Reporter's Notebook: Let's Keep An All-Digital Version Of CES Going Forward

EASTON, CT -- One of the greatest upsides of the pandemic's impact on covering advertising, media and marketing industry events, is that I was actually able to attend many that I otherwise would have taken a pass on, including the just-concluded CES show.

It's not that they're not important. CES is still the mecca for all things bright, shiny and gadgety and it's definitely a "nice to have" event on my travel calendar. It's just that like many other mega events -- I would include the Cannes Lions and SXSW among them -- it's just not worth the squeeze in terms of travel, and time spent.

Anyone who has spent half their day standing in Las Vegas taxi queues during CES, knows what a time suck it can be. With nearly 200,000 attendees and a comparable number of exhibitors, it's just too overwhelming to get through and always left me feeling numb and confused about what was actually meaningful. In recent years, when I did attend, I simply tagged along agency or professional CES curators guided tours, because it's actually the only way you could get a handle on -- or at least some perspective on it.



Not so this year. Because of the virtual nature, both the exhibitors and the conference sessions had to be compressed in both numbers and duration.

According to the Consumer Technology Association's official estimates, there were only about 2,000 companies launching products during his year's all-digital CES, including 700 startups from 37 countries. And while that's a lot, it's not the mind-numbing number you'd normally be trying to navigate.

Even this year's "Media Day," which kicked off CES with some pre-briefings for the press, was much more fine-tuned, featuring 19 press conferences from companies including Bosch, Canon, Caterpillar, Hisense, Intel, LG Electronics, Mercedes-Benz, Panasonic, Samsung Electronics and Sony breaking news and launching products. That was almost manageable.

And while I know many in the industry are keen to get back to "life as normal" hobnobbing, networking and exhibit-floor-walking, I would recommend that CES -- as well as Cannes, SXSW, and others of the ilk -- continue offering parallel remote digital versions for those who would not otherwise attend.

Yes, I know it might cannibalize on some of the shows' action, but at least those who do attend will be able to hail a taxi.

Next stop: Virtual SXSW!

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