Surviving and Thriving at VidCon: Advice for Industry First-Timers
Published: July 29, 2019
Author: Tom Leonard
It’s been about two weeks since VidCon in Anaheim. I’ve finally recovered from the absolute craziness that is 75,000 mostly Gen Z-ers in a single place…which leads me right in to my first piece of advice for industry folks headed to the event next year: Prepare to be exhausted! I and many of my fellow attendees frequently expressed how tired we were at the end of each day. The biggest contributor to this is the sheer size of the event. The Anaheim Convention Center is massive. At 1.6 million square feet, simply walking from one end to another was quite the process. When you add in the volume of people, it doesn’t take much time to realize the event will be taxing.
While, as an “industry” attendee, it’s easy to stay on the second floor of the convention center (where the crowds are drastically smaller, to the point where creators hang out there – more on that later) I highly suggest you explore the main expo hall. This 800,000+ square foot monstrosity is the heart of VidCon and can be quite intimidating to the casual passerby. While you won’t be hearing from marketers about their video ad strategy here, you’ll see the largest brands in the world, reaching their target audience directly. From Nike to Nerf, and GoPro to Twizzlers, the nation’s biggest brands recognize the excitement that’s in the air at VidCon. Young people are lined up to pick up free swag from these brands and participate in their interactive exhibits.
While you may not recognize all of the popular YouTubers roaming around, I urge you to at least spend some time on the platform to get as familiar as you can with the biggest names and the most popular styles of videos. From vlogging to ASMR, there’s a whole world of content and content creators out there. And while VidCon consists of more than just YouTube, if you aren’t familiar with those two genres, my guess is you aren’t a die-hard TikTok-er. You don’t need to be subscribed to hundreds of channels, but having some context will help put the event into perspective.
Knowing some creators and genres helps with my next suggestion. Talk with creators. As an industry pass holder, believe it or not you’re actually more exposed to creators than your average fan. Creators have a lounge on the second floor, and it’s where the “featured creators” get picked up by their drivers to retreat back to their hotels or homes. Often, they’re just looking to get a break from the pandemonium of the expo hall, where if they walk around, they’ll be bombarded by fans. The creators I spoke with were awesome. From their stories of starting on the platforms to chatting through past brand deals, you can learn a ton, and most everyone was willing to talk and hang out for a while. And while I’m sure they enjoy being away from so many fans, don’t feel too bad if you, like myself, want to take a selfie with your favorite creators saying their famous video intros or catch phrases…
My final advice to brands and advertisers going to VidCon for the first time, especially if you don’t consider yourself an online video fan, is to have an open mind. While you may not think this is the future of media, given recent surveys of teens, you may be missing the transformation before your very eyes. I was lucky to have three of my young teenage cousins with me for about five hours wandering the expo hall. We couldn’t go more than 10 minutes without either seeing a creator they loved or me hearing about how this was ‘the best day ever.’ I’m convinced that if five of the biggest movie stars were at one end of the convention center giving out free signed posters and one YouTuber (that you or I haven’t heard of) was at the other end selling their “merch,” the choice for my cousins would be simple. Brands that recognize this shift in media will be those that line up for the merch alongside their next generation of customers.