Even before its doors open, this year's CES has made headlines for the number of women scheduled for its individual keynote addresses. (There aren't any.) That, coupled with the fallout from sexual harrassment allegations in the tech and ad industries, will likely put diversity under a microscope at this week's massive conference in Las Vegas. Executives in technology and advertising also anticipate a focus on the increasingly connected nature of devices and the AI, software and blockchain technologies powering them.
We asked six executives what they're most excited to see at this year's conference—and what they're not looking forward to. Then check out daily video coverage at "Ad Age @ CES".
VP, head of innovation technology, 360i
Hype: Harris, who says voice was the star of the show last year, says this year he hopes CES builds on that with product integration. "What I'm hoping is that we'll see more intelligent voice devices and stuff really driven by AI and machine learning—I'm really excited about that."
Gripe: We've hit "peak TV," Harris says. Well, sort of. "When you walk into the showroom and they have these beautiful television sets, you get sort of mesmerized," he says. "In my heart, I think this is dumb. I already have a great TV, I don't need a half-inch thinner TV." But he says that's not likely to last when he sees the Hot New Thing. "I'm guaranteed to contradict myself there."
Founder, chair and CEO, BrightLine (advanced TV advertising company)
Hype: Corbelli says she's most looking forward to the "C-Space" at CES and how technology is influencing advertising and entertainment. In the world of over-the-top, or streaming, media, and the internet-connected TV space, she says, "so much has happened" this year. She adds that 2017 showed there are real solutions coming in areas like measurement, attribution and addressing fraud that media companies, advertisers and tech companies are watching closely.
Gripe: Getting around the conference, and how it takes at least half an hour to get from one place to another—whether it's to someone's suite or to another show space on the floor. "It's the only real drag on CES," Corbelli says.
CEO, OMD U.S.
Hype: Osborn says he's interested in seeing more partnerships pairing tech providers with companies like consumer goods manufacturers and service providers. "I look forward to hearing about partnerships that I wouldn't have expected," he says. Oh, and one more thing he's excited about? Robots. "Is this year the year they're really going to break through and truly become a part of culture?" he asks. "Time will tell."
Gripe: Too much to do, too little time. "The sheer volume and the sheer quantity—it's impossible to take it all in," he says.
Senior VP of strategy and digital, MKTG
Hype: Blawie admits he's a sucker for the theatrics and is most excited for the CES presentations that bring new innovations to life. He says it's a good reminder that showing still matters—people still want to see, touch, feel and experience before making a purchase or investing in something. "Showrooms will make sense in every world, even if everything is done through Amazon," he says.
Gripe: Shiny objects without showing how they'll provide value in branding. "I am very much about, 'Let me see the product; let me see an interesting brand proposition even if it's not real,'" he says. "I want to see how it can smartly apply to a real brand, culturally relevant moment or actually complement something people do."
Senior VP of product leadership, Nielsen
Hype: Abcarian says she's excited to further explore the interplay of AI and machine learning that drives intelligence behind making devices personalized and contextual. Understanding how those worlds intersect and how Nielsen's capabilities fit in are going to be a priority this year at CES, she says.
Gripe: Two innovations have been overhyped in past years, and might be again: VR and AR. Though they have had success in gaming, they haven't had much outgrowth in other areas, she says. "It's going to be really interesting to see if there's new announcements from major players in that space," she says, "or if that hype" continues.
Senior VP of investment for North America, Essence
Hype: This CES, Gerber has his ear out for voice. "The integration of voice recognition into the home is going to be transformational in terms of how people navigate content on their screens," he says. "And it's going to be fairly disruptive to the measurement space in terms of how media consumption is measured."
Gripe: Though connected home holds a lot of promise, he thinks it probably won't go full-steam even this year. "It's going to take a long time for people to wrap their heads around how they can use more of the connected home," Gerber says. "For the mainstream household, I'm not sure that connected devices are critical things that are going to scale quickly. It's going to take time for people to figure out reasons they need those solutions."