The landscape in which Global Media Companies are competing in is changing. At the end of 2017, the number of people who cut the cord was predicted to top out at 22.2 million. More people are opting out of traditional cable for alternative streaming options. This is forcing traditional media companies to retain their customer base in new and creative ways. One method that are using to reach people is by creating experiential activities. Whether they are setting up activations at events or hosting festivals themselves, they are stepping outside print and television to meet people in person.
Recent trends have demonstrated that consumers today, especially millennials, are spending their money more on experiences rather than things like cable television and magazines. In fact 78% of millennials surveyed by Eventbrite would choose to spend money on an experience over buying something. This is why now more than ever companies like Turner Broadcasting, Viacom, Essence, and many others are pivoting from traditions forms of media to into the world of hosting live events. These are not just any live events, they are interactive activations that allow audiences to engage with brands outside of the screen.
It’s no secret that magazines do not have advertisers beating down their door to work with them. The decline of print advertising has given birth to the need for publishers to evolve and find new ways to stay relevant. According to Innovation Media, publishers are reaping millions of dollars in event income, representing as much as 20 percent of total revenues. One of the main attractions, outside of the money an event earns, is that it gives them facetime with subscribers (so they can retain them) and potential subscribers (so they can recruit them).
How Turner Broadcasting Leveraged Comic Con
Events like Comic Con in San Diego are becoming increasingly popular for media companies to promote their television shows in order to nurture a loyal fan base. By securing a group of dedicated fans, then they can help to guarantee the future success of their networks. Turner Broadcasting has brought its major outfits like Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT and truTV to Comic Con through interactive activations that cause buzz in person and online.
“Comic-Con is a perfect showcase for the power of the Turner portfolio, and we’re definitely putting it to use for this amazing group of sponsors,” said Dan Riess, executive vice president of integrated marketing and branded content for Turner Broadcasting Ad Sales (in a statement to MultiChannel News). “These are breakthrough creative ideas that connect our partners’ brands with our incredible fans. In doing so, we’ll drive big results for our clients.”
Some of their most successful activations were hosted by Adult Swim, particularly those involving the popular Rick and Morty. The show, who has a cult like following, drew major lines that wrapped around the activation. Adult Swim on the Green is a full blown carnival that takes on a large space just outside the convention center where the Comic Con is held. Attendees 18+ can enjoy in free carnival games where they can win prizes and participate in activities like face painting and a custom t-shirt station. The biggest attraction, literally, is the Meatwad Full Dome Experience. The 40-foot planetarium dome provides guest with custom 360 videos that can only been seen at this event. The space even has an area where attendees can watch a live stream of some of their favorite shows. At night, these screening featured new pilots as well as special never before seen content.
The whole event has been so popular amongst their audiences that they are now taking it on tour. Adult Swim on the Green will hit the road on May 31st and stop in at least nine cities with the possibility of more being added. Adult Swim will also be hosting its first ever festival in Los Angeles on October 6th and 7th. The event will feature comedy performances, musical acts, special screenings, exclusive merchandise, interactive gaming, and more. The expansion from just a one off event at a convention into a full blown festival is proof that this is what the audiences want.
They even took it one step further by securing a branded partnership to support the activation. The paired popular fast food chain KFC with their cartoon Robot Chicken for a multi-platform program that united the two brands in a unique way. First they created a mini series where the KFC mascot, Colonel Sanders and Robot Chicken went on an epic space adventure together. The first episode premiered at Comic Con in the Adult Swim on the Green Activation. Throughout the convention there were also giant statues of the Colonel dressed in various cosplay costumes like werewolf or unicorn. These served as wifi towers. Once fans connected, they were directed to a special webpage that had custom content featuring the two characters. The program continued even after the event was over through the continuation of the series and an online contest.
How Viacom is Boosting Flagship Brands Through Events
Viacom is thriving in the live events industry. Currently six of their flagship brands, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr., now host major events across the United States, including the BET Experience in Los Angeles, Nickelodeon Slimefest in Chicago, and Comedy Central’s Colossal Clusterfest in San Francisco. During Viacom’s 2017 third quarter conference call CEO Bob Bakish commented on the success of the company’s strategy to reach fans in person. “I’m happy to say that we continue to make progress on the ground across the portfolio, creating and executing experiences that engage our fans in the real world,” Bakish said. “Fiscal year-to-date, we’ve had 1.5 million people on the ground at our events, a number that will continue to grow.” The company is utilizing the appeal of their content library to have multiple touchpoints (and revenue streams) with audiences worldwide.
In 2017, they hosted the first ever Comedy Central Colossal Clusterfest. The event was created with the help of Superfly, the mega producers who host music festivals like Bonnaroo and Outside Lands every year, as well as event producer Another Planet Entertainment. The event brought together stand up comedians, musicians, podcast hosts, and fans in the San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza and Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. After a widely successful first year the event will return to the Bay Area once again.
For three days in early June 45,000 millennials got to laugh and get wrapped up in the environments of some of their favorite Comedy Central TV shows. Last year the comedy line-up was filled out by like Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart, Bill Burr, Sarah Silverman, amongst others while the music side featured artists like Chromeo, Tegan and Sara, Vince Staples, Lizzo, and more. This year Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer, Trevor Noah, and others will keep the crowd in stitches while Third Eye Blind, The Lonely Island, Salt N Pepa, and more will be providing the musical entertainment. The festival has attractions that let fans walk into the world of South Park, The Daily Show, Fx’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Nickelodeon’s Double Dare. Fans were able to get a fully immersive experience by being able to grab a drink at Paddy’s Pub from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or interact with iconic scenes from South Park. These not only connected with people in person but also gained a lot of positive traction on social media channels as well.
“For Comedy Central, obviously linear TV is a tremendously important part of who we are,” said Steve Raizes, Senior Vice President, Head of Operations & Strategy for Viacom Music & Entertainment Consumer Products (in an interview with Forbes), “but as we’ve evolved as a brand, we’ve realized that so many of our fans want to reach out and touch and experience the channel in different ways. So moving into kind of the experiential stage seemed like something that was both natural and really exciting for us to get into.”
To appeal to their younger audiences, Viacom will host Slimefest in Chicago this year. While slime heavy events have already been successful in Australia, South Africa, Italy, the UK and Spain, this will be the first time a full two day immersive festival will be held in the United States. Viacom is producing this massive event with one of the biggest producers of live music concerts and festivals, Live Nation. This one of a kind music festival will be headlined by Zedd, Liam Payne, Flo Rida, and JoJo Siwa. The event will take place June 9th and 10th. Appealing to younger audiences, this family friendly event will bring together some of the networks biggest stars like Kel Mitchell from Game Shakers, Breanna Yde from School of Rock, and many other with of course, slime.
Zarghami puts it this way (to the Hollywood Reporter): “We have a great legacy of events for kids and families, and we know how to throw a great party — which is what SlimeFest is going to be. We’re bringing the Nickelodeon brand to lots of large audiences so we can get in front of multiple fan bases and let people connect with us in places where we are not always expected, and that’s been very successful for us.”
How Essence Jumped of the Page and Into the Streets
Hosting a live event is nothing new for Essence Magazine. The publishing company, who was founded in 1968, has been hosting a music festival since 1994. What was originally just supposed to serve as a celebration of the magazine’s 25th anniversary, has grown into one of the country’s largest live events. The event draws nearly half a million people to New Orleans every July for a weekend of empowerment and entertainment. Event organizers have mastered the art of combining substinative lectures and panels with world class musical acts. The “party with a purpose” works to ignite conversations that are happening at the publication amongst the community in attendance.
They are leveraging the music aspect of the festival to draw in various audiences in the hopes of strengthening attendees relationship with the overall brand and in turn with the print magazine. “We’re making sure that every single demographic is recognized and they can find something that speaks to them at the Essence Festival,” Essence editor-in-chief Vanessa DeLuca said in an interview with Wired.
How Radio Stations are Turning to Live Events
At the 2017 XLIVE Conference Gary Krantz hosted a session titled Multi Platform Juggernauts In Your Town – The Power And Impact Of Radio Station Concerts & Events. It focused on the rise of local and regional concerts and festivals being held by radio stations. While in the past they were simple value add events, now they are essential for shaping the stations position within the community and for locking in desired advertising revenue. Leslie Scott, PD and digital program director of Entercom’s modern rock “107.7 The End” KNDD Seattle told InsideRadio, “Now events are an opportunity to not only brand our stations, but they are larger brand extensions that take on a life of their own. Obviously, they have opened up more revenue opportunities as well.”
From publishers to broadcasting companies, major media companies are evolving to be able to connect with audiences outside of television screens and printed mediums. Now they are creating experiential activities that not only bring in revenue but also foster a deeper relationships with their audiences. Broadcasting companies like Turner Broadcasting begun by leveraging other events such as ComicCon to host activations. Now those have become so popular that they are hosting their first ever festival, combining comedy, music, and culture for a unique fan experience. From Colossal Clusterfest in Los Angeles to Slimefest in Chicago, each of Viacom’s six flagship brands will host a large event all across the United States this year. Magazine and radio stations are both using live events to stake their place in the community and attract new audiences. The amount of global media companies that are creating experiential activities is on the rise and will continue to create events to meet consumer demand.