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No More Streaking at CES

Streaks are meant to be broken. After 13 straight years attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I’m taking the year off.

The last time I missed it, I was working for Unicast, the rich media company famous for its Superstitial takeovers. With ads like those and pop-ups once the bane of web users’ existence, I’m nostalgic for when that represented the worst of what the ad industry had to offer. When I bought my first co-op, a senior citizen on the building’s board saw where I worked (then at 360i) and said, “Do you do pop-ups?” I somehow got the approval after my diatribe on the value of Google ads. I’m not sure I would have passed if I applied around now and she were to ask, “Did you conspire with foreign adversaries to compromise our elections?”

Anyway, there is a lot I don’t miss about CES this year.

From a distance, all the headlines coming out of CES seem fake. Sony has a car prototype. AMD has some faster something something. On the fringes, some say a selfie-taking engagement ring iPhone case might spell greater doom for humanity than the looming US-Iran war. Product Hunt featured an award-winning case to hide edibles, unlocked by facial recognition (and it’s none of your business if I pre-ordered it, for work purposes, of course).

When someone first mentioned “Impossible Pork” in the Serial Marketers community, I seriously thought it was a throwback to when the Adult Entertainment Expo took place at the same time and location as CES. What a great title that’d be. Fake sex is out; fake meat is in. Last year, the most innovative (and delicious) product I came across was White Castle’s Impossible Burger. Just don’t try to eat a hundred of those unless you’re bringing 25 friends.

If it all seems ridiculous from afar, it’s even crazier to experience all of it in person.

That’s why in the past, I had started writing fake preview decks about CES. Since agency recap decks were usually written to push whatever agenda that firm had for its clients, you really could put together most of the content before even getting to Vegas. I know this because I was the one putting together the recap decks in advance, with slide titles like “insert something about drones here” or “find weird internet of things device.” A semi-conscious intern could write most of the annual trends without even being able to spell “CES.” Some slides were pre-populated with friends’ products, which I would usually disclose were friends’ products.

The recap decks were often useful ways to distill CES for people who weren’t there or didn’t get exposed to much of the show, but I still knew the artifice behind them. It might have been fake news, but it had real value. The recap deck from 2016 covering 10 years of CES remains one of my favorite presentations and a very raw, honest look at my sometimes inflated or misguided perspectives.

The best way to understand CES, at least from anything I’ve written, is this LinkedIn post I wrote about the Shadow CES. This is the show that I miss this year. It’s running into people you see every year or two or three from all over the country, and sometimes all over the world. It’s picking up conversations that you might have started five years ago and continuing them as if no time has elapsed. It’s asking people on the ground, “What’s one thing you’ve learned out here?” or “What’s one thing that excited you?” and seeing if they have any half-decent response.

I’m stuck in New York though, catching up after two-and-a-half weeks in Central America (more on that next week). I won’t totally miss out on the fun. Tonight (Wednesday night), I get to co-host First Wednesdays at the Royalton Park (29th St) penthouse bar from 6-9pm; just show up or RSVP if you can make it. We’ll have some guests from as far as Canada and Germany this month, and maybe someone will bring along a gadget that takes a selfie of your butt (sadly, this won’t be me; mine’s in the shop).

Speaking of cutting edge tech, I’m also excited to announce a new virtual chat coming next week with the renowned blockchain expert Jeremy Epstein who will share some candid thoughts about blockchain in the Serial Marketers Slack community next Wednesday, January 15, at 2pm EST. Join and ask him your toughest questions. RSVP in Meetup so you have it on your calendar.

Happy CES to everyone attending. If you’re coming across anything exciting, or you’re a friend pitching a product, let me know. I hope, whatever it is, that it makes my butt look good.

This column was originally published in the newsletter. While I share the introductory column here, other updates such as jobs, events, and commentary on news are exclusively available to subscribers. Sign up now to make sure you receive it.

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