Give the Teens What They Want: 4 Predictions for VidCon’s Return to Live Events

Photo by Charley Gallay / Getty Images for Nickelodeon

We’re closing in on June 22, 2022 — and hoping third time’s the charm for VidCon. After canceling 2020’s conference and then postponing, and ultimately canceling, 2021’s (Delta strikes again), the teens are finally heading back to SoCal (back in Cannes-aheim, to be exact, due to the event’s close timing of Cannes Lions.) Yet, unline the rosé-guzzling ad execs on a boondoggle — this is a notoriously tough crowd, throwing shade online with the same ease we grown-ups display throwing items into our Amazon shopping carts. The annual convention for fans, creators, executives, and brands online — featuring prominent video stars from across the internet — was founded by veteran YouTube creators John and Hank Green in 2010 (aka Vlogbrothers and, yes, that John Green). John was represented by talent agency UTA, who smelled GREEN in them there hills of Cannes-aheim. And the rest is history.

Unlike Cannes, which just brings together advertising execs and over-paid talent — VidCon brings in the consumer — with three distinct tracks for fans, creators, and industry execs. Creators will meet their fans, connect with one another, learn new channel optimization strategies and probably choreograph the next TikTok dance craze. There will also be an “innovation showcase,” where 12 digital-first start-ups will each get their own demonstration area during the first two full days of the convention.

Expect the three-day gathering to feel like TikTok, YouTube, and Snap all jumped out of your phone and into the Anaheim Convention Center. Ticket costs vary from $59 to $799, and, because VidCon knows their (underage) audience so well, parents can purchase a $119 Chaperone Pass to accompany kids 16 years old and under. (And why Anaheim? Because Disneyland is right next door!)

But it’s not all selfies and pretty filters. The world of digital creators moves at lightning speed, and many of the talent and fans attending this year weren’t even on our radar during the last live conference in 2019. VidCon’s return is a big deal not only for fans and brands hoping to learn more about virtual creators’ secret sauce and favorite platforms, but also for the experiential industry as a whole. We’re all wondering…

  • How will the conference balance virtual and IRL components?
  • How will Gen-Z attendees navigate (and criticize) the event?
  • How will event producers balance platform sponsors that are all in direct competition with one another?
  • With Omicron cases rising, will there be bad press from it turning into a super-spreader event — or are we all just over it?!

Keep reading for XP Land’s four major predictions for VidCon 2022:

1) Virtual will keep the #1 spot

The rise of virtual for everything from concerts to conventions will forever change VidCon’s promotion and structure. Its VidCon Now program has attracted 1.2 million unique attendees since launching in the summer of 2020 as a year-round virtual experience. Clearly, 2022’s event can’t only be a you-had-to-be-there experience.

Virtual connections built the careers and fan bases of everyone in the room, so what’s happening at the Anaheim Convention Center certainly won’t stay at the Anaheim Convention Center. While brands activating inside will post photos and videos to their social channels, expect VidCon’s user-generated content to receive the highest engagement numbers. And not just from creators and fans in attendance, but from those tuning in virtually, too.

The event’s creators have worked hard to craft incredible on-the-ground activations in order to drum up ticket sales. We bet many of this year’s virtual attendees are “vetting” the VidCon experience. Watching their favorite creators report live from Anaheim, they’ll know whether or not it’s worth the time and money to attend IRL in 2023.

  • Here’s why we think so: VidCon will have a YouTube live stream for attendees who can’t make it out to California. It will feature four stages, including the main stage panels and concerts. Additionally, with some of the most active social and digital creators all together in the same place (with the same purpose), they certainly won’t take June 22-25 to go dark online. And think of the cross-promotion-palooza possibilities!?!?

2) TikTok will reign supreme

Fresh off of its role as LA Pride Parade’s presenting sponsor last weekend, expect to see TikTok continue its summer marketing tour. TikTok has about 80 million monthly active users in the United States — meaning 80 million Americans know what “Is it a bones or no bones day?” means.

Even though Meta will have a large presence at VidCon with lounges, parties and panel sessions to promote Reels and AR/VR products, TikTok is the most important and relevant platform for each track. Fans want to interact with their favorite celebs from the app, creators want to schmooze with each other, and brands want to learn how to authentically connect with the platform’s audience. (FYI, if you need inspiration, Old Navy’s strategy here is unmatched.)

  • Here’s why we think so: The video app took the top sponsorship spot away from YouTube during last year’s virtual event and has re-upped as the title sponsor for 2022. Under the sponsorship, TikTok will present the keynote address, bring talent and executives to participate in each of VidCon’s three tracks and sponsor some of the expo hall stages.

3) Creators will have more input

What is VidCon without creators? They’re the draw for fans and brands alike, so if creators (some with millions of followers) aren’t satisfied with the event’s structure or programming, the whole experience falls apart. And many are quite vocal about their wish lists and expectations.

“I would love to do a joint meet-up, and I think it would be fun to get some really popular influencers together where we could meet our fans and spend some time with them,” said TikToker Andre Swilley in conversation with Celeb Secrets. “Maybe they could make some TikToks with their favorite influencers and get a chance to talk to them for a few minutes and take pictures.”

And, ask any experiential creator — Covid is still top of mind for everyone from producers and vendors to panelists and keynotes. VidCon will want to keep their talent safe and comfortable; otherwise, creators could take to their platforms, blasting the event online to their many loyal followers.

  • Here’s why we think so: Creators who aren’t into bear-hugging dozens of strangers during hours-long meet-and-greets will be able to limit their VidCon presence to panels and stage appearances. Even the meet-and-greets themselves will be customized so that each creator has the level of fan interaction they want.

4) Sustainability will be everywhere

Gen-Z might be the world’s most militant environmentalists, with Forbes dubbing them The Sustainability Generation. According to a recent Deloitte survey, climate change/protecting the environment was the number one concern for Gen Z, followed closely by unemployment and health care/disease prevention. Perhaps we will even see digital consumers and Vidcon fans choose to attend virtually instead of in-person for the sake of the environment.

While we know TikTok will work harder than most event sponsors to be eco-friendly, expect it to promote the hell out of its sustainability efforts, too. One of our favorite Gen-Z personality traits is the way they question the status quo. Pro tip for the production team: Know the event’s carbon footprint, how many pounds of trash were recycled and where the leftover food and beverages were donated. Because these kids are going to want answers.

  • Here’s why we think so: This year’s VidCon will feature several new sustainability measures, including a comprehensive recycling program at both the convention center and partner hotels. It is also promoting a lounge decorated with zero-waste furniture and built from recycled VidCon materials like old banners, T-shirts and lanyards.

The world has changed since the last live VidCon in 2019, so the event must adapt to keep up with its attendees, many of whom only garnered an interest in digital creation during lockdown. Expect a lot of ~opinions~ to fly around online, from both attendees and non-attendees alike. But hey, a little debate is good; it builds character. Savvy experiential producers take their audience’s opinions seriously, listen to their feedback and quietly adjust their strategy. No pressure, VidCon.

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