NEW YORK When true-crime network Investigation Discovery (ID) decided to present the first IDCon for its superfans—known as ID Addicts—the network followed the same strategy that other Discovery Communications networks had for their inaugural fan events: Keep it intimate, make it interactive, and bring out plenty of network stars. About 300 fans flocked to the Altman Building on June 11 see ID celebrities such as Joe Kenda, Paula Zahn, Tamron Hall, Chris Hansen, Michelle Ward, Tony Harris, and Candice DeLong for discussion panels and meet-and-greet sessions. Admission was free, but attendees had to reserve their tickets online. According to ID, about 7,000 people signed up to be on the waiting list; elements of the event were live streamed on ID’s Facebook page for those who could not attend.
“We know what a huge, addicted fan base we have. We have really loyal viewers, but even we were surprised at the number of people who responded so quickly to come to the event,” said Kristin Brown, Discovery Emerging Networks' senior vice president of communications.
Experiential displays included promotional tie-ins with the network’s programming. Discovery Agency and ID's marketing team created the entire production, from the signage to the decor. For the series I (Almost) Got Away With It, IDCon had a virtual-reality short film depicting a prison escape and capture. The upcoming ID series The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead was the inspiration for an interactive display designed as a forensic lab; users were given clues to try to determine the cause of death of a fictional former hospital patient. There was also an interactive exhibit based on the ID podcast Detective.
IDCon also gave free photo souvenirs to attendees who used a customized photo exhibit. The display allowed people to pose for pictures of themselves that were then superimposed on ID-centric backgrounds, such as a prison mug shot or a group photo with ID stars. In addition, fans got to see sneak-preview footage of ID shows. Attendees could also win a grand-prize: a walk-on role as an extra in an upcoming ID program. Other perks for IDCon attendees were free food and beverages from Bonbite NYC that included boxed lunches, fruit bowls, bottled water, soft drinks, cookies, and brownies.
“One of our goals in the first year is that we want to make sure that every single thing is controllable and perfect. We want it to be a great, seamless experience for the fans, and have them walk away raving about everything that they saw,” said Discovery Communications senior vice president of global events and brand activation Jeff Kaplan.
Social media played an essential role for the event. The majority of event marketing came through the network's website, emails to subscribers, and social media, and Twitter-using attendees who had the most creative IDCon tweets were rewarded with free prizes such as ID merchandise, which was also for sale at the event. Fans on the waiting list who did not make it into the event received an emailed video with highlights from the event. “Our fans love talking to each other about the network,” Brown said. “We wanted to make sure we activated that, so we could reach more than just the 300 guests in the room.”
Kaplan says that it hasn’t yet been decided when, where, and how large next year’s IDCon will be, but there’s no doubt that IDCon will be back for future editions, given the fans’ enthusiastic response and ID’s massive audience reach. “These festivals have become increasingly popular,” Kaplan said. “ID has a rabid following. And getting as much talent there as possible is what drives everything. We could’ve had the biggest event in the world, but with little or no talent, it doesn’t go as far. I think we can make it as big as we want to make it.”