Once again, the tech industry converged in the desert to showcase gaudy tech and schmooze at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show. Here are five key takeaways for marketers from the spectacle in Las Vegas that has become a magnet for growing numbers of trend-seeking advertisers, media people and agency executives.
Next-gen TVs are only as good as the content they can play
Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and LG were among the TV manufacturers displaying their latest wares sporting such high resolutions -- 4K, 8K, OLED, glass-less 3-D -- that you almost forget you're looking at a moving picture in a glass screen. The problem is, like many things in Sin City, the picture really only looks this good in Las Vegas. While companies like Netflix and DirecTV have begun to offer video shot in these higher resolutions, most of the shows available today are shot in lower resolutions.
Expect more joint marketing from brands
Some of the biggest showstoppers at CES weren't electronics; they were cars. Mercedes, Ford, Audi and BMW each had a sizable presence, introducing "smartcar" tricks like self-parking and driverless vehicles. And as more connected automotive features arrive, so will joint-marketing efforts: In its press conference, AT&T announced partnerships with Subaru and Samsung.
CES also hosted another category newcomer. Intel touted its smart bracelet, and representatives from Chanel and Neiman Marcus paced the floor, where wearable tech showed that it is moving toward -- and, often, in desperate need of -- fashion.
The internet of things is a data mine…
In media circles, chatter centered on how consumption is growing more and more personalized. And with the rising number of wearable and connected devices, so are the reams of information available to advertisers from the Internet of Things (IoT). Irwin Gotlieb, GroupM global chairman and a CES institution, noted the untold benefits of "highly granular data" from connected tech for marketers. "We're only beginning to sort through the potential," he told Ad Age. "Every time there's another layer of new technology, it just portends a great level of opportunity."
...but it may be stuck in in walled gardens
Still, getting that data isn't guaranteed. Samsung, one of the largest exhibitors, centered its booth on its IoT section. Scores of companies showed off internet-connected TVs, watches, refrigerators, washing machines and even beds. The promise of those internet-connected things is that they can talk to each other.
The reality is they might not. For starters, people will need to replace their existing appliances with connected versions, which means IoT depends upon how often people buy a new fridge or dishwasher. Another concern is whether the Apple-Google war of mobile operating systems will extend to all things connected, meaning people will have to decide whether their connected homes will be Apple or Google houses. "There's enough fluff," said Sean Lyons, Havas Worldwide's global chief digital officer. "It's great, but so nascent."
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
The show-floor matters less and less. What big companies announce -- and even their presence -- is not as significant as the deals that are struck. Two of the hottest consumer-electronics brands in the market today created plenty of buzz without even showing up. As it always has, Apple sat out CES. Yet its soon-to-be-released watch -- and its market impact -- was a hot topic among attendees. Xiaomi, the Chinese manufacturer with gangbuster growth was also noticeably absent.