How to "Kill" at Comic Con Intl.

It's nearly impossible to imagine that Fox's megahit "Glee" was ever an underdog. But that's exactly what the musical dramedy was last July when it debuted at Comic-Con, having aired only its pilot episode after "American Idol," just two months earlier.

Placing the earnest, family-friendly show in the middle of pop culture's biggest trend machine was a risky move. If Fox's presentation flopped, it would have been the Tweet heard around world. And yet for Chris Alexander, senior vp corporate communications and publicity at 20th Century Fox, the strategy was a no-brainer: If you can bridge two seemingly disparate audiences at Comic-Con, you're golden.

"I'm a big Broadway fan, and I knew from going to shows like 'Rent' and 'Wicked' and watching the people who lined up for them, these are the same people who go to Comic-Con," he says. "There's a giant crossover between musical theater fans and comic book aficionados."

Securing the ideal time and place to unleash "Glee" onto the masses was another matter. Jostling for space among established juggernauts like "Lost" and "Avatar," "Glee's" panel presentation landed in a less-than-ideal venue: a ballroom inside the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, not even inside Comic-Con's Convention Center headquarters.

But as soon as the show's never-before-seen second episode began to unspool, the response was rapturous. The crowd exploded after each musical number and immediately broadcast its approval via Twitter, Facebook and enthusiastic texts to fellow Con-goers.

Hard evidence of "Glee's" surprise victory at Comic-Con last year -- and its essentially dominating the TV landscape ever since -- is the show's upgraded profile at this year's convention. Organizers have scheduled its 2010 presentation for the highly coveted 4,200-seat Ballroom 20, usually inhabited by hardcore geek favorites like "The Big Bang Theory" and "Battlestar Galactica."

"Comic-Con was a harbinger of the success the show would ultimately have," Alexander says. "It's like the world's greatest focus group."

For networks and studios, capturing the hearts and minds of the 126,000-person Comic-Con constituency has become as crucial as their campaigns for Emmys and Oscars. Though unlike a more trade-heavy geek gathering like E3 (where press and techies comprise the masses that converge on the L.A. Convention Center), Comic-Con is first and foremost for fans.

"If you have something really cool, you're going to hit a targeted demo, and that targeted demo is going to spread it like wildfire," says David Glanzer, Comic-Con's director of marketing and public relations, who warns against a sales-pitch approach at the convention. "Have a discussion with your audience," he says. "The biggest mistake is to trying to 'sell' to them."

Inspiring a level playing field among the spectators helps, too.

Zach Enterlin, HBO's vp advertising and promotions, says the network eschewed a VIP-only fete last year in favor of a "very fan-centric" Comic-Con party for its vampire sex romp "True Blood." The event most memorably debuted a "True Blood"-branded beverage: a blood-orange soda packaged like the drink featured on the show. To win fans' hearts, HBO issued invites to the party in gift bags distributed at the show's Saturday talent panel, and also via its Twitter feed and Facebook fan page.

"The invitations went directly to them," Enterlin says of the show's rabid followers. "It's important for us to, in essence, reward the fans."

Source: Hollywood Reporter

blog comments powered by Disqus