The Alternate CES: Where Brands and Agencies Meet

The fact that CES has become more than a consumer electronics show was signaled this year by an official change of name from Consumer Electronics Show to International CES. There is something going on at International CES outside the world of big screen TVs, wearables, and connected cars and it’s not the porn show that always accompanied it in the past. Rather, it’s a media and advertising industry gala, with a whole group of brands that aren’t usually seen at this show. Only a few years ago, the Unilevers and the Pepsicos would not have thought CES relevant to their strategic imperatives. Now they know they will probably connect with their customers in the future through a mobile device.

Of course brands representing the expected  industries (Intel, Samsung, LG) were present on the show floor, but the other brands, agencies and publishers were in attendance in Las Vegas for another reason entirely: a chance to network with the people who will produce devices on which future media and commerce transactions will take place and a chance to do deals with major media powerhouses like Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter.

This alternate CES is influenced by Michael Kassan, Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, a strategy consulting firm for consumer brands and their marketing ecosystem, who directs a parallel event called “Brand Matters,” a three-day event for media people and brands. “Brand Matters” includes two networking parties, a curated tour of the show floor and a day of meeting with the most influential media companies and advertising agencies. According to Kassan, CES has become the third leg in the stool that also includes Cannes in June and Ad Week in New York in the fall. That’s why consumer packaged goods brands now want to meet with the platforms on which they will touch their customers.

Some of the brands and agencies never get to the show floor, however, following the happenings their online or on TV. Instead, they confine themselves solely to meeting others in their industry. “There’s an efficiency to it,” says Kassan.”When you bring all these people together in one place, more can get done.”