Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Changing Cultures in Philippine Conventions!

07.07.2015 – Is it ironic that when something comes up that’s new and a certain game changer they try to emulate or even try to derail the inevitable. This morning’s surprising announcement of guests for the first Asia Pop Comic Con didn’t surprise me at all.

But for those who never got to experience going to conventions in another country its something Filipinos are talking about in social media. It is indeed surprising and definitely a game changer that it only took a foreign organizer to make it happen.

Taking a closer look at the beginnings of what were the Philippine conventions and what we should learn from the foreign organizer why the formula they have is far better than what the local events can never have.

I’ve been around long enough to experience the Philippine style of ‘convention experience’ and I have friends overseas who have been sharing me stories regarding their experience going to Comic Con International (SDCC), APE (Alternative Press Expo), Wonder Con, and Big Wow Comic Fest. These are the conventions stuff I dreamed of going but no resources to do so but I’m content with the stories for now.

Its not only the experiences that they share some of them where even volunteers of the said events that they give me tips about the ins and outs of what an actual comic convention is supposed to be. It’s entirely a different culture what Filipinos have been accustomed to.

The Beginnings of Philippine Conventions

The very first convention I have gone to in the Philippines was the very first Collecticon back in 1999 and it’s a far out idea what a convention it is now. But it is a convention that tried to be original to its roots.

It’s mainly focused on selling mostly merchandise, toys, collectibles and VHS copies of your favorite Japanese anime. If there were local comic books being sold it was very limited since that particular industry had died, and slowly evolved into a culture by independent self published individuals who tried to resurrect its long revered history.

But mostly conventions in the Philippines is mainly about selling, bartering, and that’s entirely what it was not until Anime Explosion and countless Japanese inspired conventions came and put focus on cosplay. Back then the quality wasn’t at par but you’ll see an emerging community of passionate fans who just wants to dress up as their favorite anime characters. These days some dress up and think they can be discovered and become a celebrity like Alodia or Myrtle Gail. But there are still some who just wants to dress up and enjoy, which has become part of the ‘convention experience’ and aside from that the Philippine convention is that’s all about it.

There are programs that have band performances, contest activities, and on stage panel discussions (which should be held in a private room). But to have the absolute ‘fan’ experience of seeing well-known guests and actual merchandise exclusive not available anywhere has been rarely seen in one of the big conventions in this country.

When AFI Global announced that they have plans to bring Asia Pop ComicCon in Manila last November 2014 my thoughts already have two words: GAME OVER.

Events, Shows and Consistency

I haven’t gone to these conventions since 2011 and the only event that really have continuous growth and evolution as a top draw convention was KOMIKON (Philippine Komiks Convention). They not only pool in suggestions through their surveys to regular visitors, but they also seek advice from those who has been to foreign conventions.

They actually had their first taste at going to one in 2012 for STGCC (Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention). I was also there and had my second stint at visiting this big event.

The first time I went to STGCC was in 2009 and Reed Expo wasn’t the one handling it at that time. It was second the STGCC that featured foreign guests. But when I returned in 2012 the event has become bigger. It’s unlike the conventions you see in the Philippines though there is new stuff, but what they meant about ‘NEW” there is emphasized the word consistently every year.

STGCC’s ‘feel’ for a fan going experience is quite the same as going to other foreign conventions. Its not organized chaos where you see the value you pay for an entrance ticket. The recent conventions are trying to emulate that but it’s driven by ‘cosplay’ and that’s not the only aspect about being in a convention. Sure there are retailers and sellers but most of it is focused in a small community that alienates non-active convention going individuals. You won’t feel welcome but rather out of place. Unlike in STGCC there are no levels of being lost but everyone feels welcome.

It’s the same way KOMIKON brings to their shows and knows their visitors will come back because there is actual new stuff there. That same experience will be bigger when Asia Pop Comic Con Manila opens its doors. The rest of the nation will get to be part of that fan experience without the need to charter an air fares to see it.

The Game Changer

So what happens to the other local conventions that have been around?

A simple explanation in analogy what will happen. Just like what happened to Sarao Motors when they ceased operation manufacturing Jeepneys and not investing to improve for the future. The same will happen to the other conventions, which have been around for more than ten years. They had their chance and just laugh it off that their happy how the attendance has grown.

But now that AFI Global is bringing APCC in Manila its obvious they are threatened by this that some immediately changed their organizing name to make sure their scope is now focused on putting themselves as the ‘biggest event in Asia’. They had their chance a long time ago, and no matter what they say or do will definitely no longer be the same. In short too little too late for them to cease that opportunity they’ll never achieve.

This only took a foreign event organizer for some to take drastic changes as their reaction when this local organizing group had that particular chance. I’m now merely a spectator enjoying the view just to see how things will go down. You can say APCC Manila as a high end event, but truth of the matter is that’s how the level of standard these conventions are being organized.

International Guests and Major Properties

The big draw is not the cosplays or the sellers but organizers are putting in what true ‘fan experience’ is all about by bringing in talents, personalities, and artists from different parts of the world. Not just local talents but the big names tied up to these pop culture properties that will definitely put the local conventions obsolete or to wake up and find their a way to level the playing field.

At the end of the day if nobody is doing the same thing they won’t react and feel that their business will be threatened. But now that APCC is coming to Manila everyone is jumping the bandwagon. The usual Filipino mentality where the excitement is they’ll go there and what’s left of for the other conventions?

Best advice I can say is try to find some improvement from the ‘norm’ business is still business, but to be consistent at this you have to find something unique and new to the eyes of every fan not just casual convention visitors. You have to be a stand out at your own roots in making the best fan going experience, and it’s not just being happy about it but also being always one step ahead which mostly they failed to do so.

If you can ask me: I told you so long ago. :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment