Dorothy Crenshaw January 6, 2014 | 02:15:15

At CES 2014, PR Stunts Abound

The Consumer Electronics Show is known for all manner of marketing and PR stunts, including product prototypes designed for brand publicity appeal rather than actual retail distribution. 2014 is no exception.

The show officially opens Tuesday, but media previews started earlier, and the buzz is all about tech that’s wearable and sensor-equipped, from the world’s first connected toothbrush, to mini-drones, to vibrating underwear (talk about buzz…)

But what about more prosaic products? For communications pros, it’s more interesting to observe how companies promote their products and services when they  don’t have a smart sensor bra, a watch that makes coffee, or a bracelet that doubles as a weather station. At CES 2014 so far, a few PR stunts and some fresh twists are already standouts.

Many of the media brands who vie for on-site mindshare had clever hands to play.  Mashable ran a CES reader photo challenge, inviting readers to share their most impressive portable gear. LAPTOP Magazine was pretty savvy in scouting not only the hottest CES gadgets, but an on-site guide to the biggest celebrities on the show floor.  WIRED  handled the show a little differently this year, launching a kind of “smartphone smackdown“;  its reporters each covered CES on a different mobile device – and only that – to test their resourcefulness and see which gadget would come out on top.

But surprisingly, it was Nvidia who owned the first day, and maybe the whole show, with an arcane, Stonehenge-like stunt that happened far from the Vegas Convention Center. It started days ago when a mysterious “crop circle” appeared in a California barley field. At the circle’s center was a computer chip and the number “92” in braille and as numbers on a clock.

Aliens? No, Nvidia eventually closed the loop by announcing that the puzzle was a promotion for a new processor for graphics applications that claims 192 “cores” or mini-computers, under its brand banner “impossibly advanced.”  The Nvidia crew started the stunt in late December, hiring a film location scout to find the ideal field and flying in a team of crop circle experts. They then phoned in anonymous tips to news stations in the area that had the media buzzing and rumors flying. For a B2B company, and considering the amount of advance work required, it was a PR jackpot.

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