Welcome to my pre-CES 2016 column. :)

There had to be hundreds of articles written this year about marketing and media executives coming to CES, but there's a lot more behind the "how and why" the extravaganza has morphed from a "nerd curio into a bonanza for marketers, agencies and media organizations," as David Carr noted in The New York Times.

At MediaLink, we have a unique perspective of the lens through which marketers view the show because we helped develop the Brand Matters program at CES. Indeed, the program was born out of the recognition that brands and media companies have a more substantive agenda for coming to Vegas than just seeing the latest gadgets.

Rather, they come to CES now because the show has become a dynamic marketplace of conversation, and a showroom of innovation.

Said simply, CES is now a part of the core curriculum for what Joe Tripodi calls "marketing organizations that are committed to being learning organizations." Brands are in Vegas to gain insights into where the ecosystem is and where it's going. It's not about the 3D pastry printer (although there's nothing wrong with that).

For instance, Brand Matters programming this year focused on such topics as the relationship between creativity and technology, whether acquisition is the best strategy to deliver personalization, and other topics that businesses in any industry wrestle with every day. (In full disclosure, we helped plan the sessions in response to our partners' interest in having those discussions.)

The truth is that the smart marketing money knows where it wants to play (and with whom) before it even sets foot in the high desert. Marketers don't come to CES in a vacuum, hoping for inspiration. On the contrary, they arrive with a fairly well-defined sense of what they will be looking for on the show floor and what they want to accomplish strategically. Those priorities do not hit the headlines.

For example, this was the first year we saw significant interest in education technology (and how to access the massive audiences flocking to online courses), yet they were no-shows in show media coverage.

The media does focus on one question each year: Why do brands and their agencies go to CES?

For those committed to innovation, the real question is: How can they afford not to go?

Michael E. Kassan helps bridge the gaps between media, marketers, and technologists. Kassan founded MediaLink in 2003 to be a transformational partner to the world's leading media, marketing, and Michael Kassantechnology companies. Bringing these groups together while balancing strategic insight with pragmatic execution, MediaLink guides its clients through an increasingly fragmented media landscape.

As Chairman and CEO, Kassan has led the firm's expansion from strategic advisory into multiple business lines including executive search, financial due diligence, agency benchmarking/reviews, and trade marketing. With a culture focused on both confidentiality and transparency, MediaLink now sits at the epicenter of major cross-industry initiatives and legislation helping to build consensus between government, marketers, and publishers.

Michael can be reached at michael@medialink.com

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