The Consumer Electronics Show, or CES as it’s now known, occurs every January in Las Vegas. Over 180,000 attendees descend upon Las Vegas to attend the annual trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and meet, mingle and view the latest innovations in everything from auto to home to beauty to wearables.
Part of the fascinating thing about attending CES as someone in the marketing and advertising space, however, is the realization that CES is no longer truly focused on consumer electronics. The event has become the biggest auto show in North America; this year alone, Faraday Future, Fiat-Chrysler, Hyundai, Audi, Honda, Toyota, BMW and a slew of automotive chip and technology manufacturers revealed new electric vehicles and concept cars at CES. The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) held in Detroit takes place just one week after CES, yet more and more automakers are choosing to debut their innovations at CES instead.
This year, retail and clothing manufacturers like UnderArmour were also everywhere. UnderArmour debuted new performance sleep gear onstage (alongside Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps). And down the strip from the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Aria hotel played host to “C Space,” a space in which B2C marketers and agencies gathered to learn about trends, hear from companies such as Twitter and Spotify, and meet with other brands and providers on topics completely unrelated to technology.
For a company like DataXu that has been steeped in innovation and technology since Day 1, CES is familiar territory. But technology is not why we attend. CES has become the Cannes Lions of North America; the U.S. version of dMexco. All of our brand and agency customers are there. Our partners and publishers are present. All of the industry trade pubs stay for the week. This year in fact, I ran into two of our most innovative customers’ senior leaders on the LVCC show floor. They were there to get a taste of what’s in store for 2017 and better understand the consumer trends expected to gain momentum in the year ahead. They were also there to meet with other senior leaders in the industry.
There is something to be said for the pure efficiency of drawing all parts of the advertising LUMAscape together in one place for a week. The sheer amount of meetings and functions that can be jammed into three or four days of CES remains unparalleled (except by Cannes). But I would encourage even the most senior of marketers to carve out time to get to the show floor. Yes, the traffic is always horrendous. And yes, it’s overcrowded. But the full CES experience cannot be grasped from behind the glass of a conference room in the Cosmopolitan. At its roots, even though it is not the primary focus for many of us anymore, CES will always be about walking the floor and straining to catch a glimpse of the “next big thing.” Just remember to leave your hotel 40 minutes early in order to get to wherever you’re going on time.