1. Snapchat logo on Luxor.This was the first thing I noticed after arriving on the Las Vegas strip following a long drive up from Phoenix (long story but, no, we didn’t stop in bat country) and it proved Snapchat’s coming to play and here to stay. Given that the beam of light atop the Luxor is one of only two manmade objects that can be seen from outer space, it’s clear that Snapchat was not only hell-bent on raising awareness beyond Millennials at CES, but beyond mere earthlings.
With noise being made about an ads API, it’s also clear that Snapchat is ready to fully monetize. All brands should be taking notice and become (more) active on Snapchat today, so that they’re ready to capitalize on (more) ad opportunities in the near future.
2. VR everywhere. Forget TV everywhere. We’re entering an era of VR (virtual reality) everywhere, and it was everywhere at CES. From Facebook Oculus, with its $600 Rift device, to Google Cardboard, which goes for around $20, VR has become more advanced and more accessible all at the same time — which may prove to be the tipping point for consumer adoption.
What does this mean for social media? The next wave of social networks won’t be sites or apps that let people interact via text, pics, and video, but rather through immersive multimedia. Maybe I’ll even be able to get a Second Life out of this shirt!
As with every new digital medium, it’ll start with porn — and no surprise, there was plenty of that in Vegas — before moving quickly into mainstream categories. The time is now for brands to explore VR and think through how they can add value to the ecosystem — or at least grab consumer attention within it.
3. Flo Rida shilling for AOL. CES — and Vegas, for that matter — is always awash in celebs, and this year was no different. Nick Cannon gave a talk at C-Space on digital media, Lady Gaga played the Media Link Baller, er, Executive Party, the Jonas Brothers were getting Brandish with ad celeb Sean Finnegan, and Flo Rida headlined the AOL party at OMNIA.
It all serves as a stark reminder of the power of influencers in the (social) media world. If you can get a plug from someone with a big following, it can have a massive impact for your brand. Of course, not all brands can afford to pay for celebrity endorsers – or even one celebrity tweet – but for those that can, it’s going down for real!
4. Ad Tech, Mar Tech, Media Tech, oh my! You couldn’t take a step in Vegas during CES without tripping over an ad-tech (ad technology) vendor — but don’t let them hear you call them that! Indeed, ad tech has become a four-letter word in our industry, largely due to skepticism from the investor community.
Cory Treffiletti tried to put a positive spin on it in his Online Spin column — and he’s got a good vantage point, having been part of an ad tech acquisition by one of the leading mar-tech (marketing technology) companies. Dave Morgan, however, thinks ad tech should be worried about the rise of mar tech.
I’m not sure we’re looking at things through the right lens, though. Whether it’s ad tech or mar tech, the key to success for these companies and the constituents they serve — clients and investors, hopefully in that order! — is whether their business model is SaaS (software as a service) or arbitrage.
There are still way too many ad-tech vendors — and many of them shelled out big bucks for a presence at CES — that just provide a managed service or ad-network offering. These folks typically have a thin user interface on top of proprietary algorithms that manage ad placements. As a client, you don’t have the ability to control all campaign parameters yourself, nor see exactly where your ads are running. These types of companies will not last much longer — and betting on them from a client or investor standpoint is as foolish as splitting sixes against a ten in blackjack.
We’re starting to see a new category emerging between ad tech and mar tech with the data science and transparency that clients — and investors — need to succeed. It’s called media tech, and it differentiates from ad tech by including content solutions, but doesn’t get into full CRM like mar tech.
The winners here will be those focused on SaaS for cross-screen media activation and analytics. And at the core of the leading platforms will be social media data. Whether it’s creating audience segments or measuring brand engagement, social data can help maximize media value for all players in the ecosystem.
Indeed, my biggest takeaway from CES is that it’s never been a better time to be in social media — so cheers to all of you insiders out there — and, remember, always bet on Zuck.