To me, the international PR and gadget-fest that is the Consumer Electronics Show has always been an adrenaline-charged kick-off for the new year. For starters, it’s in Las Vegas, where everyone’s welcome, and anything – and I do mean anything – goes. Both the show and the town are an orgy of imagination and commerce, and both are over the top.
Yet, last year’s CES was the lowest-wattage one in recent memory. The 2009 show came on the heels of the economic meltdown, and last January, Vegas was a subdued, almost gloomy place. It was actually easy to hail a taxi…and to get a dinner reservation. That may sound like a good thing, but, trust me, it’s not.
Well, I’m happy to say that CES is back. The attendance numbers might still be depressed, but the mood is pretty upbeat. That could be because the e-reader craze has attracted a whole new industry to the show. Then again, it might be the slightly surreal presence of pop icon Lady Gaga, who’s here today as Polaroid’s new Creative Director. (More on that later…) Or, maybe it’s just because we’re all so damn grateful that 2009 is over.
One aspect that’s bigger than ever is the show’s power as a PR platform. It’s not by chance that Google launched its Nexus One smartphone earlier this week, even though it was in Mountain Valley, not here. And, Apple seems to have timed another “controlled leak” about its much-anticipated tablet for CES week. Here on the floor, CES 2010 is already pulsating with news around 3D TV, VUDU apps, solar-powered cell phones, Kindle-killers, new four-color LED TV technology (debuted by my client Sharp), and mobile everything.
But, what feels different this time is the buzz outside the Vegas bubble. It’s always attracted high-decibel media attention, but this year the news is flying at what feels like 4G speed. The day before the show opens is a press day, which means back-to-back media briefings that generate bursts of coverage and help drive crowds to the exhibit floor over the next several days.
We’re accustomed to having our client’s news posted before the room has emptied. But, this year’s flood of tweets, live-blogging, and micro-posts was unprecedented. Not only did Sharp’s new LED TVs get a flurry of pre-promotion, but there were instant updates about every detail of the set-up, powerpoint slides, even one speaker’s sudden scratchy throat.
Social media has definitely added some extra fizz to an already exciting CES and maybe even changed how it’s experienced by those of us here. What happens in Vegas just doesn’t stay in Vegas anymore. It’s everywhere.