In a world where everything at CES is blogged, posted on YouTube or tweeted, you could be excused for questioning the value of making the trek to the scrum in Las Vegas each January.
But the difference between attending CES and reading about it is like the difference between going to a football game and watching it on TV. Like a football game, actually, CES offers massive crowds, underwhelming food and good odds you'll miss something from your limited perspective. All that said, however, nothing beats just being there.
The visibility and insight you garner from being up close to the players, sharing conversations with other knowledgeable spectators and the encounters outside the main event, in my mind, make this a "must attend" venue for marketers.
So why is CES a valuable event and what does it bring for marketers?
It's a tech show, but really it's about understanding how content will be consumed
CES 2012 really hammered home to me just how technology and media continue to intersect in new ways. Tablets, smartphones, notebooks, TVs and the odd internet-enabled fridge are portals to entertainment, media and social interactivity. Smart mobile devices are poised to become the lead media consumption platform sooner or later. With a truckload of smarter, interconnected, smaller and cheaper mobile devices being showcased at CES, consumers will expect content to be smarter, on the go and 24/7. This is disrupting the way marketers have to think about creating and distributing marketing content.
But consumers are also going to be seeking free content to make the most of their new devices' capabilities. I predict this will be the biggest opportunity for marketers in 2012.
There's value in getting wet
Across their busy work schedules, marketers have been accustomed to getting information in drips: The odd article off a news feed, a chance meeting or visit by a vendor, a one-off panel at a conference or a half-year agency update on the latest media trends. Information comes dribbling in like a leaky tap. But CES is like standing under a high-pressure shower head that immediately gets you totally soaked. That's when you really start to immerse in the media world and think more about taking action instead of being a spectator.
Speed dating ... CES style
It's what happens outside the exhibit halls that really adds value to the week. The likes of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft and Twitter were all in attendance again this year, bringing their top execs to town. The clients that chose to attend the conference got to hear firsthand the latest offerings in a Silicon Valley-meets-upfronts-style event. I was impressed with AOL's Huffpo HD, its venture into online social TV, a fresh alternative to a tired television model in need of updating. There were plenty of sidebar conversations that offered more individual and specific conversations for clients' brands.
A chance to set New Year's resolutions
Because CES takes place in early January, it gives marketers and agencies the opportunity to jointly engage in discussions at the start of a new year and lay down some resolutions. It's a great platform to set some big goals about how you're going to change and embrace the shifting landscape ... a potential catalyst to make one or two big ideas happen.
I'll see you again next year.