TBWA chief finds hope at CES: 'The Jetsons are pretty close'
Troy Ruhanen has been coming to CES for more years than he can count, but you won’t catch him getting cynical. The CEO of TBWA Worldwide comes to meet with existing clients, sure, and possibly poach a few new ones.
But where he really finds inspiration is walking Eureka Park, the startup showcase at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas. For all of technology’s ills, he says, the industry as a whole trends toward goodness and problem-solving. Ad Age caught up with him as he was winding down his trip.
What are you looking for at CES?
If I’m being fully transparent about it, our intention here is to connect with our existing clients and obviously see them on display at this important time for them. It’s a great thing to start the year off that way. Selfishly, it’s also about connecting with potential new clients. There are a lot of people in the same place at the same time, and it’s not a coincidence that I’m here.
What tech at CES excites you this year?
A lot of people have talked about the ills of technology—all the things that are going wrong, the bad behaviors, habits, privacy, whatnot. But if you walk the floor … it’s a real demonstration of how people are trying to solve world problems with technology. There’s so much effort on wellness as a whole—whether it’s around safety, whether it’s around privacy, whether it’s around using AI for bettering your skin, even around sleep deprivation. Everyone was coming at it saying we can solve problems using technology for good. I felt quite good about that.
Name an over-hyped piece of tech.
Right now it’s 5G. It’s definitely a big conversation because the potential is fantastic, but it’s a little early. Coming on board three years time, yes, it’s going to be great. It’s going to be a richer experience for us. All the capabilities of augmented reality and virtual reality will get enhanced. But it’s super early still.
Influencer. Voice. Where are we going with AR and VR right now? All those things are becoming much more real. You’re really starting to see them come through. Solutions around that need to be brought to the fore. More clients and agencies need to be saying, “Where is this is in our customer journey plan right now?” The customer is there and we’re not there really with our marketing efforts.
Any predictions for 2020?
The debate is still going to be hot around data and privacy. We’re going into an election year so it’s really going to be a lot around that in America. If you want to spend an hour of your time, go look at the CES panel that was on privacy. Really fantastic. But I think with privacy, I think we have to give a little slack to companies. There are a lot of them that have all the right intentions. It’s just not that easy.
What’s your favorite CES memory?
The first time I really started to interact with a drone. The possibility of what that meant in terms of where we’re going to be with autonomous travel. All that stuff. It’s not that far away. "The Jetsons" are pretty close.