The Consumer Electronics Show, which kicks off Tuesday in Las Vegas, will showcase the usual array of high-tech gizmos, including connected-home devices, drones, 3D printers and wearables. Executives from technology giants and startups alike will be flooding the scene.
But CES isn’t just about mammoth TV sets and $2,000 headphones. It’s also about marketing and media. Brands, agencies, advertisers, communications firms, Internet services and even publishers increasingly regard the confab as a must-attend event. It’s a place to learn more about technologies that might alter how they interact with and market to consumers.
For agencies, CES is an opportunity to show clients they’ve got their finger on the pulse — that they’re the right partner to help navigate the digital landscape. For brands, which are increasingly trying to become technology and media companies themselves, it’s an invaluable opportunity to spot new ideas and to ensure they aren’t getting left behind.
This year, Kraft is sending around 50 of its marketers to the event, for example, according to Bob Rupczynski, the company’s vice president of media, data, and customer relationship management. Other major brands in attendance will include Subway, Coca-Cola, Mondelez, Unilever, Jaguar, Land Rover and Bacardi.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, which produces CES, the event has attracted over 30,000 attendees from the advertising, content, and entertainment communities for each of the past three years, and that number continues to grow. Last year the event attracted around 160,000 attendees in total.
“It’s become a tent pole event for those in marketing, advertising and media, and this is the biggest year yet,” said Michael Kassan, CEO of consultancy Medialink, which will spend the week giving tours of the show to marketers and arranging meetings between marketers and media and technology companies.
According to Mr. Kassan, it’s becoming increasingly important for marketers and brands to develop relationships with technology companies in order to understand how new innovations might impact their businesses, and CES is the perfect place to start.
Marketers agree. According to Tony Pace, chief marketing officer at Subway, the convention is not about being the first to try new technologies, but more about making technology companies aware of their needs before those firms develop marketing products and opportunities that aren’t necessarily a good fit for marketers.
“The role technology plays in consumers’ lives is strong and ever growing. We need to pay attention to the intersection of marketing and technology,” said Mr. Pace.
And where brands go, media companies tend to follow. The show this year will include a dedicated forum for marketers and digital media companies. The “C Space” portion of the exhibition is designed to “tell the story of how content, creativity, technology, brand marketing, influencers and the consumer come together as part of the CES universe,” organizers say. Over the course of the week it will feature presentations from executives at major media and marketing companies including Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Havas, Amazon Media Group, NBC Universal, and others.