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Publishers, Devotees Mix It Up At Anime Expo

11 Jul, 2003 By: Edwin De La Cruz

With summer vacation in full swing, anime fans and industry personnel headed west to the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., over the 4th of July weekend for Anime Expo (AX), the largest convention devoted to Japanese animation and manga (comics) in the United States.

Hosted by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), Anime Expo has become the gathering place of thousands of fans and professionals in the anime and manga industry.

This year's event was expected to have attracted over 17,000 people, but exact figures weren't available by press time. It's no doubt that regardless of the numbers, increased attendance is due to the growth and awareness anime and related merchandise has received during the last year.

With so many people in attendance, AX manages to generate revenue for those that exhibit and directly sell product to consumers at the show, but reaching the consumer seems to be what's really on the minds of the publishers.

Anime conventions basically follow the business model for all trade shows and conventions, with an added treat: exhibitors sell to the public at prices below SRP, which attracts consumers looking for a bargain.

The real benefit to the publishers (and all exhibitors) is provided not necessarily by revenue generated at the event, but by gaining a better understanding of the market of the needs and preferences of the fans.

“We go to support the fan community and to help build the overall anime market, not because going to AX has any great influence on annual sales,” said John O'Donnell, Central Park Media's managing director.

While Pioneer Entertainment does not sell product at AX, Chad Kime, Pioneer's marketing manager provides a different spin.

“In the last two years we have teamed up with major retail partners to introduce them to Anime Expo as well as to have them service the consumer looking to purchase product at the show,” he said.

This illustrates Pioneer's goal to promote upcoming releases and reinforce Pioneer's brand as a leader in the anime marketplace, according to Kime.

Mike Pascuzzi, director of sales at Media Blasters, agrees. “The trick is to raise the company profile and create good will with the consumers so that they will continue to buy your product through existing retail channels,” said Pascuzzi.

AX was and still is place for fans to meet and get the latest releases and anime merchandise. But, recently, it has transformed into a multi-purpose event; becoming a perfect place to meet consumers face to face, introduce them to creators of anime programs, as well as showcase new and upcoming products.

AX has also evolved as a meeting ground for industry execs to make initial bids to license holders on future anime releases.

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