You can get a lot accomplished in Vegas during CES without setting foot on the show floor. This year was no different. Here are five quick takeaways from my time bouncing between Cosmopolitan, Aria, Encore and Wynn.
WeChat Is A Cooler Facebook in China — Many of you smarties may already know or think this, but here’s evidence to back it up. At a private party Wednesday night, a Beijing-based investor surprised me when she said: “I haven’t participated in a transaction — personal or business — outside of WeChat for the past 18 months. It’s where I do everything.” WeChat’s positive status was only further confirmed when I ran into Kurt Wagner from Recode who said plainly “WeChat is a cooler Facebook in China.” WeChat has struggled to gain traction in the US, which kills its dynamic array of utilities, but it’s worth considering the social power shift if WeChat were to gain traction in the U.S. I did some quick research and found this gem from MIT Technology Review from August 2017: Can WeChat Thrive in the United States?
Traditional Media Is Shelling Cash For Digital Chops — CES was no exception to demonstrating the massive transformation for the media industry with networks, platforms, agencies all converging. Case and point are: 1) Big Block, a creative agency and original programming studio, added former Leo Burnett EVP Tom Flanagan to head up content innovation; and 2) Viacom acquired the influencer marketing firm WHOSAY to help advertisers create more social-first branded content. I had a chance to speak with folks from both companies at the Tubefilter + Beachfront + Jukin CES Digital Party on Tuesday night and the convergence theme was common — IE, the lines are further blurring between traditional premium content and branded content.
Voice Everywhere, But At What Cost? — Alexa won CES 2017, and 2018 was another strong year for voice. With Google Home making strides and Amazon and Google leading the AI charge, this year saw a lot of consumer hardware/robotics + AI movement. And while I didn’t make it to the show floor, those who did (and who also happened to be parents) were abuzz about “the creepy AI robot friends” companies plan to sell to families (#unsubscribe). On a brighter note, I got to test some new voice capabilities tethered to smart TVs and the ease through which you can search and discover content via voice search should prove to further accelerate the aforementioned CTV movement. Discovering mid- and long-tail OTT content has never been easier.
Crackle Is Crackin’ (in a cool crackin’ way) — Hey, it’s Sony Crackle now. Get it right, or (probably don’t) pay the price. The once hot then not video streaming company had a noticeable presence at CES. I saw Crackle’s brand and content featured prominently on Smart TV operating systems. They also had a cocktail event Wednesday night at Aria that had the right people buzzing. Word from the TV[R]EV community is Crackle is a good monetization partner to work across the CTV landscape. It seems like the growth of OTT is benefiting Crackle quite well.
Every Industry Is Facing A Crypto Disruptor, Especially Media — I couldn’t go a day or cocktail party without at least one pitch about a new company that was utilizing blockchain to build a transparent technology set to disrupt a myriad of areas in the media supply chain, blowing up the status quo, eradicating agency mark ups, eliminating ad fraud, etc. There were also a lot of people plainly bragging for “getting rich off crypto” which seems more a Wall Street thing, but these were all Silicon Valley cats. I find the movement promising but also flawed with an odd combination of uncertainty, overconfidence and unwieldy expectations that can’t be met. Oh, and the Silicon Valley comment, I’m not alone in this sentiment..
Too many people in Silicon Valley talking about how much “money” they “made” “investing” in cryptocurrencies
Pisses me off. When did “NYC finance bro” culture invade SV? What happened to creating valuable things for people?
— Darshan Shankar (@DShankar) January 14, 2018
[BONUS] Wahlburgers Is Legitimately AWESOME — We shipped it up to Boston for some Wahlburger’s Thursday night (yes, there’s one on the Vegas strip), and let’s just say Marky Mark’s family knows how to put out a burger (I’m all about the Thanksgiving dinner sandwich). Just ask TV[R]EV’s Jason Damata, who had his first Wahlburgers experience and proceeded to order half the menu. Grilled Banana Fluffanutta, anyone?
What did I miss? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. And have some fun out there, folks. We have a long year ahead of us.