As a reporter for an electronics trade pub, I spent several January weeks swimming in the sea of khaki trousers and diluted testosterone that is the Consumer Electronics Show. Truly, my memories could fill a memory book: Clock radios that could accurately be characterized as "feature-laden"! Bible-sized MP3 players that held as many as 300 songs! Each year I entered the Las Vegas Convention Center a blank slate; I departed rich in business cards and knowledge about cellphone accessories with a four-month shelf life. Once, I came into possession of ducats to Monster Cable's exclusive Boz Scaggs concert. He encored with "Lido Shuffle" and the crowd, comprised mostly of Monster dealers and distributors, applauded politely.
In the years since I was freed from the tyranny of this annual work pilgrimage, however, I've found it challenging to follow news from the show. While A-list brands have no problem attracting national notice for their product unveilings and manufacturers of the nü-coolest gizmos are well served by consumer electronics/tech blogs, a great majority of companies get drowned out amid the promotional cacophony. If you've ever attended CES, you know what I mean: the show floors are packed with something like seventyteen kazillion exhibitors, most of which hawk their wares from booths the size of a shower stall. In the heyday of CES, you'd find exhibitors tucked away in emergency-only stairwells. Clearly the fire commissioners had been paid off, likely in promo USB-drive keychains.
Thus I've always wondered why so few show attendees circulate their way-cool booth demo video stuffamajigs far and wide via the magic of the Internet. It's probably an awareness thing, as it's no easier to flag down web traffic as it is to lure visitors in a cavernous, sensory-overloaded hall. That's why the smart exhibitors hire showgirls to stand in front of their displays and coo at every passing nerdling. But I digress.
In theory, the official CES web site has done smaller companies a solid by compiling tens of come-see-us videos on a single page. In practice, the showcase does more to un-state their case for attention than it does to pique interest in their offerings. Why? Because - once more, and put your back into it this time - not all publicity is good publicity.
Of the 60 or so clips on the site, roughly 70% are lit and staged with the verve of a hostage video. Granted, it's tough to pack production flair and an explanatory product spiel into a no-budget, commercial-size clip, and even tougher when the product being pitched is as sexy as sand. But heck to Betsy, is it possible to make an argument that this, this or this presents the company and/or product in a remotely favorable light? Hell, the "suggested links" that follow the Net Nanny pitch include a video entitled "How to Get Rid of Net Nanny." Were I attending the show this year, maybe the videos would've prompted me to head over to the booths of the companies in question - but only to see if the folks populating them are as goober-ish as the dudes in the clips.
Nobody will confuse the CES video pitches with a full-blown marketing push, and nobody has much in the way of expectations. But for every video that charms - smart move going the adorable-innocent-schoolkid route, Mr. Atlona LinkCast Wireless HD person - there are 15 that induce pity and wincing. The companies would be better served by hoping that journalists and buyers for national chains happen upon them by accident or, like, encounter them in a cab line.