CES is always a convergence of innovation, bringing together some of the brightest minds in technology from around the world. The massive exhibit halls are zoned into loose categories to group exhibitors from AARP to Zagg, with the major players housed in the Las Vegas Convention Center, up and comers and international and start-up invention booths in one hotel, and media-focused players in another. And in between are myriad “off campus” activations and panel discussions created by vendors to trade associations.
To make a little sense of it, I brought a few of the bright minds I know from marketing, and advertising to offer additional perspectives and walk and talk together. (Of course we had tried to talk over the din or manage to walk after cocktails at many receptions by Pinterest, DoubleVerify / SeeHer, Progress Partners and others, but meandering among the 140,000 attendees in the conference centers was easier.)
After a solo stroll past myriad media booths (TikTok featured its new Live Shopping, er, live, and Netflix had its first-ever large display), I met up first with David Berkowitz, a serial marketer and, in fact, founder of both the Serial Marketers networking group and the new AI Marketing Guild. We explored the Eureka Park section, which David describes accurately, if playfully, as the, “cutting edge, breakthrough, anything goes, bare-knuckle startup playground.”
Tech That Matters…and Doesn’t
We compared the oddest inventions we’d each seen: for David it was the robot that does manicures. For me it was the “cat bouncer” – a way to lock your cat out of the house if it shows up with the gift of a mouse in mouth. As David said, “You see a lot of the weird, a lot of companies you’re never going to hear from again.” But he pointed out that “CES is ultimately about people’s lives, about people’s lifestyles,” forecasting or at least influencing how we may shop, drive, and even communicate in the near term. “That,” he added, “is the tech that matters.”
Of that, he was intrigued by “anything marketers care about, that creates a ‘win win’ for the brand and the consumer,” even if driving a purchase thru AI product recommendations. By way of example, he mentioned PerfectCorp out of Taiwan, with a growing presence in the US, which can analyze your face “and give you some real insight that maybe you never had. Your dermatologist might not have access to this tech yet but you can get it on a consumer app, which is crazy.”
Between that and the manicure robot you might think he’s Beauty category obsessed, but David is just a good observer of what’s new and next…including, for example, an Israeli tech company that is enabling AR in Zoom rooms. (Lawyers with cat faces need not apply.)
We took a look and a listen to two audio offerings, both from Japan: NTT Sonority, a start-up division of a $100B company, has formulated “personalized sound zone technology” with earbuds that sit on versus in your ear to for good sound without blocking the outside world. And, SoundFun’s Mirai speaker boosts conversation tones in TV programming to hear what the robbers in the screeching getaway car are actually saying, for example. (Thank you!)
“It’s so refreshing that there are so many countries represented,” noted David, and at that moment out of thousands of attendees our mutual friend – and my old coworker from MediaVillage — Jeff Minsky (of the land called New York) walked by.
The Magic of Media at the Tech Show
Jeff is also evidence of the preponderance of CES attendees from the media and marketing industry, giving companies like MediaLink and DPAA the rationale for having their own well-attended offsite panels. For example, Prohaska Consulting featured speakers like CRO Brian Norris of E.W. Scripps speaking to new research on the Rebranding of News.
“As an industry that has done things a certain way we were ‘set it and forget it.’ Marketers should “play” in order to create magic around engagement. We should give our agencies the chance to play and breathe to allow the creative process and AI to go places we might not have thought of.”
Fusing Tech Innovation and Marketing Insights
Continuing from what David tee’d up, Jeff pointed out that “CES is a microcosm of the global economy. In the beginning, we had RCA and Magnavox, so America was the core center. Then you had Japan with Sony and Toshiba. And now you see China all over the event.”
Jeff, well known in the agency and media worlds after a tenure at Omnicom now founder of consultancy MediaWhiz, LLC, is a longtime CES attendee. But even he was wow’d by South Korea’s impressive SK booth presence. “SK Group — a multinational conglomerate involved in lots of businesses — has a huge presence. I mean, their display has to be a half-acre and have cost a million plus dollars. They have a train, E.B.. You can get on a train.”
Evolving Media Landscapes: The Influence of Sustainable Technology
I was a little more wow’d by their applause-worthy focus on sustainability efforts, with their entire “Wonderland” themed booth – including the zero emission train – based on renewable energy (and, of course, AI.) I did have to acknowledge their own sphere, though, too.
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know of the digital signage meets entertainment sensation of the Sphere of Las Vegas. Well, SK has their own sphere on their show floor, which as our media maven Jeff pointed out had even better resolution that the city version.
That’s not the only digital out of home that impressed though. Sometimes just getting back to basics can also wow. CES first-timer and media sales exec Kathy Newberger may have been impressed by the 2million square feet of convention floor but as a fellow fan of DOOH, the “simple things” visible even from her hotel room also floored her.
High-Tech, Low-Tech and Marketing Insights
“One of my favorite takeaways had nothing to do with tech,” said Kathy. “It was all about creativity, using the limitations of the canvas in front of you. The canvas, in this case, was the side of the Luxor hotel, which is shaped like a pyramid. Doritos placed a simple static digital ad on one side the triangle. It was just a graphic but it became a giant tortilla chip.”
That said, the more tech-forward tactics were not lost on her and her keen eye for innovation and accessibility on display. She appreciated AARP’s “Freestyle Plus,” an adoption of “Freestyle Love Supreme” into improv-meets-tech to help keep older brains engaged. And we both were intrigued by glasses that close-caption speech for the hearing impaired, and BHaptic’s sensory gloves to FEEL what’s happening in metaverse.
Of course, those tools will hopefully never replace the “IRL” walking and talking and engaging with real humans, as it’s the collective thinking and emotional quotient that helps create our brave, new world. For example, one of my favorite experiences was the annual walking tour of the main floor, conducted by Shelley Zalis of the Female Quotient. She started that effort with a handful of women 10 years ago, when a woman walking through CES was rare in a sea of male engineers. This year, we were 500-strong walking together. And that is progress.
Note: You can catch the full conversations on these takeaways from CES2024 via a bonus episode of Insider Interviews with E.B. Moss podcast wherever you listen to B2B podcasts, or at: https://bit.ly/Insider-CES24Observations