CES is having its comeback residency in Las Vegas at a pivotal moment in tech and advertising, as the industry steadies itself for an uncertain economic climate going into 2023.
TikTok, Walmart and Netflix—brands that haven’t typically had a presence at the early January electronics showcase—will show up in a big way. Excitement, and the challenges, around Web3 and the metaverse will certainly be major talking points as will heady subjects such as the fall of FTX, the disgraced crypto exchange, which could affect marketers and ad agencies in the new year. And, of course, there will be electronics.
CES marks the start of business for the year and attracts ad agencies, brands and tech companies. Brands and advertisers, which use CES as the jumping-off point for getting deals done in the new year, plan to meet with tech platforms such as TikTok, and other giants, including Meta, Google, Amazon, Snap, Pinterest and Reddit during the Jan. 5 to Jan. 8, 2023 event. (Twitter, which continues to work through its internal chaos since Elon Musk took over, does not appear to have an official presence, even as it has been a big player in previous years.)
There is some optimism heading into CES, which has faced multiple years of disruption due to the pandemic. “We’ve got a lot of big brands,” said Michael Kassan, founder and CEO of MediaLink, which programs the advertising confab at C Space, “like Unilever, AB InBev, pharma [companies]. A lot of big brands that are all coming in, and I think the turnout is going to be really strong.”
TikTok’s going to the chapel
TikTok, which has been fending off critics in the U.S., where there have been growing concerns about its close connections to China-based ByteDance, will have a large presence at CES. Most major tech and ad platforms have suites where they demo their services to media buyers at CES. TikTok is taking over the Wedding Chapel at Aria, where it will be meeting with ad partners and brands.
For TikTok, the stakes are getting higher—U.S. government officials and regulators have raised alarm bells about TikTok’s Chinese origins. Brands have not been able to ignore that some U.S. states are even banning the app from official government devices during a new wave of fear that the app could leave data vulnerable.
“I don’t think TikTok will make it a core theme of CES, but I think they will address it, one on one with clients, who are suspect or anxious about the role of China and Chinese stakeholders in the platform,” said one top media buyer who spoke with Ad Age on the condition of anonymity.
TikTok, of course, wants to focus more on its technology and how it fits into CES. The electronics show is known for endless exhibits of the latest technology in TVs and digital screens and TikTok is looking to break into living rooms. In November, Dan Page, TikTok’s head of global distribution and partnerships, joined an official CES podcast to talk about the app’s big-screen strategy. TikTok already has a connected TV app, and it has even bigger plans for TVs and out-of-home displays, Page said. “There are 2 billion additional screens across the world, outside of mobile,” Page said in the podcast, “our aim is to bring that entertainment experience to those screens.”
Netflix and deal
Jeremi Gorman, president of worldwide advertising at Netflix, is speaking at C Space, and it marks the first time that the streaming giant has a real contingent at CES as an ad seller. Netflix has started popping up at major ad industry events, including at Cannes in 2022. Netflix launched its first ad-supported streaming subscription service in the fourth quarter of 2022.
“They will be there and have a real presence,” Kassan said.
Read more: The year in ad-supported streaming
All major ad platforms will be at CES, said George Manas, CEO of Omincom Group’s OMD Worldwide, pointing to Google, Amazon, Snap and Pinterest, among others. Omnicom plans to meet with hundreds of clients from major brands, Manas said.
“It looks like we’re now exceeding pre-pandemic levels from clients,” Manas said, adding that the agency will continue to meet with executives and have discussions with its key partners at the trade show.
The C Space also will feature discussions from major brands such as Delta. John Deere, Stellantis and BMW will give keynote addresses, alongside traditional electronics giants such as LG. Group Black CEO Travis Montaque and Instacart Chief Marketing Officer Laura Jones are set to speak at C Space, too.