Week two in San Diego was eye-opening to say the least. Comic-Con invaded the city, transforming downtown into a mecca of pop culture. Early in the week, I watched Hollywood studios and video game developers work at a frenzied pace, wrapping buildings with oversized ads and constructing elaborate installations at the foot of the Gaslamp District near the convention center. One restaurant with a prime location was even transformed into a rainforest to promote the TV series, Grimm.
A crew at Digitaria were preparing to give away hundreds of custom-printed T-shirts to Comic-Con fans on the streets. Four unique designs leveraged popular internet memes like Philosoraptor, Me Gusta, and Forever Alone – each with a clever line related to the Comic-Con fan experience. On the back of each shirt, the hashtag #memecon gave fans the only call to action they needed.
By Thursday, the whole cosplay culture was in full swing. (cosplay = costume play, which I’m told involves much more than just putting on a costume). I saw everything from full-body Stormtrooper costumes to costumes that involved little more than body paint. For an outsider looking in, this felt like a totally different world.
Check out the slideshow below to see some of the great costumes:
- San Diego Comic-Con 2012
- Costumes from Comic Con ranged from the classics to the crazy. Here Superman and Wonderwoman strike a pose for the cameras.
- Another familiar costume takes a friendly-looking approach on The Joker.
- Poison Ivy makes an appearance at the San Diego Comic Con.
- Excited attendees flash a copy of The Haunted Hotel.
- Dressed as characters from this year's leading action film, Prometheus, they posed for photos with other attendees.
- The crowd gathers around installations near The Hard Rock Hotel.
- The popular Star Wars Storm Troopers were seen all around the event.
- Comic Con attended didn't hold back when it came to great costumes.
As I watched the Comic-Con week unfold, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between what was taking place down on the streets with my own experiences up on the 12th floor at Digitaria.
I was the outsider looking in and getting a glimpse into a different world. In a sense, I was putting on the costume of ‘digital creative guy’. But in reality, I never actually felt like an outsider. I felt like I belonged. I was made to feel like my opinions and ideas were welcomed. Much like strong online social communities, in this digital agency world the sense of community is very strong and far from exclusive.
I’ve been told that when dropped into a digital environment, the biggest hurdle for traditional agency people is the level of collaboration. I believe it. I worked with a copywriter who refused to email his scripts to anyone without first saving it as a locked PDF. He was so concerned that someone else would be able to make changes, he went out of his way to protect every last legal super.
That way of thinking, the unwillingness to let go and work together, just doesn’t work anymore. The internet has proven that we have less control than we think. Brands that go out of their way to overly control online content have received well-deserved backlash. We’re even seeing new levels of collaboration emerging in the entertainment industry. A new video game/TV series was being heavily promoted at Comic-Con. Defiance, premiering in Spring 2013 is designed to be the first TV series and multiplayer online video game that actually work together, with the results of one directly affecting the other, essentially bridging the gap between interactive and linear entertainment.
The moral of the story: We have to work together.
Collaboration has become the norm. We do it all the time when we make TV commercials. We hire directors, set designers, cinematographers, music composers, film editors, post-production artists – all creative minds that help to bring our ideas to life. We collaborate. We always have. The same goes for digital. The creative team grows exponentially as ideas push through to completion. While the roles have changed, as an agency creative person, my job is no different. I still “own” the idea, but that idea is best executed when I relinquish control to the people who can best bring it to life.
When we collaborate, we survive. I witnessed this on my final day in San Diego when I took part in the “Walking Dead Escape”, an elaborate zombie escape experience at Petco Park, right next to the Digitaria office. I bought a ticket to be a “survivor”, running for my life from a hoard of hungry zombies. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. The adrenalin rush was incredible. Along with others from Digitaria, I worked my way through an apocalyptic wasteland, navigating through, over, and under obstacles while zombies threatened to infect us at every turn. Those who chanced it and went alone came out infected. Those who worked together had the best chance of survival.
Oh, the symbolism…
What does this say about agencies? We need to embrace collaboration. The silo approach doesn’t cut it anymore. Digital and traditional need to find new ways to integrate because locking down our scripts will only lead to infection.
I escaped San Diego with more than just a few meme t-shirts and a Walking Dead limited edition comic book. I’ve come back to Toronto with a renewed sense of optimism. There’s no doubt about it, agencies are at a critical moment in time. If we play this right, we won’t be the walking dead. We will survive. We will live long and prosper.
Oh, the nerd humor…