We Have Seen the Future and It's 3-D, Mobile and Waterproof

Sizing up the crush of tomorrow's technology at the Consumer Electronics Show

Why the Agencies Are Really Here
Madison Avenue in the Desert

If you want to know how to do the massive crush that is CES, it’s probably best to ask a 15-year veteran.

Brian Terkelsen, CEO of MediaVest USA, was attending the ginormous trade show long before it was on the radar of agencies and media companies, so he knows what to look for.

“When I see that fridge with a touch screen on its front door for the fourth year in a row, I know it’s coming, but I know they are having problems,” Terkelsen said. “When they still have a coaxial cable coming out of the back of it and they haven’t even figured out how to wire it to the rest of the house, they’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The exec remains bullish on CES, despite its shortcomings and excesses. “There’s an interdependence between the marketing and electronics worlds,” he said. “We help them think like marketers and consumers when we come here.”

So what exactly is Terkelsen most excited about? Wearable technology. (Digital blazers, anyone?)

While the largest agencies have taken to sending veritable armies to CES, some hardly bother with the show floor. “It’s really just a lot of TVs,” said one exec. Some shops, including Digitas, have taken to producing their own content for the event and hosting private client summits at the many hotels on the strip, a world apart from the convention chaos.

If agencies do take their clients out onto the CES floor, curated tours are key. Publicis even produced four custom brochures with titles like “Commerce+” and “Next Generation Storytelling.”

Still, it’s fair to question the value of CES for agencies, given that the event doesn’t necessarily pay off in a traditional ROI fashion. Said to Paul Gunning, CEO of Tribal DDB Worldwide, “One of the best parts of this is the amount of people you run into. It’s almost more about the hallway—it’s the amount of meetings you can get. This is literally like 10 weeks of travel. It feels like the ramp up to Cannes.”

But Simon Bond, CMO of BBDO North America, thinks CES is about more than networking: “We bring out a crew, basically shoot interviews with some of the leading tech and media partners that are here.” From there, the agency produces three-minute pieces and distributes them across its network of 70,000 employees, “from Australia to Argentina to China,” he said. “We’re educating our whole network and all our clients. We write newsletters and thought pieces. All of our clients get educated. So we feel it’s a good ROI.”

Despite their starring roles at CES, forget tablets, smartphones, smart TVs and gaming devices—the hottest new advertising medium is on four wheels, according to Tribal’s Gunning. “The car is going to be one of the most hotly contested media placements,” he said. “Between who’s making the car, who’s owning the screen, who’s got the operating system, the connectivity, it’s rightfully going to be a bloodbath considering how valuable it is for retailers.”

Just how valuable? “We have radio and out of home. We’ve had them for 100 years. There’s been no innovation there for 100 years,” said Gunning. “This could largely replace radio and out of home.” –Mike Shields

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