CES '06: A Madison Avenue No-Show

Anyone who has ever survived the obstacle course that is the Consumer Electronics Show will know that this orgy of gadgetry, gizmos and geeks is a tech-head's fantasy brought to life.

More importantly though, CES has moved well beyond being the preserve of the geeks and is now one of the most significant events on the calendar for anyone with more than a passing interest in the future of media. With an attendance this year of between140,000 and 150,000 (depending which estimates you go with), the audience has now broadened to include not only manufacturers, journalists, buyers and industry analysts, but also content players and a smattering of media agencies and consultants, not mention celebrities like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

However, it strikes me as curious that there weren't more advertisers and their agencies cruising the show floor. As I navigated through thousands of booths with their millions of screens and devices, I couldn't help thinking about the implications that various of the developments at CES are likely to have on the advertising and marketing industries.



CES represents a fantastic opportunity to play with devices that are either threatening to become mainstream in the next 12 months or which may do so further out. You can actually see what can be done with them, ask about the price point and - if you're lucky - get an idea of where the interest of retail buyers is in order to discern which devices and capabilities may ultimately achieve critical mass.

Anyone within a major brand advertiser will have noticed the ubiquity of iPod knock-offs on display. Many of these were at a lower price point and offered the same functionality such that they are already being positioned as a lower cost alternative for those not willing pay the price for the Apple product but who still love the idea. With a price point under $100 in some cases, it's easy to see the iPod capability reaching a larger audience lower down the demographic scale, with interesting implications for advertisers.

What with this and other examples demonstrating the proliferation of mobile and fixed screens in our lives, our inter-operability between devices, of advances in digital home-based products and - particularly this year - the launch of more integrated content propositions that are designed for cross-platform integration, CES probably provides the best opportunity advertisers will find anywhere to get their hands on the things the rest of the year is just spent reading about.

Add to that the fact that CES also offers a pretty comprehensive conference program where you can hear industry experts sound off and I'd say it should be one of the priority events for anyone with a remotely strategic role in media at a major advertiser. And the weather in Vegas in January's not bad either.

Mike Bloxham is director, testing & assessment for the Center for Media Design at Ball State University.

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