David Glanzer is the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Comic-Con International (Comic-Con), the largest comic book and popular arts event of its kind in the world. Comic-Con features major comic book publishers, game companies, movie studios, television networks, and toy manufacturers. The annual event routinely attracts over 125,000 people from all over the world.
Also I would like to give a very special thank you to Ben Eisenstein from the CCI marketing office for being instrumental in making this interview happen.
When Nerds Attack: What is an average day like working for Comic-Con International?
David Glanzer: It depends upon which department and the duties involved. While Comic-Con is a terrifically fun event, putting the event on and making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible can sometimes be as mundane as making and answering phone calls. Writing letters, answering email. Basically all of the standard office stuff one might imagine.
WNA: What is your approach when it comes to releasing some information on your Twitter and Facebook feeds?
DG: We don’t want to be accused of spamming our followers so we are pretty selective in what information we issue. Typically, a new guest, a special program; things that we feel will be of most interest to our followers.
WNA: With the growing number of media outlets now covering SDCC in almost year round coverage releasing any new information that they find, is it hard to make sure people are steered towards your site for the official information?
DG: That’s a great question. I think with social media being as prominent as it is now, every company probably has a little difficulty making sure the correct information is released. As you know, someone can say they “heard” something and before long it’s taken as fact.
We’re pretty lucky, however, in that many of our followers self-police. So, as an example, if something appears on our Facebook page that may not be correct, a follower will usually point that out before we can answer or even ask that they “prove” the statement or remind followers that it’s not official until it comes from Comic-Con directly.
WNA: There are currently three successful shows held annually by your company. Are there any other markets in the US or abroad that you guys have your eye on for extending your brand?
DG: You are correct; we operate WonderCon and the Alternative Press Expo (APE), both in San Francisco, and Comic-Con in San Diego. I should point out that we didn’t look to expand our presence, instead we were asked by the organizers of the two Bay Area shows to take over the reins as the original organizers felt those shows could better prosper under the Comic-Con umbrella. So typically we haven’t looked to expand our brand in that way.
WNA: On the topic of WonderCon, I have noticed the buzz around that show rising exponentially over the last few years. With this year’s heavy Green Lantern presence do you feel Hollywood has grown an almost symbiotic relationship in terms of mutual success with your company?
DG: WonderCon is, and for a long time has been, a pretty amazing show. I think what we’re seeing now is that people are taking notice. Not only attendees, but people within the comics industry and those in Hollywood. This year we had an attendance of nearly 49,000 people. That’s a pretty big convention especially when you consider that we’re so conservative in how we count our numbers. I think people know that we put on the type of show we want to attend and this is true of all our shows! And being a non-profit organization allows us to really focus on doing just that.
WNA: When the tickets officially went on sale there was a mad dash that lead to the fastest sell-out of your show ever. Is this something that was anticipated given the previous unsuccessful attempts at ticket sales and the number or people who were vocal about attending this year?
DG: I don’t know that anyone thought we would sell all passes in one day. In 2010, total passes sold out in a matter of months. I will say, however, that there was a lot of promotion prior to this year’s registration opening from local news in particular. One station even did a countdown for how many days until registration.
I think the increased attention may have led to an even greater demand for passes. As Comic-Con typically sells out of passes each year, we tend to talk about the show less and less. There is no benefit in hyping a show that is already sold out and for that reason you won’t see a great deal of news from us concerning the show prior to the event. All of our advertising now is focused on our next show, APE, in the fall.
WNA: Are there any other initiatives or maybe ideas that were put on hold but can now benefit from the money that would have gone to promoting the show?
DG: I don’t know that there were any initiatives ever on hold. We progress as best we can and while costs to run the show continue to rise as costs for just about everything tend to do, our income from attendees and exhibitors has pretty much been flat as we have had to cap attendance the last few years.
We have an incredibly capable board of directors and staff and together we’ve tried to make sure all our shows are the best they can be and I think you’ll notice that reflected in our guest list which each year continues to astonish me. I’m a lucky guy for getting to work for an organization that has such an eye toward diversity when it comes to guests and programming.
WNA: Since CCI a non-profit organization, what other sorts of events around the area do you sponsor or participate in to promote your mission statement?
DG: As you know, we have reached the limit on how many attendees and exhibitors can register for the show. While our income from those sources may remain flat, our costs continue to rise. Revenue generated from Comic-Con helps to offset the budgets for WonderCon as well as APE.
WNA: This is not really a public relations question but when several people complain about issues the ticket sales or hotel booking not going their way, what does your team do when it comes to finding solutions or maybe looking at future changes to the process? Also, is it hard to not take the attacks from frustrated fans personal?
DG: Yes, it’s very difficult to hear about people who are frustrated. But you can’t really blame them. It’s fairly simple; they would like to attend the event, they are willing to pay for a pass, and yet, it’s sold out.
We meet continuously throughout the year to try and find solutions to all aspects of the convention. Those include registration, hotels, security, programming…every department within Comic-Con is tasked with trying to make the event run as smooth as possible. With the increased interest in the show there are always increased challenges.
WNA: I recently had an opportunity to speak Lieutenant David Nisleit of the SDPD regarding Comic-Con safety for an upcoming article and he had mentioned that the number of reported incidents are relatively low. How involved is your security in ensuring your customers are out of harm’s way and does the area of protection extend beyond the convention center boundaries?
DG: One of the few things I really don’t like to discuss is specifics about security. I will say, however, that security has always been an area of paramount importance to us, and we’re grateful that attendees of Comic-Con are a pretty welcoming and enjoyable group. So, I’m not surprised by Lt. Nisleit’s comment.
WNA: There is a lot of talk in regards to structural changes coming to Downtown San Diego over the next few years. What are you looking forward to the most and how will it benefit the fan experience at your show?
DG: By structural changes are you referring to the center itself? I think an expanded convention center will allow for even more exhibitors, attendees and programming. The plans we’ve seen look amazing. But it’s still in the planning stages, so we’re all in a wait-and-see situation right now.
WNA: I too am excited for the changes coming to the center, but I am also pumped for the proposed pedestrian bridges to cross over Harbor Drive and even the possibility of a new downtown Football stadium being erected to keep the Chargers from leaving to LA. With both cities seemingly ramping up to compete over the same properties, just how real was the possibility of CCI moving to Los Angeles?
DG: I will be completely honest in saying there were times when I had no idea what the ultimate outcome would be. We made no secret of our desire to stay in San Diego, but there were serious issues that needed to be addressed. We owed it to our attendees who were also very vocal in their desire for us to stay in San Diego. But I will also say I was surprised that many also let us know that if the City and organizations wouldn’t help keep Comic-Con in San Diego, they would follow us wherever we decided to go. Of course, they wouldn’t be happy about it, but then, we wouldn’t have been either. It was nice to know they recognized we were in a difficult position.