Dispatch From CES 2008

I spent this week at CES 2008, where innovation was everywhere. I’m the CEO of an agency for which innovation is everything, so this was a can’t-miss for me. The event got me thinking about the ways we may look at video advertising in the very near future and what it means for online video.

Here’s what I learned at CES.

Thin Is In

OLED (define) isn’t coming, it’s here. Sony already has small three-credit-cards thick (or thin) OLED displays available to consumers, and larger screens are coming.

Why is this important for online video? These displays have the potential to change not only how we see video but also where we see it. When combined with wireless Internet-enabled devices, OLED will make devices lighter, with crisper, high-definition displays. Combine that with the ability to receive streamed content from a central location and the fact that all television signals will be digital by next February, and you’ve got full digital content delivery and a digital display — which means digital (and digitally led) agencies should take every advantage of the opportunity.

We’ll Serve and Get Served

At CES last year, media serving offered a lot of promise. Microsoft showed off new versions of its Media Center at the heart of Vista, and numerous other players were getting into the act. This year, it seems everyone wants a piece of not only serving libraries of video (and other content) on a home network but serving them remotely as well. This will have serious implications on physical content distribution (e.g., CDs and DVDs) and for advertisers. On-demand content viewing will explode over the next few years on numerous networked and Wi-Fi enabled devices, and media companies and advertisers will have to figure out how to create inventory, account for measurability, and deliver positive consumer experiences on all devices.

Convergence Is Reality

The set-top box was pretty absent from many CES exhibits, replaced by LCDs and plasmas with their own CMSs (define) and Internet access. LG, Samsung, Panasonic, and other TV manufacturers had on-screen displays featuring RSS feeds, programming guides, and promises of “no cable box needed” viewing. These will present valuable advertising opportunities, and both manufacturers and advertisers and their agencies should start talking now.

Wires Begone

Not only is content being delivered everywhere, it’s being done without wires. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need a wireless Internet connection to do it anymore. Panasonic unveiled technology that delivers high-definition (!) video across a room wirelessly to TVs. While there isn’t a direct impact on advertising with this innovation, it may very well be one of my favorites from CES.

Social Media Is Everywhere

Another fascinating development at CES was the frequent use of the word “share.” Every new feature of every device seemed to enable not only content sharing but discovery of new content and connections to “friends” as well. This all but confirms that social media is here to stay, and all media may be social in the very near future. This puts added pressure on advertisers to figure this social media “thing” out.

Content Is Going All-Access

A huge percentage of devices at CES are designed to give consumers more content access. And more content access means more advertiser opportunities. From phones and digital music players that receive over-the-air digital TV signals to SlingPlayers on new devices to YouTube access built into TVs, it’s getting easier for consumers to discover and access content. While content exists for people to be entertained, it also exists to serve as an advertising vehicle. This puts even more pressure on us as an industry to figure out how to not only monetize content on digital platforms but also implement standards that can scale across multiple platforms.

My major takeaway from CES 2008 (and legitimized by the size of NBC Universal’s presence there): content isn’t only king, it’s also omnipotent. It’s everywhere and contains information that’s virtually all-knowing. Advertisers must work together to evolve along with technology, and not forget about the hardware. For so long, we’ve looked at the Web as a medium that works on a computer with an Internet connection. It’s time to see the Internet as it truly is — a protocol with connectivity from potentially every media device — and to think of ways to deliver advertising experiences that travel with the content and not cripple what’s so wonderful about that content being everywhere.

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