CES 2022 was expected to mark a major return to in-person events after nearly two years of virtual conferences. But Omicron had other plans. In mid-December, several of the show’s marquee exhibitors started to pull out along with media and general attendees, citing safety concerns. That trend continued right up until the days immediately preceding the show’s start, with a last minute surge of cancellations. The impact was a 70% decline in attendance compared to the last in-person event in 2020, according to USA Today.
Despite the last minute maneuvering and resulting hybrid experience, CES remains a critical platform for technology and non-technology companies alike to preview upcoming innovations, offer thought leadership perspectives and engage with media, partners and customers. More than 2,300 exhibitors, including more than 800 startups, launched products featuring innovation across artificial intelligence, automotive technology, digital health, smart home and more, according to CTA. Three of our clients, Abbott, L’Oreal and Philips Sound, were among those that retained a presence at the show, and our team members weigh in below on their observations.
Renee Austin, EVP, Global Corporate Lead
This year was a pivotal CES for health tech and our client Abbott for two reasons. First, while Abbott has long been part of CES’ Digital Health forum, 2022 marked the first time in CES history that a healthcare company took the main stage for a keynote at the show. Abbott’s CEO, Robert Ford, shared the spotlight with a diverse group of Abbott’s top scientists, engineers, inventors and partners to demonstrate how human-powered health and health-tech innovation are empowering people to actively engage in their own health.
Second, Abbott showed that even at the biggest tech forum in the world, its unique approach to technology innovation in its relentless pursuit of health is always viewed through a human focus. For example, through testimonials by people like actress Sherri Shepherd, who shared her journey with type 2 diabetes and how Abbott’s Freestyle Libre continuous glucose monitor (CGM) delivers insights unique to her that eliminate the guesswork in her diabetes management and help her make long-term changes to her behavioral habits. Or Tyrone Morris, a heart failure patient who after being given six months to live, beat the odds thanks to three separate Abbott devices, and now owns a barbecue business that specializes in low-sodium recipes. Abbott and United Airlines showed how COVID-19 testing is a critical first-line of defense to help tackle the pandemic and get people back to normalcy (and CES!). Human-powered healthcare was demonstrated through Abbott’s neuromodulation tech that eases patients’ tremors in Parkinson’s care, and its point of view on how the science behind the microbiome can optimize overall health with personalized nutrition. One of the most exciting moments at CES was Abbott’s reveal of Lingo, a new category of consumer biowearables being designed to translate your body’s unique language into actionable data to help you track and measure your general health and wellness. The sensor technology is being designed to track key signals in the body such as glucose, ketones and lactate, and could also be used one day to track alcohol levels. And at the heart of all of this innovation news was Abbott’s commitment to innovating for access and affordability to ensure health-tech solutions are accessible to those who need it most.
What struck me about Abbott’s presence at CES is what always makes me proud to partner with Abbott: At CES, we expect to be amazed. With the latest devices. Wearables and shareables. Huge TVs, self-driving cars and robots in all shapes and sizes. But much of those leading-edge innovations are for the elite. When it comes to life-changing technology that lengthens and strengthens lives, it needs to be affordable. Accessible. And available for all. In the fast-growing industry of digital health, health-tech innovation needs to remove barriers to ensure that the latest and greatest technologies are for the many, not the few. And Abbott, while leading the way in health tech innovation, always leads with humanity first.
Cynthia Medina, Senior Manager, Media Relations
After two years of working remotely, the idea of finally meeting clients and working face-to-face felt great. COVID-19, of course, changed those plans, and I was forced to make a decision to cancel my attendance at the Pepcom CES media event due to decreased reporters in attendance and of course safety precautions surrounding the Omicron variant.
During the planning process, I learned that making the introduction to the event staffers sooner rather than later made the planning process much simpler, especially during a time of uncertainty. The Pepcom staff did a great job updating us on status, sending information on event changes, links and other important information, like the conversion to a livestream due to the cancellation of so many companies and media RSVPs. Being prepared for last minute changes is becoming the norm during this time.
Kevin Brinkman, head of sales and marketing at TPV North America and Petra de Goede, event manager at TPV, decided to move ahead with attending the CES Pepcom Digital Experience on behalf of Philips Sound. Our clients observed that while attendance was much lower than expected, they still had meaningful interactions and discussions with media who were onsite, including BBC, BGR, Good Housekeeping, Newsweek, and others, reinforcing the value those personal interactions and demos can deliver.
Kate Glending, Account Director, Client Experience
While the expectation was to have CES in-person, the last-minute pull out by many media and brands was a hurdle. However, there was a strong virtual foundation including key learnings from CES 2021 that allowed for a smooth transition from in-person to virtual.
Media are used to virtual events at this point, and chances are trade shows like CES will have to embrace a hybrid model in the future. In fact, for some media, it’s easier for them to participate virtually.
Many of the technologies at this year’s show centered around pandemic-area trends such as at-home solutions. Trends this year also included concept and soon-to-debut autos, smart kitchen appliances, innovative wellness and fitness products, beauty gadgets, parenting must-haves, and much more.
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