Last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is possibly the leading event of the year for the advertising and media industry. Ironically, there was little intrinsic value in the event itself for our community. Most ad industry executives attending either spent no time on the convention center floor or limited their attendance to one of several choreographed and limited tours. Several executives acknowledged there were no truly innovative breakthrough technologies at the show that are relevant to the future of advertising. If not for a keynote address by Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and the MediaLink-organized Brand Matters panels and keynotes, CES would have had little industry relevance except as a gathering place where agencies, marketers and media sellers can meet for four days amid the hype and hoopla of the world's largest home and auto electronics trade show. Industry execs who attended Mayer's keynote (a packed house but few recognizable faces from marketers and agencies) agreed that she shifted perceptions of the company and it was her most impressive outing to date. She was joined onstage by Katie Couric, John Legend, David Pogue (who recently joined the company from The New York Times), and Saturday Night Live's Cecily Strong and Kenen Thompson . Yahoo's emphasis on mobile was the key highlight of the presentation.
Two years ago, Group M chairman Irwin Gotlieb pointed out, "The major advances and announcements at CES were evolutionary, not revolutionary." Double down on Gotlieb's point in 2014. A big deal this year was Samsung's curved TV, which the company itself trumped with its flexible retracting curved TV, giving the viewer the option of curved or flat. It was as if one Samsung executive loved the curved TV and another didn't, so they compromised and created both in a single TV set. Somewhat absurd, frankly.
Like last year, I spent much of my floor time at Eureka Park at the Venetian Hotel, the home for innovative early stage products that are still a few years away from main floor status. Last year I discovered a dozen companies that had developed early stage advances worthy of reporting to my readers. You can read last year's coverage here . This year, I toured Eureka Park with former Optimedia and Meredith executive Greg Kahn, and we agreed that not one company was focused on serving – or generating revenues from – advertising or media related businesses.
That's an amazing shift from just two year ago when several major electronics firms including LG, Intel and Samsung were touting themselves as "content distribution" companies and were looking toward building or serving advertising-based businesses. Both Intel and AT&T have actively moved away from advertising-based businesses and not one tech company was focused on content this year.
That's not to say CES didn't impress. CES had more than 3,200 exhibitors with more than 150,000 attendees, the largest ever. LG's massive 3D ultra-high-definition TVs dominated the entrance to the Las Vegas Convention Center's Central Hall. AOL's Engadget, which replacedCNET as the official voice of CES, identified 14 Best of CES 2014 products, including Sony's PlayStation Now game-streaming service, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact smartphone, the Valve Steam Machine game consoles and the MakerBot Replicator desktop 3D printer. Engadget's Best of the Best Award was presented to the Oculus Rift "Crystal Cove" prototype virtual-reality headset, which MyersBizNet introduced to our members in July 2013
The highlights of most CES floor tours led by Shelly Palmer, Group M's Gotlieb and others included curved and bendable TVs, wearable devices and smartphone advanced technologies, health and wellness apps and technologies, Ultra HD (4K) TVs, Toyota's one-person car and connected advances in auto technology, glasses-free 3D TVs, 3D printing from MakerBot, evolutionary tablet and mobile devices, and smart home digital advances. Many agency and advertiser execs at the show also stopped by the Scripps tent outside the Convention Center.
At Eureka Park, among 200 companies the top three winners chosen by a panel of professional angel investors representing the New York Angels and the Las Vegas Angel community, as reported by Showstopper's Launch It were:
· Touchjet - A precise touch enabled pico projector, with a built-in Android OS that transforms any empty wall into interactive 80-inch tablet. The company's first product Touch Pico makes a white board experience widely available across educational, entertainment and industrial industries.
· FINsix - A laptop adapter that is four times smaller and six times lighter than today's technology. FINsix is commercializing a groundbreaking power conversion technology that enables a 10x reduction in size (or equivalently, 10x higher power density) while maintaining high efficiency.
· Chromation - The smallest, cheapest way to add reliable color measurement to your device. Chromation is commercializing a proprietary low cost sensor for handheld color and light measurement.
The CES highlights for most ad industry attendees are the back-to-back meetings held in hotels up and down the Strip; MediaLink's Brand Matters panels, party and Conde Nast sponsored dinner; the CES Digital Community Party and Dinner hosted by MyersBizNet, Havas Media, Active International and Digital First Media; Clear Channels' late night blow-out at Aria's Haze; and the multiple smaller events, parties, cocktail parties and dinners.
My key take-away this year is that the relevance of CES as a showcase for technology advances that will change the media and advertising world has waned. The value of CES itself, beyond serving as a home for meetings and events, is questionable at best. Yes, it's worth being there – but even for those execs who spend time covering the two million net square feet of exhibit space -- all we are really seeing are evolutionary bells and whistles that are advancing products and technologies we've already seen.
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