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The 3 hottest topics at CES 2023: data privacy, streaming, and AR

Atop a virtual grid, a man and a woman walk past 'CES' in large letters while holding a play button, a progress bar, and a streaming remote.

Illustration by Nick DeSantis / Getty / The Current

Set against unusually frigid temperatures and over 115,000 people walking down the Las Vegas strip in the rain, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) saw a revival in turnout after its attendance was pummeled by coinciding with a surge of COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant last year. While the massive lines to get into exhibits from Samsung and Nikon remained standard, many marketers’ tunes had changed in the past year. Strategizing on how to do more with less in the current economic landscape was a constant theme throughout several panel talks.

Three topics took center stage for marketers this year: Walled gardens and data privacy, streaming, and augmented reality (AR) all kept attendees buzzing.

Walled gardens and data privacy
Talk of walled gardens — such as the Googles of the world — invaded panels of all topics. Speaking about record-low levels of trust in major institutions at a talk entitled “Leveraging Technology for Social Impact,” Randi Stipes, the CMO of The Weather Company and IBM Watson Advertising, was vocal about marketers following through with their mission to put the customer first. Stipes believes walled gardens deserve some responsibility in being forthright with their consumers when it comes to brand trust.

“Let’s break down the walled gardens and share tech with each other and responsibly share data with one another so that we can collectively come together and build the trust,” Stipes said.

As data privacy takes greater importance for brands across the world, data clean rooms are still one of the most en vogue privacy topics. At a separate panel, InfoSum CEO Brian Lesser predicted all brands will eventually announce they have a clean room. However, Lesser warned that companies will need to make sure they have a solid data foundation set before launching into the venture.

“You need to have your internal customer data house in order,” Lesser said. “For brands that haven’t yet normalized all of their own touchpoints, it gets more difficult to use a clean room because you need a really good view of your customer to then collaborate effectively with multiple parties.”

With the convergence of technology and advertising, it’s no surprise streaming dominated much of the discourse at CES. First-party data seems to be central to Paramount’s streaming strategy, given the global entertainment company’s decision to enable Unified ID 2.0 at CES. Speaking on how streaming viewership overtook cable TV for the first time ever last year, Paramount’s president of advertising, John Halley, was steadfast about the scale Paramount+ and streaming have as a whole.

“The opportunity is upon us,” Halley said. “It’s going to continue in the future. It’s going to impact all kinds of things, from program choices to distribution partnerships to ad formats. It’s singlehandedly changed everything about the business.”

Within the streaming conversation, ad-supported streaming took the wheel. As it stands now, most of the major streaming services have an ad-supported tier, with Netflix and Disney launching their own versions late in 2022. Netflix’s president of worldwide advertising, Jeremi Gorman, wouldn’t reveal much ahead about how the company’s new advertising venture has fared before its earnings on January 19, but said they are “pleased with the growth” they’re seeing.

Augmented reality
While streaming has become a part of our daily routines, AR has also become a bigger part of our lives, whether we realize it or not. Using Snapchat filters is a perfect example of one real-life application. But while Snapchat filters are a silly, fun way to connect with our loved ones, many leaders within AR are moving toward merging the physical and digital worlds to help us enhance the real world.

Snap’s VP of global solutions, David Roter, mentioned that two-thirds of people who use its fit guide to try on clothes virtually return fewer items. This can have a huge impact on sustainability practices and the carbon footprint associated with the global supply chain of shopping. Roter also described how the company is letting users tap in to immersive history simply by pulling out their phones.

“You go to Australia and look at the Great Barrier Reef, you can look at the way the reef has changed over time — that’s powerful,” Roter said. “You have millions and millions of people who are going and using AR to educate themselves on some pretty important topics. So I think there’s a huge utility application here.”

Nabil Bukhari, Extreme Networks’ chief technology and product officer, said “the physical world is having a moment right now” while speaking at “The Future of Networks, Streaming, and Entertainment” panel. Bukhari is looking for big things in the AR space as it becomes more integrated with big data.

“I’m really excited about what is possible between the digital and physical when you connect trillions of applications, devices, and people,” Bukhari said. “How you blend all that data with the digital data and create new experiences for the consumers, and then on top of that allow them to choose how they walk through that experience — I think that world is here. 2023 is really the start of that and it’s super exciting.”