Agencies Aren’t at CES for Tech

Digiday is at the Consumer Electronics Show. Lead agency reporter Jack Marshall will examine the show through the eyes of agencies and their clients, exploring the opportunities and challenges that new technologies and devices offer them. Follow Jack on Twitter @jackmarshall.


Digital agencies descended on Vegas en masse this week along with the rest of the technology community to keep abreast of the latest industry innovations and costumer trends. But in reality agency execs are mostly here to conduct meetings and to entertain clients.

Multiple agency executives said they’ve barely even set foot on the exhibition floor since their arrival, and implied the show — to them at least — really isn’t about the technology at all. It’s about cramming as many meetings as possible into a period of a few days that might otherwise take months to arrange.

“When else do you get the whole industry in one place at one time? That’s the value,” said one agency executive.

It helps, of course, that the place is Vegas in January and many take place in the Strip’s best restaurants. Those meetings might prove more productive than they would in New York or L.A., as a result.

“I’m going to go and hang out with clients here even though they live four blocks away from me in New York. It takes you out of the norm and feels really relaxed, and there’s value in that,” explained Gene Liebel, chief strategy officer for Huge.

Many agencies took the opportunity to demonstrate their technological nouse to clients by conducting guided tours. IPG, for example, showed representatives from clients such as Kia, Nikon, and USAA around the show.

But agencies time on the floor was for the primarily to benefit client relationships than it was to educate themselves.

“If I was invisible, couldn’t take meetings, and was just here for the exhibition floor, I’m not sure whether or not I would come back next year,” suggested Andy Hood, executive creative development director at AKQA London. There’s little of import at the show that wont be covered by blogs, he suggested.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no value in playing with the latest TVs, tablets, or cameras in the flesh. If nothing else, just being around the latest wave of gadgets and innovation can at least help to inspire, Hood suggested.

Liebel echoed that sentiment. It’s one thing reading about new technology but another to have played with it first-hand, he said.

“We don’t like people that just talk about this stuff, we want to be hands on with it. I also like to test my eyes a bit, and see what jumps out at me. Some of the ideas are dumb, but it gets you thinking about the possibilities at least.”

But the fact remains that the core of the event — the technology — remains a secondary focus for the majority of agencies in attendance this week. They’re here to take meetings, wine and dine clients, and any inspiration they pick up in the process is a bonus.

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