Monday, 8 January 2007
I'm in Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show - ugh. Me and 150,000 of my closest friends are having a gas - NOT. It's crowded. It's expensive. It's physically grueling. Lines for food, for cabs, for the restroom. It's basically analog overload at the biggest digital celebration on the planet. It made think hard about this fabulous piece in the NYT over the weekend - about the millions of marketing dollars that get pumped into CES every year. The piece estimates that many companies will spend close to a $1 million on the show this year.
My question is: For what?
I've been coming here for four years now, and I have yet to meet anyone who likes being here. If I'm a buyer for an electronics store or Apple Computer - wait it's not even here - does CES really give me exposure to new products and help me decide what to put in my stores or who to partner with? Or is the sensory overload so intense that it all makes my eyes glaze over. Targeted advertising is all the rage these days, and I suppose CES technically fits the bill. But marketers want their subjects to be in a good mood when they pitch, not cranky like most of them are here.
You'd think that in our ultra connected digital world there would be a better way than putting so many people through such analog torture. For some, there is. Look at Google, for example. They're not even here this year. Why? Because they don't spend money on marketing in the traditional sense. They just use their R&D budget to make cool products and let the networked world promote it.
Yes, Google is a search/software company. It doesn't make physical goods that it needs to show off. And yes, lots of the stuff they release isn't ready for prime time. But how many companies at CES can say that their R&D budget doubles as their marketing budget? It's probably harder to do that if you are Samsung pushing flat screens. But how many others that are more like Google have spent big bucks to be at CES? Start with Yahoo and Disney and you get the idea. Intel is another big player here. It makes chips. But it doesn't really need CES to show them off, does it?
I'm not saying CES shouldn't exist, but it would be more effective if it were smaller. Instead, despite the revolution going on in the world of advertising and marketing, that 50-year-old saw of Madison Avenue still applies at the world's biggest digital confab: "Half my advertising dollars are wasted, I just don't know which half."