and now they can repeat their wonderful childhood with their children. We’re appealing not just to the kids but to the parents as well.” While organisers of family-centric shows are appealing to visitors, it’s clear that they are managing to sell their concepts to some of the bigger fi sh in the exhibitions industry. After the 2016 edition of Kidtropolis, Pilling was approached by fi ve companies wanting to get involved in the future of the show. After a number of conversations it was agreed that MCM Central, organiser of MCM Comic Con London and Summer in the City, would become part owner of the show. “The team approached us with an idea and we accepted,” says Pilling. “They will help us grow the brand and the event over the next few years.” Elsewhere, Multiplay, organiser of Insomnia gaming festival, has partnered with GAME Digital, organiser of BRICKLIVE, to run the show and expand it into four locations around the UK. While there are undeniably a whole host of factors that need to be considered when putting on a family-centric show, organisers are clearly beginning to believe that they are worth the additional time, effort and care. Shows aimed at families are attracting the attention of organisers and visitors alike, and may well succeed in forming the nostalgic childhood memories of a whole new generation of event profs. EN exhibitionnews.co.uk | July 2017 23