Fast Chat: The Consumer Electronics Association’s Gary Shapiro

The man who runs the biggest (technology) show on Earth

Gary Shapiro, president and the CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, is the consummate marketer. He has to be. Every year, the CEA runs the International Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest showcase of new and emerging consumer gadgets and electronics. Last year, more than 153,000 people converged on Las Vegas to see the latest tech showcased by 3,100 exhibitors over 1.8 million square feet. Shapiro is also a policy guy, speaking out on the issues that could impact technology growth and development, and bringing those issues to the CES. Adweek spoke to Shapiro about this year's show, his new book and what's hot.

Adweek: The Consumer Electronics Show is already the biggest trade show on the planet. Can it get any bigger?
Shapiro: It will be the biggest show we've ever had. It will hit 1.9 million sold square feet. You can't walk from one side of the show to the other. No one ever sees the whole show.

What do you like best about the CES?
I love trade shows because everyone has to wear a badge. I'm not good with names.

With a show that big, how do you know what is hot?
I ask a lot of questions. Ultra HD will be hot with four times the resolution of current HD. Car technology will be hot; we have seven of the 10 largest car manufacturers exhibiting, rivaling the Detroit show. Anything mobile is hot. Also, there is almost a 25 percent increase in companies showcasing healthcare products.

Why should the advertising community care about the CES?
Madison Avenue says the CES is the most important show for them. It's important to see trends and where your customers are.

You will be introducing your second book, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses, at the show. Name some of your favorite innovation ninjas.
Steve Jobs. Noel Lee, the CEO of Monster Cable, is an American success story. He was a rocket scientist. He speaks Mandarin and English. He quit his job to join a rock band. And then he used his knowledge of physics and turned it into Monster Cable. Craig Barrett and Andy Grove and the various people who headed up Intel. They turned their innovation into a marketing campaign, "Intel Inside."


You are also launching a new magazine with this year's CES. What's that about?
The magazine is called i3 for "it is innovation," and it's a relaunch of CE Vision. Our first issue will debut Jan. 6 at 128 pages with 50 ads, 45 of them paid. A Web app will also be launched with the magazine.

Why is Washington policy an important part of the CES? How does that fit in with all the tech and gadgets?
For 95 percent of the people at the CES, it's irrelevant because they are there to do business. The reason we have policy sessions is because it's important in the big picture, and we want the policy people to see it firsthand, rather than … in the vacuum of Washington.


Can CES policy discussions make a difference?
SOPA and PIPA had a defining moment last year; three weeks later both bills were dead. Our CES panel with Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Darrell Issa made all the difference in the world. This year we have more lawmakers than ever attending, about a dozen.

Any burning issues like SOPA on tap for this year?
The U.S. just lost the battle with the rest of the world on the Internet governance issue. Our position is absolutely correct, but it's less controversial than SOPA/PIPA because no one disagrees. But SOPA/PIPA last year highlighted the important role of an open Internet. Pandora's push for lower royalty rates is another issue. [Pandora founder] Tim Westergren will talk about that Wednesday night. Broadcasters pay zero royalties. Privacy is an issue.

Speaking of privacy, you also have a session on facial technology featuring Federal Trade Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen. Do you have a position on it?
I have a pro-technology bent. If you're in public, you can be photographed, so it depends on where the technology is. If it's in a hotel room, there is a problem; in a lobby, it isn't. It's a huge tool in terrorism.

What about the "no shows" like Apple? Microsoft has also cut back.
Apple has never exhibited, but their footprint is huge, with more than 440 companies part of the Apple ecosystem. That's bigger than most trade shows. It's a show within a show. Apple execs attend. Microsoft remains involved; they are sponsoring lots of events, and they have a meeting.