10 Takeaways from CES 2019 for Auto & Mobility Suppliers

CESThe 52-year-old juggernaut that is CES—arguably the world’s largest business-to-business trade show – continues to build momentum.

While the official numbers are still being verified, CES 2019 was expected to host some 182,000 attendees; 6,600 media; and 4,500 exhibiting companies over four days across some 2.9 million square feet of exhibit space in balmy Las Vegas.

And this year, for automotive suppliers and new mobility technology companies, CES has not only become a thing, it has become THE thing.

If you follow the Bianchi PR blog, you know that we have had mixed opinions of CES as a PR venue for auto suppliers in the past. The very factor that makes it attractive – its sheer size and scope – also threatens its potential impact. Much of its huge audience – perhaps as much as 85 percent – have no interest in vehicle technology, so just added noise and overcrowding to the venues.

But things have changed. CES has evolved into a true automotive technology show. Our clients exhibiting there this year had some terrific results, including attracting a media crowd that vastly overflowed their press conference room.

Even some of the long-time automotive media, who have complained about the show in the past, seem to be changing their tune.

For example, veteran auto industry journalist, analyst and host of the popular Autoline Detroit TV show, John McElroy, told us that CES 2019 was “the best auto show I have ever attended!

That is saying a lot, because in four decades of covering the global auto industry, McElroy has covered many, many auto shows.

So, if your company is in the automotive supplier and mobility technology space, and you are thinking about participating in CES 2020, here are some of our key takeaways from this year’s show:

1. CES continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down. In 1967, the inaugural NYC-based show featured 250 exhibitors. In 2019, the show had more than 4,500 exhibitors. And with new tech companies popping up every day, and CES being recognized as the biggest single event for tech companies to show their wares, the only limits to its growth are the physical limitations of the Las Vegas convention ecosystem, which itself continues to grow.

2. CES is not just for automakers. While 11 vehicle manufacturers from around the world had displays at CES 2019, there were 677 vehicle technology suppliers – from AAC Technologies to ZF – exhibiting and demonstrating their ideas for ADAS, autonomous driving, connected cars, V2V communication, electrified vehicles, ride sharing and more.

And hundreds of industry thought-leaders from automakers, suppliers, think-tanks and other organizations shared their views via various panels on a wide range of automated and connected mobility topics throughout the week.

3. Automotive/vehicle technology has become a “show-within-a-show.” At CES 2019, the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center was filled to the brim with vehicle technology – and became almost a one-stop shop for all things automotive. Plus, CES hosted countless acres of outdoor automotive displays and technology ride & drive demonstrations, perhaps more than have ever been offered at one time in one place.

4. Direct competition with the Detroit auto show has diminished. With the North American International Auto Show in Detroit announcing the change in timing from right after CES to June starting in 2020, exhibitors no longer have to wrestle with the logistical challenges of trying to do both and developing a whole second set of exhibit properties.

5. Moving forward, more legacy auto suppliers will participate in CES. The trend has been steadily increasing. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of automotive companies exhibiting at CES has grown from 115 to 677 – almost six-fold growth – and most of this growth has come from the supplier ranks. And as traditional auto suppliers change their product portfolios and beef up their software and high-tech offerings, we expect they will seek to use CES to underscore their innovation and high-tech prowess to customers, analysts, media and shareholders.

6. More new automotive tech suppliers will jump into CES too. Automakers are committing billions of dollars to develop ADAS, autonomous, connected car, electric vehicle and other mobility-related products and services. Every day, entrepreneurs and technologists are creating new tech companies to serve the automakers’ emerging needs and tap these potentially lucrative markets.

New auto-tech companies, not only from places like Silicon Valley, Israel and China, but also from America’s heartland, are developing the lidar, radar, camera, sensing, 5G, IoT and other technologies that they hope will enable future mobility. And as they emerge and multiply, they will flock to CES in hopes of validating their credibility, winning attention and maybe even going viral as CES’s “next big thing.”

7. Hence, competition for attendee attention at the show will get even tougher. With more companies overall clamoring to exhibit at CES, and more auto-related companies jumping into the CES mix, competition for attention will continue to intensify.

8. Winning media attention at CES will get tougher, too. While some 6,600 media attend CES, perhaps only 200-300 of them are actually interested in vehicle technology, as automotive is only one of 33 product categories that media come to CES to see.

When you factor in that there are a limited number of press conference slots, only so many hours in a day, and the typical reporter receives more than 1,000 exhibitor invitations, the likelihood that they will chose one auto supplier’s activity over another’s is small.

9. To increase your odds of gaining the attention you seek, you need expert, experienced help. We saw that clients who started planning early and initiated their CES promotion plans with us months ahead of the show were rewarded with superior PR results, versus those who started their PR efforts a few weeks before CES.
You think your new product launch is newsworthy? So do the marketing people for some 14,999 other new products that will be launched there. From helping other suppliers at CES over the past several years, we know what it takes to help get your launch the attention it deserves.

10. The time to start planning for CES 2020 is now. Every day you wait to get started, you will lose some of your options. If you want to be a standout among the 4,500+ exhibitors at CES, and win the maximum amount of PR and promotional ROI possible, you need to crank up your plan going now.

Hopefully, you have already reserved your exhibit space for CES 2020 and have your exhibit house thinking about your display. It is time to start thinking about your PR strategy for CES 2020. If you need some help, let us know.

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