VidCon 2016: An Experiential Review

June 23-25 marked the 7th edition of VidCon, the increasingly-popular convention held at the Anaheim Convention Center for the fifth straight year.

Kia’s VidCon activation, before and after

June 23-25 marked the 7th edition of VidCon, the increasingly-popular convention held at the Anaheim Convention Center for the fifth straight year. For those not in the know, VidCon is essentially ComicCon, but younger and much more likely to spontaneously break out into dancing. It’s a place to celebrate the rise of the online video community, from YouTube to Snapchat, Instagram to Twitch, and many (many, many) other platforms in between.

IMG LIVE was out at VidCon to activate on behalf of Kia Motors, one of VidCon’s largest partner sponsors for the conference. While we were there, we took the time to explore the grounds to see how different brands were engaging with the attendees.

Here are some of the highlights and key takeaways from what we saw.



HGTV’s Cupcake Challenge. HGTV and Food Network’s Cupcake Challenge activation was an immense hit at the convention, with long lines daily from fans looking to take part in a cupcake decoration competition. The wait was pretty extensive, but HGTV remedied this by allowing fans to sign up for a specific time in advance, allowing you to see the convention while you waited and return in time for your chosen time-slot.


American Ninja Warrior. A very popular attraction, giving fans the chance to complete a scaled-down yet still-compelling Ninja Warrior course, complete with the opportunity to press the buzzer at the end like on the real show. It looked challenging, but was still easy enough to navigate that every attendee I saw attempt it was successful.

Samsung VR

credit: VRScout

Samsung VR. Samsung has a lot invested in the VR space, so it should come as no surprise they had the best VR experience at the con. Their rollercoaster VR experience was truly immersive, making you feel like you were legitimately careening back and forth on a rickety outdoor ride. I did their experience at SXSW back in March and the payoff wasn’t there (my screen was fuzzy and therefore I didn’t feel engaged), so it was great to see how it feels when all parts are working in sync. Samsung also had a separate line for Samsung product owners, which is always a nice touch and nod to product loyalty.

5 Gum. 5 Gum had a great station (more on that below), but also had large boards stationed where attendees could write answers to various Truth questions like “What Hashtag did you use most recently?” and “What is the most embarrassing song you love?”. In such a digitally-focused event, it was fun to see something that was completely analog, and each board had every inch of space covered by the end of the weekend.

As we are an experiential marketing agency, here are some key takeaways we learned in exploring the convention through that lens:

Silly Dog

This dog is famous for some reason

  1. It’s all about the talent. With few exceptions, if you wanted to draw a crowd at VidCon, you had to have crowd-drawing talent, or influencers as they are known to adults. That is who the attendees are there to see, and they will flock to wherever their favorites are appearing.
  2. Keep it simple. There’s a ton going on at VidCon and it can be overwhelming to the senses. You only have a short period of time to interact with someone, so make sure it’s easy for them to digest what is going on in your space. 5 Gum did a great job of this with their “Truth or Dare” activation, where participants presssed a button to choose either truth or dare (you don’t say) and then a large video board behind them generated a task for them to complete. Simple, direct, and entertaining.
  3. Social with a purpose. Most activations at VidCon have a social component to them, which means everyone is competing for organic shared content. The best activations made sure to provide something worthwhile for that share, like Taco Bell’s Snapchat filter creator station, which allowed attendees to create their own Snapchat filters and geo-target them for a 24-hour period, all at Taco Bell’s expense.
  4. VR is great, if the content is right. VidCon is a very tech-savvy convention, so there were many activations that used all the latest and greatest technologies, for example virtual reality. People are getting used to VR though, and it’s no longer enough just to have the novelty of it – you really need to provide an experience that truly utilizes the space or it can fall flat.