Nine years ago, while walking the floor of the gigantic Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I was immediately struck by how many TV network programming types were trolling for the latest and greatest technological wizardry. Here we were, all living Marshall McCluhan’s promise that “the medium is the message.”
Back in 2007 whether it was the just-released Apple TV, the latest iteration of HDTV or the increasingly ubiquitous DVR, new technologies held the promise of an incredible unleashing of myriad new creative avenues.
This year, as friends report in from CES 2016, there’s an inevitable, and enviable, amount of coming whiz-bang. There’s at least one TV screen that can be rolled up like a newspaper, virtual-reality devices making a splash — and, of course, over-the-top devices offering more incentive for those of us still on the cable plantation to cut the chord.
I spoke to Waywire CEO Steve Rosenbaum as he geared up for his umpteenth CES. An admitted techno-geek, Rosenbaum believes that “who wins the war for the dashboard” is the underlying story amidst all the wizardry on display in Las Vegas. “I don’t think it will be Apple, they have too much of a walled-garden strategy,” he said. “Amazon has a huge Christmas, and you get its streaming service with Amazon Prime. Amazon is poised to be that dashboard.”
Before speaking to Rosenbaum, I had perused a list of the amazing number of incredible returning TV series and promising new offerings that I will have to binge on as the winter builds into spring, much of it coming from the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. Meanwhile, I’d been staying up way too late, iPad in hand, immersed in marathon viewings of season 2 of FX’s “Fargo” as well as Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” with that all-too-familiar sinking feeling of so much great stuff to consume and so little time.
I mentioned to Rosenbaum how little programming I’m watching via FiOs, the service I’m currently tethered to, and that virtually all my viewing is on-demand. In other words, like many viewers of several demographics, I make my own prime time. I wondered what I’d do if I were a major advertiser that needs to reach a mass audience — anybody from a tri-state Honda dealer with a weekend sale to the movie studio with a blockbuster release. “Mass media is more or less dead,” said Rosenbaum, adding another provocative CES takeaway.
No doubt, technological innovation, while driving creativity, has taken much of the mass out of media. Thinking about this, I found myself leafing through the business section of The New York Timesat my favorite coffee bar in Brooklyn, which is about the only place I read the paper in newsprint instead of pixels. I found a full-page ad with the headline “CES 2016: Dare to Disrupt,” sponsored by the media consultancy MediaLink and the Starcom Mediavest Group.
“Marketing is inextricably tied to technology, not only from the vantage point of consumer behavior, but from the actual mechanics of marketing behavior,” MediaLink chairman and CEO Michael Kassan said in the advert touting CES as an essential place for marketers to be, because it is “the speedway” for a “world of accelerating change.”
Agreed. Still, I couldn’t escape the irony that savvy marketers like Kassan and Starcom Mediavest CEO Laura Desmond, also quoted in the advertorial, chose a full-page ad in the Times to push their innovation message. While that choice is decidedly old-school, the pitch did encourage you to download the Blippar app to your mobile device and then scan icons on the page for “an augmented reality experience.” Talk about an augmented reality indeed.