CES Deserves a New Name – Adam Chandler

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This year, brands and media dominated the stage at the biggest show in Vegas.

I’ve attended CES for 10 years as a digital media seller. While it’s always been invaluable for developing relationships, the role of technology in marketing and media has been largely peripheral as a topic.

This year, though, brand and media technology took center stage. This is an important change for our business. Technology changes how consumers experience our brands, and we need conferences like CES to put this emerging dynamic on display.

Moderator Michael Kassan (Media Link) opened the “Entertainment Matters” panel with the observation that there were many more marketers in the audience than usual. Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Group responded, “Are you suggesting CES is a technological Cannes?” Sorrell went on to state that technology companies are media owners themselves, prompting Coca-Cola CMO Joe Tripodi to refer to his brand as a network that reaches millions of people per day.

Even the automakers, typically conservative in marketing, are seeing their customers as networks and moving into media ownership. CEO Alan Mulally said Ford is embracing developers to create its own applications ecosystem. The intent, he said, is to offer drivers technology that enhances personal experience. For a marketplace long characterized by incremental feature improvements, this is nothing short of revolutionary.

The front-end collaboration between marketers, agencies, and technology companies, evident in branded applications and devices, represents the first step in a massive realignment. “CMO’s and CTO’s need to spend more time together,” said David Kenny, CEO of Akamai. “Because when they do, that’s when the magic happens.” Sorrell admitted that agencies need to get savvier in both front end applications and in the “pipework of the systems”—the backend operating technologies that drive mass-customized experiences.

That’s a universe away from storyboarding a TV spot. So is the social marketing thrust of Kodak, where Thomas Hoehn, director of interactive and convergence media, just appointed a “Chief Listener”. The Listener’s role: curate online conversation around the brand. By listening to social media conversation, Hoehn said, Kodak has sped up product enhancements. For instance, the Zi8 pocket video camera responds directly to customers commenting on social networks they wished their cameras had an external microphone jack, a flexible USB port, and image stabilization.

The bold new frontier in consumer electronics is branded systems, from media applications to customer intelligence. Maybe it’s time to change the name to CEMS: The Consumer Electronics & Media Show. After all, that combination will be pulling marketing chiefs to Vegas for Januarys to come.

Adam Chandler (adam@martini-corp.com) is Chief Revenue Officer of Martini Media, a network of more than 1,200 enthusiast websites, reaching 65 million affluent adults ($100K+) in the U.S. and abroad.

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