Marketing Mayhem at the Consumer Electronics Show

Intel snagged the Black Eyed Peas to play at the convention.
Intel snagged the Black Eyed Peas to play at the convention. (By Albert Watson)
By Leslie Walker
Thursday, January 5, 2006

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 4 The Big Pitch assaults me here like some rock opera: See me, feel me, touch me .

It started months ago, in a trickle of e-mails offering advance briefings; followed by a drumbeat of phone calls, printed invitations and more e-mails; building up to a crescendo here Thursday as the nation's biggest trade show opens with about 2,500 gadget vendors screaming for media attention.

The Big Pitch for the annual Consumer Electronics Show starts earlier every year and involves phantom products that may never reach store shelves along with real gadgets being shown for the first time. Over the past two months, I've read more than 400 pitches inviting me to a private showing of some "life-changing" device or offering access to a "highly exclusive" party where such devices will be celebrated.

Big companies are flying in celebrities to entice people to attend their product launches and after-hours parties.

Thursday night, chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices is presenting the Black Crowes at MGM's Studio 64 club while rival Intel has snared hip-hop stars the Black Eyed Peas. Over at the House of Blues, Motorola is putting the Foo Fighters on stage, as Samsung holds an NFL "Champions Dinner" at the Wynn casino featuring "chalk talk" from Boomer Esiason, Troy Aikman and Steve Young. And the nighttime fun continues Friday with a Monster Cable awards ceremony featuring Stevie Wonder.

But because marketers use so much hype, techno-babble and incomprehensible acronyms in their wind-up to the five-day show, I am always torn about how to tackle an exhibit area taking up more space than two dozen football fields.

Quick, what should I see first?

Do I make a beeline for the S.beat, which creator Swissbit billed in an e-mail as the first Swiss army knife with a built-in music player? Perhaps I should gawk at the "clothes that glow" from Elam USA, which the company assured me contained "the world's first washable lamp designed to be sewn into clothing.''

Seriously, folks, those were both real pitches.

Then again, I might head over to LaserShield's booth, taking that little black fob with a panic button the company mailed me last month, so I can pick up my review copy of what it billed as a "revolutionary wireless Plug 'N Go fully monitored LaserShield Instant Security System."

In one of many previews held for the media Wednesday, pitch men and women from about 100 companies set their shiny gadgets on a spotlit table in a ballroom of the Venetian resort and casino and gave one-minute spiels about how you and I might actually use them.

There was the latest "digital hotspotter" from Canary Wireless that is supposed to save time by telling you right away if a wireless data signal is nearby. I don't know about you, but I don't waste a lot of time booting up my laptop in search of Wi-Fi signals.

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