Did the earth move for you?

Posted: 01.13.17

What did CES actually accomplish for you?

Most of the dust has settled, most of the hangovers are over, most of the pain in your legs, and other more sensitive parts of your body has abated, and most of your money is gone—one hell of a party, no?

We love it, can’t get enough of it

Now you’ve seen all the bright and sparkling lights, heard the too loud music, listened to and/or given pitches, made promises, given out and lost business cards, and longed for the chance to stand in the TSA line and go home.

When you’re home, and your ears finally stop ringing, or at least ring a little less, you start to write your trip report, and the fiction-rich expense report, some of the best creative writing in corporatedom—amazing how much those clients you took out ate and drank—they were clients weren’t they?

In a few days, it will be time to follow up. To see if any of the promises made to you, and by you, are going to come true. And slowly, over a few weeks, maybe a month or so, you’re going to come to the realization that maybe the ROI you thought CES would give you just isn’t there. Hard to measure ROI in terms of insults to your body and brain, but what the heck, it’s all good right, it’s all for the company, and raising the share price on your options.

And so, when the CEA reps come by with their charts and proof points, you gladly sign up and try to move your position up a little so you’ll get better visibility next year. Keep in mind however, just like stock brokers who make money on every transaction regardless of whether you do or not, CEA makes money, and a lot of it, on every show regardless of whether you do or not. It’s a service.

And what did you get for that service? How do you measure it? PR impressions? The number of tweets that are forgotten almost before they are posted or read? How in a crowd of 4,000 other screaming companies can you be heard? How can you possibly match the spend the bigger companies make on advertisements, booth size, collateral, parties, and tchotchkes?

But it’s not about that, right? No, it’s about being able to see all your customers at one time and one place, a gathering of the tribes at the watering hole for mutually beneficial discussions that are done so much better in an overpriced hotel suite in Las Vegas than they would be in either your office or the office of your customer. Ah-huh. 

And yet, one of the most successful consumer marketing companies in the world, doesn’t participate. How can that company survive with their silly glass houses in most major cities? And that on-line book selling company, how could they not go and stay in business? Hard to understand what’s wrong with those firms and a few others that didn’t dump a couple of million at the annual county faire. Don’t they understand what a loss of face it is to not been seen at the carnival? I mean, what will people think, what will they say, imagine the tweets.

And people will talk. Last year over 7,500 media went to CES, more than the number of exhibitors, and a little over 4% of the total attendees. They had their cameras, microphones, laptops, tablets, and smartphones snapping, tapping, and flapping every hour they were awake, and they were awake a lot. With that many reporters, recorders, and repeaters, every exhibitor would get at least 2.14 media hits (ratio of media to exhibitors).

In addition to CES proper there were the side shows by Pepcom, CES Unveiled, Showstoppers, the Adult Entertainment Expo, and the companies holding their own events in the hotels. Multiple opportunities to catch the media’s eyes, ears, and mouth—feed the press and they’ll follow you anywhere, but you wouldn’t want to take them home.

So the ROI of CES is media impressions and meetings—things you can only do, or do best at a carnival for a lot of money and physical abuse. I get it. But I’d rather be CEA than an exhibitor or an attendee.