Consumer Electronics Show

CES: Keith Weed on Virtual Assistants and Shopping Cars

Unilever CMO Is at CES 'Trying to Understand Where the Whole Market Is Going'

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Keith Weed
Keith Weed

With the overwhelming amount of technology on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, even CES veterans like Unilever CMO Keith Weed turn to "curated" floor tours. Ad Age ran into Mr. Weed as he was about to embark on such a tour led by MediaLink, which was also providing what it calls "client journeys" for JP Morgan Chase, Moet, Coty, Verizon, Coke, L'Oreal and others.

So what's a packaged-goods giant doing at a technology trade show?

"Trying to understand where the whole market is going," said Mr. Weed, who added that he and his company are focusing on three specific things this year: artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and virtual reality.

On the subject of AI, Mr. Weed said that "life's getting too busy. … We're going to have things to help us in our day to day lives." He predicted that consumers would all be using some sort of virtual assistant in the near future. He pointed to "Chef Wendy," which helps Knorr brand consumers figure out what's for dinner.

Regarding IoT, Mr. Weed said, "We've been talking about IoT for years and years," but it's only now becoming a reality. And Unilever is looking beyond the obvious things like smart kitchens and appliances that can be filled with Unilever soap and food products. Like cars.

"Cars are increasingly computers on wheels," he said. "At the end of the day, what do cars do? Cars drive past supermarkets." He then described a scenario in which a car is alerted to a sale on Ben & Jerry's, which your smart fridge just pointed out you were running low on.

He didn't offer any specific scenarios for brands in the VR space, but said he found the prospects exciting.

"If you want to get to the future first," he added. "You've got to have a point of view."

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