Blog #10: Walker Stalker Con NY/NJ 2015

As a student who is constantly stressing out about written assignments, doing well on exams, and having everything school-realted organized to T, I find sanity and peace in catching up on my favorite TV shows on the weekends (if I can’t watch them live on TV during the week). However, one show that was the exception was AMC’s The Walking Dead, which aired its mid-season finale last week on Sunday, November 29. As I alluded to in a previous blog post, I am a huge fan of the show, and I run informal discussions at my college twice a month for this fall semester. Comic book nerds and sci-fi fans gawk out at trying to buy the highly coveted tickets and passes to the annual San Diego Comic Con in June; anybody who is hot in the television and movie industries are there to promote their latest installment(s) to fans who live and breathe these kinds of genres I mentioned earlier.

While I cannot afford the luxury of flying out to California and spending bookoo bucks on the Comic Con weekend experience, there are smaller kinds of conventions that are similar to Comic Con throughout the year in different cities. One of those kinds of conventions is known as Walker Stalker Con, the zombie, horror, and sci-fi fan convention. When I learned I would be conducting research on zombies in pop culture back in May of this year, I stalked this particular convention out in every way known to man — I was looking at the various cities it was being held in; how much transportation costs would be to those cities; the entry ticket costs alone; the actors and actresses who would be attending; etc. After a very long 7 months, I finally got to attend the Walker Stalker Con New York/New Jersey one this past weekend (December 4-6) at the Meadowlands Exposition Center.

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Photo by me, Erin DeGregorio

While I won’t bore you with the details about how long the lines were or how much autographs and photographs were, I will give you a little taste of the marketing and advertising that was involved at this event. I first heard about the event through the Internet/Google searches and then followed its social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram). Once the date started getting closer and closer, word-of-mouth exploded because people began to connect the dots that certain Walking Dead cast members would be there. VIP passes for the more popular characters instantly sold out at outrageously high prices that ranged between (like Damon and Stefan from The Vampire Diaries at $360 each; TWD‘s Daryl at $400, Beth at $320, and Merle at $320) — but even the less popular characters (who either died or were overall really hated by fans of TWD) still capitalized on the event with general admission people (cough cough me, who couldn’t afford the VIP packages of $1,400 or $700), charging anywhere between $80 and $160 for combo packages of autographs and camera selfies. The cast members from TVD, TWD, and Gotham capitalized on this because they knew fanatics would sell their organs on the black market just to breathe the same air as them or to stammer out a “Hi, oh my God, I love you” when they have the coveted 3 seconds to meet them.

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Photo by me, Erin DeGregorio

Besides having the chance to meet cast members for a price along the expo center’s perimeters, the center was dedicated to artists and merchandise sellers. The reason I bring up these vendors is because they had to market themselves to hordes of fans and make themselves distinctively stand out from the guys on either side of their table in order to make a profit. Many talented artists were there, mainly drawing profiles of the various cast members, comic book heroes and villains, and anything else that could be related to the genres that this convention was dedicated to. Some artists charged lower prices for their pieces of artwork to sell more, whereas some charged higher prices for the more elaborately drawn and/or time consuming pieces. For me personally, after spending $100 to walk in the door alone AND THEN paying for cast members’ autographs or photos with them, I was not about to spend a lot of money on merchandise and drawings. After going around and around and around, I found a younger artist who was insanely talented, and I was willingly to support him by purchasing his stuff. He was selling his pieces at reasonably affordable prices and deals: $10 a pop; Buy 3 for $30, Get 1 Free; Buy 6 for $60, Get 1 Free. Although the convention was a cash-only event that had ATMs within the venue, this artist had his own credit card machine hooked up to his iPad. Great — I can use my credit card to make the purchase, and use the cash I was originally going to spend on it toward another autograph or photo. After I chose the drawings I wanted, he signed them — so I knew who he was — and he included a business card in the bag that contained his contact and social media info, should I want to purchase again from him in the future. While walking away with breathtaking hand-drawn pictures, I realized he did so much advertising and marketing within a 2 minute transaction, that many others probably were not capitalizing on.

The night before the event, I also downloaded the official “Walker Stalker Con” app that had a digital map of the venue and where each cast member was sitting; a list of which guests would be attending; times for photo opportunities with cast members (at additional costs of course); where the screening areas and panels were located in the venue and what time they would be taking place. Let’s be real, this app saved me by helping me plot and plan my course of actions so I would not be wasting time when I actually got there. When I finally got home that night after a long, 8-straight hours of walking and standing around, I updated my social media accounts to essentially brag to everyone who I saw and met.

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Steven Yeun (TWD’s Glenn) and I – Photo creds to me, Erin DeGregorio

Additionally, at this event, they also advertised for the Heroes & Villains Fan Fest at the same venue next month in January via hand-out print ads (small laminated flyers). At this convention so far, cast members from Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham will be there. Although I knew about this event a few weeks ago – again through social media (Twitter) – it was cool to see the promos for it at this event and get hyped about it. Yes, I have intentions on attending this fan fest as well … even though I don’t think my wallet can take any more hits, ha ha ha.

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