As the vice president of emerging media & technology at the Ad Council, I always look forward to attending CES, the most influential tech conference in the world—attracting over 3,000 exhibitors and 130,000 attendees, all showcasing breakthrough technologies that will shape our future. I love to learn how technology innovations are not only shaping the marketing industry, but most importantly solving the biggest challenges in our world today. Below are some of my key takeaways from 2024.
The Supercharged Consumer Experience
My CES journey began at Digital Hollywood, where industry experts discussed the convergence of technology and entertainment, focusing on trends and innovations in digital media. A standout moment was at the “All Media is Social Media” panel, where they discussed the shift from advertising being an interruption to a participative consumer experience. Isabel Perry, vice president of emerging technology at DEPT, described this evolution through a partnership her team built with Amazon Prime Video to create hype around the launch of their original film, Without Remorse. In an effort to reach a hard to engage audience, DEPT partnered with top UK streamers and created a live-action gaming experience on Twitch—transforming a movie scene into a real-time interactive event, where streamers engaged viewers to solve clues as they moved through a specially designed warehouse set. The event, resulting in 20 million impressions and 500k views in 24 hours, demonstrated the power of immersive consumer experiences. From a social impact lens, I’m inspired to think through how nonprofits can replicate this type of experience to raise awareness on a cause.
AI’s Impact on Marketing
It was no surprise that AI was everywhere at CES. DJ Perera, chief media officer at the Ad Council, spoke on a panel titled “The Disruption: Media, Platforms and Advertising” and highlighted AI’s potential in personalizing dynamic creative content with the right guardrails in place like user consent and privacy. The panel also explored the immense potential of synthetic voice, using AI to provide language translation in real time—reducing barriers for understanding different cultures. The risks with synthetic voice were also raised, like ensuring it doesn’t replace talent and that the content creation process remains authentic. Musical artist and entrepreneur will.i.am was interviewed by Shelly Palmer at the Brand Innovators breakfast and he compared his creative process to doing yoga. The outputs of his work rely on him absorbing the world around him—something that AI cannot replicate.
At the CES CSpace keynote, Evan Spiegel, chief executive officer of Snap Inc., discussed how they’re using AI in product design. Snapchat has a paid version of the app, Snapchat Plus, with 7.5 million users. He said that they’ve built AI tools within the product to create the perfect snap, empowering creativity and helping people express how they’re feeling.
Tech That Will Change the World
Walking the CES Expo floor during a guided tour with Stagwell, I was reminded of what Shelly said earlier in the day, “Tech is meaningless unless it changes the way we behave. If it doesn’t excite you, then you don’t believe it will change the world.” The innovations that impressed me the most were those that I knew were going to change behavior and positively impact lives. Innovations that struck me included Luxxotica’s nuance audio hearing glasses, innovative eyewear designed to enhance audio experiences for individuals with hearing disabilities. They integrate advanced hearing technology into the frame of the glasses, allowing users to receive clearer, more directional sound. The technology amplifies and clarifies sounds in the user’s environment, improving their ability to engage in conversations and interact with their surroundings.
The ability to hear through lenses came to life for me later that day when I demoed the new Meta x Rayban stories glasses, with integrated speakers that delivered sound directly to my ear. The design minimizes audio leakage, and my colleagues standing right next to me could not hear the sound. The glasses also have a built-in camera which takes high quality photos (comparable to iPhone 11) and an AI assistant that can answer questions with a simple tap and “Hey Meta” prompt.
One of the most impressive innovations I saw was from Genesis Systems. They developed a groundbreaking water generation technology that is capable of extracting water from the air, up to 120 gallons of water per day! Through a process known as atmospheric water generation (AWC), they capture humidity from the air and condense it into water. The process not only requires less energy than traditional methods, but also captures more carbon dioxide than it emits during operation. It is estimated that 40% of the global population faces some form of water scarcity and a tech innovation like this is a complete step change in how we produce clean drinking water for areas of need, without relying on traditional water sources like rivers, lakes or ground waters. The best part is that their innovative approach has a carbon-negative impact on the environment—not only does it provide a sustainable source of clean drinking water, it also actively contributes to reducing atmospheric CO2 levels.
Interview at Stagwell Content Studio
A CES highlight was my interview with David Sable, a digital innovation and brand strategy icon. As a past board chair, David is a fierce supporter of the Ad Council, and he asked me very insightful questions about the Ad Council’s approach to using emerging media and technology to drive social impact. You can watch the interview here.
Tech and Media’s Role in Mental Health and Well-being
On Wednesday, the Ad Council partnered with Emerging Tech Exchange and Extreme Reach to host a “Tech for Good” luncheon. I moderated a panel discussion focused on tech and media’s role in mental health and well-being. Key takeaways included the importance and need for collaboration between companies and data sharing for deeper insights into mental health challenges. Pinterest’s Inspired Internet Pledge was a focal point, emphasizing the commitment of tech companies to foster a healthier digital environment in actionable ways, specific to their product or service. The “Tech for Good” luncheon marked the first in-person event for Ad Council’s newly formed Emerging Media & Tech committee that was announced in early December.
The Sphere, a new state-of-the-art entertainment venue in Las Vegas, provided a spectacular finale to my CES experience. It is equipped with high resolution LED technology and offers an immersive audiovisual experience. My colleague and I bought tickets to see the current show being hosted there, “Postcard from Earth”—a unique film by Darren Aronofksy. Upon entering the theater, you have the opportunity to interact with AI robots, which felt like I was chatting with ChatGPT in human form! The robots interact with guests, and understand and provide responses to questions. It was a great precursor to the film, which took us on a journey across Earth’s diverse landscapes and into outer space, highlighting the impact of human activity on the planet. It was unlike any theater experience I’ve ever witnessed. Not only was it sensory, but the seats also include infrasound haptic systems—providing a tangible feel as if you are right there.