All Together Now: The CES Effect - Michael Kassan - MediaBizBloggers

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When MediaLink was launched in 2004, the buzz at that year’s CES (then still frequently referred to as the “Consumer Electronics Show”) revolved around exotica like WiFi for home entertainment and DVRs, then in a mere 3.2 million American homes. Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina gave a keynote address.

If any non-technology marketers attended CES 2004, nobody noticed.

At this year’s CES, the chatter was dominated by smart TVs, tablets and 3D everything. DVRs now are in well over 30 million households. Former California gubernatorial candidate Carly Fiorina did not give a keynote address.

But non-technology marketers did attend CES 2011, and everybody noticed.

In Las Vegas last week, we organized and moderated a panel that included Joe Tripodi, CMO of Coca-Cola (who brought his entire marketing team); the leaders of two of the top four holding companies, WPP’s Martin Sorrell and Interpublic’s Michael Roth; David Kenny, president of Akami; and Mich Mathews, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Central Marketing Group. The first three are not people you’d normally associate with a high-desert geekathon, and although Mich and David work at technology companies, they didn’t join us to talk gizmos, gadgets and software but to share their perspectives as marketing thought leaders.

A few days prior, we hosted an intimate gathering of 900 friends, clients, media and technology executives at our CES kick-off party and it was fascinating to see the ease with which such a diverse group of technology, entertainment, marketing and media players co-mingled. Another client, News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch, raised a glass to toast the fact that media enterprises like his now routinely work with technology companies early on in the product development process.

It began with clients coming to Cannes. Then they set up shot at Hollywood and Vine. But the take-away from the high-profile presence of marketers and media companies at CES 2011, I think, is even more indicative. This is the turning point we have been working towards with our clients for more than half a decade. The moment when we stop talking about blurring the lines between media, marketing and entertainment because there are no more lines.

In 2004, we knew the silos everyone complained about had to fall. That the boundaries separating buyer from seller, creator from distributor, client from agency and all from the consumer would disappear. We knew that technology, then so strange and frightening, would eventually become just different, albeit unimaginably more powerful, tools. And that what we called the nexus back then would soon morph into just…business.

The forces turning the marketplace into an ecosystem would not recede. They would, in fact, accelerate. Everything had to be re-engineered: relationships with vendors, partners, competitors and customers, organizational structures, content creation and distribution, skill sets and core competencies.

We were all working towards the moment when the transformation would be complete and everybody just got on with it. That’s what CES 2011 signaled. That’s why such seemingly disparate players from so many apparently different sectors connected so effortlessly. And why shouldn’t they?

We’re all in the same business, after all.

Much work remains before us as technology, media, marketing and entertainment continues to evolve to meet the demands of the 21st Century. If there’s anything we’ve learned from life in the digital age, it’s that the only constant is change.

After all, nobody at CES 2004 knew that a mere one month after the show, a kid at Harvard named Mark Zuckerberg would launch something he called

Michael E. Kassan is Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, LLC, a leading Los Angeles and New York City-based advisory and business development firm that provides critical counsel and direction on issues of marketing, advertising, media, entertainment and digital technology. Michael can be reached at

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