Being a veteran attendee of CES, it is inevitable that each year someone asks me what I thought was the most amazing thing I saw at the show. And each year, I can usually point out one interesting piece of tech that fits into that category. Year after year there are invariably a few items that cause we merry geeks to circle around them ooh-ing and ahh-ing with avarice in our eyes.
This year, however was different. What struck me most this year was not to be found in a piece of super-slick technology (though there were a few), but rather something surprising. The industry as a whole seems to have undergone some radical rethink and rallied itself around a few core technologies and concepts. Rather than the chaotic grab-bag of offerings that we are usually presented with, something has galvanized the industry to get their products into some sort of alignment.
Could it be the sudden revelation that what really matters is the content?
Maybe. Though, I think weâ€™ve all know that for a while now. The difference today, seems to be the revelation that no matter how big your P&L is, you canâ€™t go it alone. From the top on down, the industry leaders have largely opened their systems and begun to leverage each others’ products and designs to craft exciting, rich user experiences.
Whatâ€™s enabling this shift in strategies?
On the underside, companies like Intel, Broadcom & Marvell are building powerful engines into their media and connectivity chips that support a wide range of technologies. These SOCs (System on a Chip) handle the complex tasks of supporting widget standards, handling WiFi connectivity, decoding streaming video, and tackling the interactive frameworks such as Flash. And lets not overlook the fact that Google is pouring free Android OS code into the market as fast as it can absorb it.
On the topside, you have media services being uncoupled from their legacy distribution frameworks. Content is being untethered and allowed to travel freely in the broadband ecosystem in streaming forms or through the use of widgets and openly published standards. Companies like Netflix and Amazon have shown the industry how to easily leverage these new broadband distribution methodologies. Using well-established widget conventions, TV Apps are emerging with the same fervor reminiscent of the early iPhone days. By the end of the year, you will be hard-pressed to find a TV (or any connected device for that matter) that doesnâ€™t contain a way to update your Facebook status, bid on that piece of collectible memorabilia, and access a deep well of premium and hyper-syndicated content right from your couch.
In the middle, the manufactures of the finished goods now have new fertile ground to explore. The brands can now begin to offer more utility in their products then ever before. Smart brands will use these new levers to align themselves with consumer behavior patterns.
And of course, the opportunities to reach consumers using this new connected landscape have given a new lease on life to an array of marketing verticals. Is the traditional 30 second spot dead? Probably not. Yet. Banner ad blight? Doubtful, but we can hope. But is it now possible to create utility in unique, interactive, measurable ways that can elevate a brand from being just another advertiser to becoming a valued partner. One that is attuned to the needs of their consumer.
If I could offer any advice to an agency or brand, I would caution them not to miss this opportunity. Change is inevitable for this landscape. The alignment of the industry as a whole is evidence of that. We are moving rapidly into a new age of media distribution. One that values personalized utility and interaction. Brands who can effectively position themselves in this new space today, stand to become the leaders tomorrow.