While in years past brands might have approached CES with
wide-eyed wonder, this year they're coming to Vegas with a
more-focused agenda. "Today brand marketers are coming with a much
clearer picture of what they want to achieve," said MediaLink CEO
Michael Kassan. "It's not the exploratory stage. They know what
they're there for."
The past few shows have largely focused on 3-D and connected TVs,
but this year it's about one word: wearables. "The real specific
agenda is 'We need to understand wearables: what's real, what's not
real and how people are going to use this,'" Mr. Kassan said.
They'll have plenty to take in: wearable devices will take up
two times the space on the show floor as last year, said Chad
Stoller, managing partner, IPG Media Lab. "And you can be sure to
see health-care companies surrounding them," he said.
David Berkowitz, CMO of Publicis Groupe's MRY, said he will be looking out for
internet-enabled watches and headgear. Scott Hess, senior VP-human
intelligence, Spark SMG, said he'll be looking less at smartwatches
and more at activity-tracking devices like Fitbit and FuelBand.
CES has begun to attract non-tech marketers in numbers. This
year, Kimberly- Clark Corp. will send more than 60 execs to Las
Vegas, the company's first major commitment to the show -- or the
show around the show.
The marketer, which owns brands like Kleenex, Huggies diapers
and Scott toilet paper, will host an innovation competition in
conjunction with WPP's Mindshare Worldwide in an effort to identify
and support startups that might help them better connect with
"CES is the world's premiere showcase for innovation and how
technology can evolve consumers' lives and daily experiences," said
Mayur Gupta, global head of marketing technology at K-C, who noted
that the company doesn't believe in digital marketing, but rather
building brands in a digital world.
K-C isn't on the hunt for specific technologies in any one
particular category, but Mr. Gupta will keep an eye out for tech
that can enhance consumer experiences, a heady goal for a marketer
of toilet paper.
Now that so many agencies, brands and media sellers converge, CES
becomes valuable for the same reason Cannes and South by Southwest
did: because everyone else is there. Rather than schedule meetings
with execs and partners spread among many states over several
months, agencies and companies like Google, Yahoo, NBC and Facebook
can pack them all into one week on the strip.
"There are probably two to three times a year where the entire
industry is in one location -- execs on the media side, the tech
side, the platform side -- and CES has become one of those," GE
digital-marketing chief Linda Boff said.
CES has become the official kickoff to deal-making and a way to
gather employees to set an agenda for the new year. "CES, in many
ways, is the first opportunity that technology, media and consumer
companies have to come together and talk about what the year is
going to look like," said Yahoo Chief Marketing Officer Kathy
This year will mark Yahoo's second CES under CEO Marissa Mayer
and it's biggest. Last year the company's presence was fairly
quiet. Yahoo didn't make an effort to dominate CES with giant
booths or lavish keynote speeches. But a lot has changed in a year.
This time Yahoo looks to be one of the faces of CES, as underscored
by Ms. Mayer's keynote on Tuesday. Aside from Ms. Mayer and Ms.
Savitt, several of Yahoo's top execs, including Chief Operating
Officer Henrique De Castro; Chief Development Officer (aka the
acquisitive company's chief dealmaker) Jackie Reses; Head of the
Americas Ned Brody; and senior VP-mobile and emerging products Adam
Cahan will be among the roughly 100 employees the company is
sending to Vegas.
The 'unofficial' show
It's hard to know how many marketing professionals attend CES. The
Consumer Electronics Association says
5,000 people registered for its "Brand Matters" programming last
year, up from 4,800 in 2012. That doesn't include anyone just
attending CES and those who don't register at all because they have
no intention of actually going to the Las Vegas Convention
For brands, the real business of CES occurs in private hotel
suites and during intimate dinners, where the industry's elite
gather to hammer out deals and strategies that will be later
publicized in headlines throughout the year.
GE will host a private dinner for its contingent of roughly 27
execs and invite eight or nine startups to join. Similarly many
companies reserve hotel rooms to confidentially brief partners on
their latest products and upcoming business plans.
Yahoo will once again host meetings at The Cosmopolitan, while Clear Channel will be
next door at the Aria.
Clear Channel's iHeartRadio digital-radio service has made a point
of coming to CES since its 2011 relaunch. "CES is the Super Bowl of
media and technology," said Brian Lakamp, president-digital, Clear
Channel Media and Entertainment.
With all the wheeling-and-dealing, it may be easy to ignore the
actual CES show floor. Some may intentionally -- and forgivably --
avoid the 2-million-square-feet of exhibit space that last year was
overrun with 152,759 humans and 3,282 exhibitors.
When it comes to the show floor, agencies and media companies
stumble over one another to be "curators" of the experience for
brands that would like to convert into clients or advertisers.
No one really knows the origin of the "floor tour," but
GroupM CEO Irwin Gotlieb, a Vegas regular
since 1979 (attending Comdex before CES) started doing them for
clients in 2003.
CNET owner CBS and Engadget
parent AOL have found it's nice to own a media property that
specializes in all things CES. To capitalize on that role, AOL will
host a "Best of CES" event that presents the awards finalists to
marketer and agency execs. "What we saw was a need to curate and
create context for what is happening in Las Vegas," said AOL
Advertising CMO Erika Nardini.