Marketers and agency execs can be like magpies, instantly attracted to what’s shiny and new without much reason for it. The best place to see this in action: the Consumer Electronics Show.
This week marketers have once again flocked to Las Vegas to show off their latest gadgets and hear about the newest ad formats. It’s one of a number of industry events that can feel like a whirlwind, full of people pitching what’s new and hot without stopping to consider if they’re delivering something that’s needed in the first place or bringing value beyond an opportunity for a catchy headline.
So far, we’ve seen: Charmin’s toilet paper robot, Neon’s so-called artificial humans, L’Oreal’s influencer-inspired lipstick mixer, Agility Robotics’ delivery robot, as well as a number of cat- focused technologies like Lulupet’s AI kitty litter box, a headless robot kitten and Bellabot’s food-delivery cat, which allegedly purrs when petted, to name a few.
The race to chase newness is not a fresh phenomenon, although perhaps it’s more on display at an event like CES. Marketers and agency executives alike tend to be easily won over by the idea that new is always better, that there must be innovation for the sake of innovation, technology for the sake of technology. Sure, CES can be useful. But after talking to executives, I have the impression is also that a lot of what happens at the event is more performative than anything else.
A common complaint these days is that the ad industry is moving at such a fast clip, with a focus on doing without much consideration of how or why a particular thing might be done. Part of that might simply be that agency executives and marketers alike are worrying too much about being part of the conversation to stop and do the work that will help keep them relevant.
As one agency executive recently explained, marketers have so many digital channels to fill and so much content to deliver that they don’t slow down enough to take the time needed to write briefs and plan out whom they should be talking to, what they should be saying and what they want to convey. They are moving too quickly all while frantically trying to make sure that they’re not being left out that they haven’t considered why they need to be part of a particular conversation. There are so many possibilities and so much competition that they don’t know exactly what they need, said the executive, who requested to remain unnamed.
“Companies make shit to jump on the bandwagon, to showboat, to be part of a movement,” said Tom Goodwin, head of futures and insights at Publicis Groupe. “There’s a broader culture where tech companies get evaluated on different P/E ratios and they have all the sexiness in the industry. People working in more rudimentary, profitable industries tend to feel left out.”
Added Goodwin: “When it comes to consumer electronics products, there’s a bifurcation between companies doing some real innovation. Others it’s almost like vaporware; there’s nothing really there.”
In a climate where new technology is all that matters, marketers and agency executives have come to make that the priority, especially at big industry events. When they are in a showroom surrounded by the new gadgets and products that companies are testing or debuting, they might feel like they are behind if they don’t also have something similar to display. That sheer paranoia and fear of missing out can easily worm its way into their mindset.
They might think, Could they also be missing out on the latest way to advertise to someone? If they can’t woo consumers with a new gadget, should they at least try to capture attention with a new ad unit? It’s easy to see how marketers and agency executives who so desperately want to be part of the next big thing could be swayed by new advertising tactics without thinking about if those tactics are actually effective or useful at a show like CES.