At the recent Baltimore Comic-Con, I presented “It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World” which was both a nostalgic look back at how brands connected with pop culture fans and how brands connect today.
And I’ve got to say, it was invigorating to be part of such an exciting convention. The convention center is in the heart of their downtown, and the entire, upbeat weekend was an encouraging contrast to the agonizing images of Baltimore from last April. I’m not saying problems don’t still exist, but the Baltimore Comic-Con presented us all with an optimistic and hopeful weekend for this city.
For “It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World,” I tried hard to balance my presentation between nostalgic, backward glances of ads in old comics and the brilliant innovative ways that brands now connect with Geek Culture. But to be fair, a lot of the old ads were so surprisingly goofy, especially through the lens of 2015, that it was hard to resist taking the audience on an extended, smirking “field trip” through the marketing of yesteryear.
During the presentation, I also took a closer look at two classic brands that engaged in long running campaigns specific to comics: Tootsie Roll’s Captain Tootsie series and Hostess Twinkies (and Fruit Pies) long running single page adventure strip ads. In fact, Hostess’ ads are so memorable that they’ve inspired a plethora of satire ads over the years.
And for today, we talked about KFC’s clever onsite marketing at San Diego Comic-Con last summer. As part of a media partnership, Kentucky Fried Chickens place Col. Sanders statues in cosplay outfits, in various parts of San Diego’s downtown and Gaslamp districts. (And I’m sure you all know by now that cosplay refers to the practice of dressing up as pop culture character for a convention.) Fans were rewarded when they found these statues, and amplified KFC’s marketing messages via social media. And closer to home, we explored how my agency, Bonfire, helped Guinness connect with passionate pop culture fans as a sponsor of the Harvey Awards. These awards, honoring creativity and craftsmanship, are held annually at the Baltimore Comic-Con.
So, the title of this presentation was, in retrospect, misleading. It’s not really an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World anymore. Not traditional ads, anyways. But it is a world that eager for creativity and accepting of marketing messages – as long as they are authentic, entertaining and appropriate. So keep your eyes peeled, and don’t be surprised if you see the next corporate mascot having fun with cosplay –just like everyone else.