Since 1967, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has been THE venue for the technology industry to introduce the latest electronic inventions designed to improve the lives of consumers. Over the past fifty years, however, this event has evolved into much more than simply demonstrating what new technology will do – it has become all about when consumers will adopt these new technologies and how companies can more quickly monetize them.
CES has therefore become the epicenter of the confluence of technology and data – with consumer adoption and activity at the core of this digital vortex. Participation has never been higher, with over 175,000 attendees and 4,400+ companies exhibiting their latest products. I have been attending CES for 12 years and as a self-professed gadget and data geek, CES continues to amaze by displaying not only what is possible, but more importantly, imminent.
Every major news outlet covered the popular exhibits, ranging from Samsung’s 8K MicroLED TV “The Wall,” the Neon artificial human, Pampers’ “smart diaper” and Uber & Hyundai’s drone taxi partnership, which I will highlight in a top 10 favorite technology list in separate blog post. What most outlets did not report were the impressive presentations highlighting learnings, insights and business plans delivered by a variety of attending companies. Remarkably, over 40% of the 69 featured CES speakers were from media companies. CES is now a must-attend event for media leaders as content is now distributed on more types of technology than ever – devices that both disrupt traditional practices as well as propel new business models. Understanding new technology and consumer adoption is now required for future success.
Most successful technological developments for video have empowered consumers to access content and personalize the viewing experience. Content providers have taken advantage of technology by supplementing their traditional distribution infrastructure with streaming capabilities through over-the-top (OTT) platforms. Brand marketers, also omnipresent at CES, realize the potential of reaching customers with far greater efficiency and effectiveness through addressable advertising.
But defining the benefits of efficiency and effectiveness is not a standardized process; there can be real issues surrounding the massive data sets collected from these digital devices becoming ubiquitous in the marketplace. Back in the 1990s, at the first Local Cable Advertising Bureau, I offered the observation that “technology is developing faster than our ability to adequately measure it.” At the time, I was referring to how the growth of cable forever changed TV viewership and lamented how our media industry was not reacting quickly enough to develop the proper tools necessary to accurately measure it through traditional methods.
“What is shocking is the industry's inability to get to it already. The consumer is driving this change. What has been so frustrating about the leaders in the industry has been the acceptance of the status quo and the unwillingness of the industry to reflect that consumer behavior.” — Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal -panel at the 2020 CES
What is becoming quite clear is that bigger (and better) data can enable smarter marketing decisions, but only if it is managed with experienced and expert processes. While traditional methods of understanding the consumer "path to purchase" are challenged in today's media ecosystem, advanced data and innovative analytics are driving more effective results. We can now define consumers with greater precision and connect their actual purchase and media behavior with commercial exposure and measure business outcomes. This was the substance of most of the meetings and conversations which happened away from the exhibit floor.
CES 2020 was particularly relevant for media and specifically Comscore, a partner for planning, transacting and evaluating media across platforms – especially as they evolve. We observe through our massive tuning data (supplemented by panels and surveys) how technology is radically changing consumer behavior with more people consuming video content on platforms other than primary TV sets (computers, smartphones, tablets and OTT devices). Measuring audiences across these screens is crucial for both the sell- and buy-side of the business equation, and Comscore has been focused on engaging clients in the development of new systems and advanced metrics of success that better define consumer outcomes from advanced advertising campaigns.
CES 2020 Key Takeaways for Media
Despite my aforementioned penchant for everything that lights up, moves and speaks, this year’s CES reinforced several immutable rules for engaging the consumer in this digital age of marketing:
My final observation, and consistent with all the years I have been attending the show, is that CES is much more than the cool gadgets; it is about how consumers ultimately relate to media and brands through these devices on a personal level and what we learn through transparent processes to reach them on their terms. Digital technology connects content with the consumer faster than ever - if content is king, then the device is the throne. Long Live the King.