Key marketing technology takeaways from CES 2020

30-second summary:

  • This year’s CES showcased several new technologies and developments that could impact marketers and advertisers.
  • Key headliner: Parallel Reality, introduced by Delta Airlines for airports. Developed by ex-Microsoft and Disney Imagineering engineers, it lets a single large digital screen show different messages and images to different people at the same time.
  • Other marketing-related news: the new Lenovo foldable laptop, creating new ad inventory; Amazon’s integration of Alexa and other tech with cars; the launch of short-form mobile video platform Quibi; and Spotify’s new Podcast Ads.

Just when marketers and advertisers thought they have a grasp on their industry’s technology, along comes the year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The just-complete extravaganza pointed toward several new technologies that could have a big impact on marketing and ads.

The headliner is called Parallel Reality, introduced by Delta Airlines for airports. It allows individual users, standing at the same screen, to see a personalized message just for them.

One screen, many viewers

Developed by Redmond, Washington-based startup Misapplied Sciences – founded by Microsoft and Disney Imagineering veterans – Parallel Reality offers a real-world implementation of the future’s personalized billboards popularized by the movie “Minority Report.”

Parallel Reality digital screens allow multiple people to see different, personalized images or messages from the same screen, with no special glasses.

The technology is based on the ability of each pixel in a display to project “up to millions of light rays of different colors and brightness,” according to Misapplied Sciences.

Each of the light rays can be directed via software at a specific person, defined by location detection and identity pickups.

It’s not entirely clear from the information made available how Parallel Reality pinpoints a given person, but the implication is that there is a location detection app in that person’s smartphone or that device’s identity is utilized.

Boom in OOH?

The technology works as described, said multiple reviewers. If so, it could essentially change the entire Out-of-Home (OOH) industry.

The screens can also pinpoint images at traveling cars, allowing individualized video or images to be directed at speeding vehicles.

Stadium versions, with individualized content showing at the same time to many attendees from the same screen, could similarly help make walking-around into a targetable, personalized, large-screen media environment.

This could cause a huge boom of OOH inventory, hopefully new laws about highway billboards and a kind of mass personalization for every person’s outdoor journeys.

Tech intersection

CES is nothing if not a showcase for intersections of technology.

One of the biggest this year is Amazon’s integrations of Alexa intelligent voice agents and other technology into cars.

If popular, it could launch entirely new categories of ad inventory, program content, vehicle-entertainment interaction, and useful personalized ads for retailers coming up the road — all available through the world’s largest retailer.

This includes the integration of Amazon-owned home security system Ring and Alexa commands into various makes of cars, the ability to media stream FireTV to cars, a $50 Echo Auto that connects the Alexa smartphone app to cars and plays through car speakers, and the ability to now pay for gas at 11,000 Exxon and Mobile stations by talking to Alexa.

Amazon Web Services highlighted the use of its hosting and development platform for automotive visualization software Zerolight, which generates visualizations of real-time renderings of custom car configurations, for personalized display ads.

Speaking of ad inventory, interactive content platform Apester pointed to Microsoft and Lenovo as being the “biggest winners of this year’s CES,” based on Apester’s measurement of audience anticipation and perception of innovation.

The key attraction: the first Windows laptop with a foldable display, called the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold.

Foldable laptops

While the hardware marks a new first for foldable screens, Apster CEO and founder Moti Cohen told ClickZ that “the opportunity to be able to present more ads on a split screen” was a key driver for the assessment of importance by the survey respondents.

Another potential source of big ad supply is Quibi, a high-powered mobile video startup that will offer “quick bites” targeted at digital natives.

Robert Rothschild, VP of Global Marketing at social ad platform Smartly.io, told us that “the ad inventory for the entire first year has already sold out before the launch and promises an incredibly personalized experience for both brands and consumers.”

And the future of one already-successful emerging ad inventory platform – podcasts – is getting more interesting, following an announcement at CES by Spotify.

The streaming music and audio service announced its Podcast Ads, powered by Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI).

It builds on the shift in podcast from downloads to streaming, offering the planning, reporting and measurement capabilities of online ads.

It can also utilize user data to target ads in real time, by such variables as location, device type or age.

Not ‘Holy Grail’

Among other capabilities, Podcast Ads lets advertisers measure actual listener impressions, whereas downloaded podcasts can’t accurately determine if the ad was actually listened to.

Stephen Smyk, SVP of Podcast and Influencer Marketing at performance audio ad agency Veritone One, told ClickZ via email that, although the Spotify announcement is “an exciting development with major potential in the long term,” it won’t represent a major impact in the short term because Spotify only accounts for about 5 to 15 percent of podcast listeners.

In the current announcement, SAI is limited to Spotify-exclusive podcasts.

Smyk said that providing this kind of podcast ad targeting and measurement at this point requires a provider to own all the touchpoints in delivering a podcast: the platform where the podcast is hosted, the service providing the ads, the podcast app for playback and the listener relationship.

And, he noted, this new service doesn’t take the place of “the holy grail of podcast advertising” — the host read. A podcast host reading the ad, and possibly talking about personal experiences with the product, is more valuable than any streaming ad, he said.

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