Comic-convention exhibitor alert: Beware of Zombies
There’s something going on in comic conventions that I want you to be aware of.
When I exhibited at Philadelphia Comic Con, I found myself exhibiting directly across from an exhibitor that was identified as “Zombie Fun RUn / Hyundai.”
It looked as if there were three properties being promoted: The Zombie Mud Run, Hyundai automobiles and Shoctoberfest.
One of the main parts of the exhibit was to get attendees to play a high-striker game. That’s one of those “Test Your Strength” game where you hit a strikers with a mallet and try to make a metal bead go up the pole to ring a bell. High-striker winners got prizes promoting the sponsors.
When the show opened Thursday afternoon, I (and the other surrounding exhibitors were dismayed). This thing was loud. There was no carpeting onthe floor, so the acoustics were tailor-made for painful noise.
In addition, the underside of the strikers (the part you hit with the mallet) was metal-on-metal.
The effect was… painful.
The surrounding exhibitors politely asked the man running the exhibit if the high-striker could be quieted… or moved… or replaced… and the answer was no. By the time I found a Wizard staff member, radioed reports were already pouring in with complaints.
They placed a pad under the striker and moved the unit to a far corner of their area. But by Friday, it was moved closer to its original spot. Saturday, it was moved closer again. And by Sunday, it was within feet of its original placement (and the pad was removed… until I walked over and reminded them).
Let’s be fair
I want to make this clear: This exhibitor paid for a very large placement on the convention show floor. They were also a sponsor of the convention. And, to the best of my knowledge, their exhibit fell well within Wizard’s exhibitor guidelines.
And even if it wasn’t good manners, it was good marketing. Every time someone struck the high-striker with a mallet, it made a huge bang, and all of the heads turned in the direction of the exhibit.
So I get it.
- They weren’t breaking rules.
- They were strong financial backers of the show
- They were exercising excellent marketing
And let’s also make this clear…
This is not a failure of Wizard World. The Wizard conventions have hit some rocky road in the past. But the crew that’s currently running the shows are dedicated, genuine, thoughtful people who are putting hours of sweat and love into making these shows excellent.
And, in many, many ways they’re succeeding.
The moral of this story is not that Wizard World failed.
Far from it. Let me tell you a little side-story. When I initially went off in pursuit of a staffer to handle this issue Thursday afternoon, I pulled over the first staffer I could put my hands on and asked him to direct me to someone who could handle exhibitor complaints. This was not his job, and he was tasked with a completely different set of priorities.
Nonetheless, he got on his radio and started calling around. His other priorities crested during that time, and he had to multi-task, but the entire time, he let me know that my concern was not being forgotten. Finally, he let me know that a slew of other complaints had come in and the man in charge of exhibitor relations was handling it personally.
Then he walked me back to my booth, apologizing for the inconvenience.
Then, he checked back on me twice during the course of the show.
Remember… this wasn’t even his department.
You guys… you just can’t fault an organization that hires and fosters a staff like that.
But the Hyundai Zombies were making the people around them miserable. Surrounding exhibitors were complaining all weekend. Some attendees were startled and/or frightened at the sudden noise (with, perhaps, visions of the Boston Marathon in the backs of their heads). Conversations between exhibitors and attendees were strained, interrupted and downright hindered by the noise.
I can’t call them out on breaking rules. I can’t say they’re bad people. I’m sure the man who perpetrated this exhibit on his fellow exhibitors is a downright pleasant fellow outside the convention hall.
But if you find yourself exhibiting near this exhibitor in the future, you need to know what you’re in for. I strongly advise you to ask to be moved elsewhere on the floor if you’re near them. They are not pleasant neighbors.
And, if all else fails, bring ear plugs.