L is for Lame

17 Sep

Well, the good news is I’m not too old.

Ventured over to the Hynes Convention Center today for College Fest. It’s well-documented that I am a sucker for free stuff, and there’s usually plenty of it at College Fest, but this year I was there doing research for a magazine I work on for college students. I wanted to see what the students were into, what companies were promoting, what music was hot, etc.

So what did I learn? Nothing concrete, but based solely on the anecdotal evidence, companies just aren’t trying as hard these days to reach the college audience — or at least they’re not doing it at events like this one. Back in the day, when I was still a student, and even as recently as five years ago when I used to go to College Fest as part of the marketing efforts for my previous employer, the event stretched out over two halls at the Hynes, with the place bursting at the seems with companies and students. This year, only one smaller hall with fewer companies than ever.

I got to the Hynes around 1pm, and after going up and down the aisles twice, I left about 45 minutes later. Sure, the doors had just opened up at 12, but back in my day the kids were lined up to get in soon after it opened, and hung around to meet celebrities and get autographs (Jon Stewart was there one year, cast members of The Real World usually were in attendance, etc.) and of course, pick up all the free schwag. This year, the biggest line was to get an autograph from a Playboy model, and even that didn’t have people lined up around the corner.

I guess nowadays college students are more effectively reached on the Internet, and they know it. Or maybe they’re just too smart — or too lazy — to go somewhere to get marketed to, and more companies are targeting the students in other ways. In short, I thought this year’s College Fest was lame.

But back to my original, or at least my second statement, the one about the free stuff. I found it remarkably easy to clean up this year, despite being 31 years old and looking nothing like a college student. A grad student? Maybe. (At least that’s what I was telling people when they asked.) Regardless, I took home a bag full of stuff. For example:

* 9 t-shirts (3, maybe 4, that I could wear in public)
* 5 CDs of music
* 3 magazines (including the one I work on)
* 2 guides to Boston
* 1 guide to South Beach, Miami
* 2 plastic cups
* 1 pint glass
* 1 sports bottle
* 1 wiffle ball
* 1 block of post-it notes
* 1 mouse pad
* 1 copy of today’s Boston Globe
… but only 1 magnet.
I also won some Play-Dough, but I gave that back.

Still, I was struck by how lame College Fest had become. I expected to be there for at least a couple of hours, to learn some valuable stuff, and come home with two bags bursting with stuff, just like I used to. I mean, despite all that, I still had room for a bit more. Oh well. I guess times have changed.

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