The fifth ComplexCon is still about a month away, but it already looks like it could set new revenue records for Complex Networks, the youth culture publisher that BuzzFeed announced plans to acquire earlier this year.

Ticket sales, which range from $80 to $500 each, are already up more than 10% from 2019. The company declined to say how many people attended that year, but 60,000 attended in 2018. And brand sponsorship revenue, the fashion and entertainment confab’s main source of revenue, is also set to hit an all-time high, with sponsors still asking if there’s room to participate, said Edgar Hernandez, Chief Revenue Officer of Complex Networks. In 2019, ComplexCon Chicago reportedly generated $40 million in revenue.

Some of these advertisers fall into categories that Complex has long considered assets, including entertainment. But ComplexCon, which takes place Nov. 6-7 in Long Beach, Calif., will also feature some new ad category activations this year, including a fintech company that plans to drop NFT.

The rise of the delta variant gave the whole world a boost of uncertainty at the end of this summer, sending increasingly confident media and publicity into a moment of anxiety. But early feedback from Complex shows there’s real upside potential for brands willing to stick to the events their audience wants.

“Understanding whether it’s safe to do so or not has been as volatile as looking at cryptocurrency,” Hernandez said. “But we knew the public wanted it.”

Like most event-producing companies, Complex has filed its plans for ComplexCon in 2020, instead turning to a virtual alternative, ComplexLand, which Complex has held twice. ComplexLand drew more than 700,000 attendees, and it was profitable, Hernandez said — thanks in part to its significantly lower overhead — and Complex plans to continue scheduling virtual events. Some of ComplexLand’s activation features will carry over to this year’s ComplexCon, including an augmented reality feature that will help attendees find an exclusive product.

But a virtual event does not replace reality. “What we saw in the comments [about ComplexLand] was, ‘It’s amazing, but when is ComplexCon coming back?’ Said Hernandez.

To gauge the overall public appetite, Complex surveyed its consumer insights panel, Complex Collective, which has 30,000 active members, earlier this year, and began discussions with brands shortly after. .

The event itself will be a little different from previous years, in part to accommodate changes made for health and safety reasons.

In addition to adhering to local California regulations — all ticket holders must either be vaccinated or provide proof of PCR or negative antigen tests to be admitted, for example — booths will be more spaced out, a significant consideration for an event. who knows how to cram sellers: 170 brands sold products at ComplexCon in 2019.

Hernandez said the additional health and safety measures implemented this year “changed the P&L,” driving costs up double digits; Hernandez wouldn’t provide a more specific number.

Even with those extra precautions in place, Complex had a bit of control at the end of the summer. The rise of the delta variant, after months of easing public health guidelines and falling case numbers, has spooked several sponsors, Hernandez said, leaving them just weeks to make up the shortfall.

This sudden hesitation spilled over into the media in August. Several experiential agencies say many events that publishers and brands had planned for fall and winter 2021 have either been scuttled or postponed to next year.

Not all publishers could survive these changes in the hearts of advertisers. Barely a month after Refinery29 announced that its flagship winter event, 29 Rooms, would return in 2021, the company backtracked, pushing the event back to 2022.

Provided all goes well, plans to release ComplexCon outside of the United States could continue into 2022. But Hernandez and his colleagues want to make sure this one goes smoothly first. “You don’t want to tarnish a brand that we’ve built over the last five years,” Hernandez said.

How Complex Networks brought its culture festival ComplexCon back into real life