Dissecting the hype: CES 2011

Media agency executives Robin Hassan of Starcom and Chris Williams of Media Contacts share their views on what tech evolutions will make the biggest impact on media this year.

The emphasis on media was even higher than usual this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, as talk of tablets and TVs dominated the tsunami of coverage that always accompanies the show. Predicting what will or will not capture the consumer’s imagination has become a bit of a sport in and of itself in recent years, and this week, MiC wades into the fray by recruiting Starcom Canadian digital group head Robin Hassan and Media Contacts SVP and managing director Chris Williams to share their views on the spectacle.

What CES reveals do you think will have the biggest impact on the media buying and planning world in 2011?
Robin Hassan, Starcom: ‘Three biggest areas were really a continuation on trends from 2010: tablets, next generation TVs and evolution of smartphone devices (especially on Android). This year’s CES was all about making these new technologies better to use and more affordable. So, the impact will be in seeing adoption go beyond just early adopters. The impacts from a media strategy point of view will be that video neutrality will become even more of a priority as will a laser focus on how digital marketing plans consider communication strategy beyond the web.’

Chris Williams, Media Contacts: ‘The biggest impact, in my humble opinion, from this year’s show comes from the Android Honeycomb 3.0 OS that is powering some of the tablets like the Toshiba one. This operating system is designed to power tablets but rumours are milling that it would migrate to smartphones as well. That opens the door to portable content available across the four-screen universe as tablets join desktops, phones and televisions and that’s where things get really interesting.’

Is this the year of the tablet? How will that affect media planning (or not) in 2011?

Robin Hassan, Starcom: ‘I would say yes. With the excitement around iPad alternatives like the Samsung Galaxy Tab as well as RIM, Motorola and the 80 tablets announced, the (price) barriers to consumer adoption of tablets will drop significantly. This means that from a marketing point of view, both publishers and advertisers will need to start thinking about the new advertising canvas that is available to us. The challenge for the digital community will be ensuring adoption of consistent ad-size standards to ensure the ROMI for designing dozens of ad sizes to achieve scale is not going to be an issue for marketers.’

Chris Williams, Media Contacts: ‘Products announced at CES that go on to success take years before their impact is felt in the media world. Nonetheless, past shows have provided us with VCRs, Xboxes and Blu-Ray so we cannot ignore what is coming down the pipe at us. This year, [the hype is even bigger] as a slew of companies followed in the iPads footsteps, looking to improve on its capabilities. However it is not the year of the tablet even though there were dozens of them announced; many of them will join the Halls of the Short Lived along with many, many Atari products.’

TV captured a lot of attention this year: do you think the world is ready for web-synched home entertainment?

Robin Hassan, Starcom: ‘Consumers have been increasingly multi-tasking (laptop and mobile on while watching TV) in the living room for a couple of years now, the convergence we’re seeing is not that surprising. The enhancements that game consoles introduced to their UI last year has meant that web-synched home entertainment has been at play for some time for more tech-savvy consumers. The challenge in Canada will be whether ISPs will have the infrastructure to support more consumers getting their long-form video online and when they can, how they will manage consumer sensitivity around usage-based billing. The bottom line is going to be whether our systems and infrastructure move quickly enough to meet the influx of consumer demand for this technology.’

Chris Williams, Media Contacts: ‘No matter how good the technology is it all relies on consumer adoption. People are familiar with and have adopted Gmail, Google Maps and a host of other Google software so Google has a good base to expand its footprint from small screens (phones), to big screens (TVs). The war for the big screen in the living room is being waged and not one broadcaster fields an army. These are truly strange times.’

What media-related technology captivated you personally? What sparked your imagination?

Robin Hassan, Starcom: ‘The two that were most interesting to me have OOH/in-store digital applications: the first is the evolution of the PixelSense Technology on Microsoft Surface & Samsung SUR 40 that was featured in the Microsoft Keynote at CES. Another technology from a company called eCoupled will have some interesting impacts for on-pack and in-store marketing solutions, where the ink on the pack animates to attract consumer attention. The eCoupled technology is definitely is pretty basic at this point, but has great long-term potential as it evolves further.’

Chris Williams, Media Contacts: ‘Every year I follow CES closely to see if Apple will come back and announce some kind of upgrade path for the Pippin platform they launched there in 1996. I love playing Ultraman but I have heard rumours of multiplayer games at bandwidth speeds above 14.4 mbps.’