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Countdown to CES 2023: Top 7 PR Lessons for Mobility and Automotive Suppliers

After two years without a full-fledged, in-person CES, automotive suppliers and vehicle technology providers – and their customers – are eager for CES 2023, which is just a few months away.

Even before a trend of diminishing support for some of the major auto shows around the globe, longtime auto journalist and analyst John McElroy called CES the world’s best auto show. And it appears the 2023 version, slated for Jan. 3-8, 2023, in Las Vegas, may maintain that status.

Why?

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO at Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which hosts the event, recently said that excitement is building, as CTA is expecting attendance to surpass 100,000 people.

Of even greater interest to automotive and mobility supplier PR professionals, the automotive technology section of the show’s floor is sold out, and in the first week of media registration, more than 1,000 journalists have already signed up.

With the 2021 and 2022 versions of the show being impacted, like most other events by the global pandemic, you have to go back to CES 2020 to look at the potential impact for exhibitors and communications professionals.

It’s still true that no other conference or exposition attracts such a unique critical mass of forward-thinking, tech-oriented mobility, vehicle and automotive executives, influencers, analysts, and auto journalists as CES does.

And this show – which still lays claim to the title of the largest and most important business-to-business trade show on Earth – appears ready to resume this role after its COVID-induced hiatus.

Looking at the numbers

From a PR perspective, looking back to 2020 (the most recent non-COVID impacted version), CES 2020 racked up some impressive numbers:

  • More than 170,000 verified attendees;
  • Almost 25,000 attendees from the vehicle technology sector;
  • More than 6,500 media representatives hailing from more than 75 countries;
  • More than 200,000 global media hits, 20,000+ broadcast hits, with 86% positive coverage sentiment; and
  • 839,000+ mentions of CES2020 across social media platforms.

Before the 2020 event, Automotive News called CES “… the venue of choice for brands to prove to consumers, and each other, that they are embracing the future of mobility.”

And even CES 2022, which was plagued by a spike in COVID infections that kept many people away and caused many exhibitors to cancel their plans, generated some impressive PR metrics – such as 3,182 media attending (1,875 in-person), representing some 1,665 media outlets and generating more than 177,000 news stories.

So, given that the pandemic continues to diminish, and the world continues to open up, CES 2023 promises to be an exciting showcase for the vehicle technology and mobility space.

At CES 2023, you can expect many exhibitors from around the world to display and demonstrate their latest component, software, sensor and service innovations which are enabling connected cars, autonomous driving, automated driving (ADAS) systems, electric vehicles, shared mobility and smart urban vehicles.

An auto show within a consumer electronics show

CES was created more than 50 years ago as the Consumer Electronics Show and hosted only 250 exhibitors (including companies like Motorola, Phillips and LG) who were focused on consumer electronic products like TVs and radios.

Since then, the show has evolved and expanded steadily in scope and size as electronics have infiltrated every industry and aspect of modern life, including vehicles, which are considered by some as “computers on wheels.”

The show was rebranded as CES, and today it is recognized globally as a – if not THE – top showplace for automotive and mobility technology.

Whether your company is a tech start-up or a global manufacturer, if you’re involved in the automotive supplier/mobility technology space and you are participating in CES 2023, here are some of the key trends and takeaways that may help you:

1. CES remains a great venue for vehicle technology companies to show their stuff. At CES 2020, more than a dozen automakers from around the world showed their innovative products. Plus, hundreds of suppliers of various advanced vehicle technologies – ranging from major traditional top-tier suppliers like Bosch, Continental, Magna and ZF to brand new start-ups from Silicon Valley, Israel, and other mobility innovation hotspots – were demonstrating how their products could make mobility better.

Their technologies covered a wide spectrum of concepts that help make mobility safer, smarter, cleaner, greener, more convenient, more efficient and more economical – including products for autonomous driving and ADAS, electric vehicles, connected cars, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, ride sharing and much more.

2. CES offers a ‘show-within-a-show’ for automotive and vehicle technology. This will create a convenient one-stop shop – and save attendees miles of aisle-walking! – for all things related to automotive mobility. And we can expect additional convenient automotive interaction to be offered nearby, with countless acres of outdoor demonstration and display space for technology ride & drive demonstrations planned for nearby parking lots.

In 2020, automotive and mobility technology companies made up almost 20 percent of all CES exhibitors and more than 10 percent of the show’s total 2.9 million square feet of exhibit space. It will be interesting to see if that number grows for the 2023 version of CES.

3.CES is a major place for automotive and technology thought-leaders to share their vision. Beyond the great demonstration and exhibits, CES 2023 promises tobringtogether hundreds of thought leaders involved in the technology space to share insights through various talks and panels throughout CES week.

That group typically includes many presenters from leading vehicle manufacturers, automotive suppliers, start-up companies, government, research firms and think-tanks, and other influencers – all coming together to offer their perspectives on a wide range of automotive and mobility issues and topics.

Traditionally, one of the top CES conference tracks for vehicle technology attendees is SAE’s Connect2Car panel program. This is one of the show’s longest-running series, and it explores the most important issues and aspects involved in the new mobility and advanced connected vehicle technology space.

4. CES continues to attract new mobility and automotive tech startups. Uncounted numbers of start-ups are popping up every day, fueled by the lure of the multi-billion-dollar opportunity being offered by automakers’ quest to develop and commercialize new electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, connected cars, and shared mobility.

These new companies are rising from all around the world, and they are anxious to demonstrate their innovations across a broad range of specialized technologies – including such products as camera, LiDAR, radar, facial recognition, V2X, IoT and other enabling technologies that will enhance future vehicles.

5. Many “legacy” automotive suppliers will come to CES, too. Over the past 15 years, the number of traditional auto suppliers participating in CES had steadily trended upward.

And this trend will likely continue for the foreseeable future, as these “old-line” companies continue to shift and expand their product portfolios to offer advanced technologies – especially those technologies that are enabling the rapid growth in electric vehicles, as well as the evolving trends toward autonomous driving, ADAS and smart mobility; connected cars and V2X; and smart and shared mobility.

There was a seven-fold increase, between 2016 and 2020, in the number of vehicle technology and automotive companies exhibiting at CES, as the count of these suppliers jumped from 115 to over 800. We expect that trend to continue.

6. CES is an ultra-competitive venue when it comes to media attention. While it is true that thousands of reporters and media representatives attend CES, automotive and vehicle technology suppliers will not automatically obtain media attention there. Frankly, there’s just too much happening there and too much competition.

In fact, most of the journalists who attend the show are there for consumer-oriented media that focus on non-automotive consumer electronics products – such as high-definition TVs, smart appliances, home systems and virtual reality products.

In the past, less than 300 of the 6,500+ journalists that attended covered the automotive / vehicle technology space – that’s less than 5 percent. And if things follow their usual pattern, of this small number interested in auto tech, most will be busy for two solid days attending the major automaker and top-tier auto supplier press conferences being held on Media Day 1 and 2 (Jan. 3 and 4).

The back-to-back – and often overlapping – schedule of press conferences – leaves very little time for journalists to even try to cover the hundreds of other vehicle technology suppliers who are clamoring for attention. To obtain media attention at CES, you need a great story, a compelling pitch, an experienced PR partner … and a little luck.

7. Time is running out. If you haven’t started your PR planning for CES 2023 by now, you’re behind your competition already. And with each day that you allow to pass without nailing things down, there is a real threat that some of your options will slip away.

To stand out amidst the thousands of companies at CES 2023, you need to move now to prepare your PR strategy, hash out your action plan, and start executing. If you need help with this, tap a PR agency that has experience in helping vehicle tech suppliers shine at CES. (We can offer some help here!)

One a final tip: Be patient and allow yourself ample travel time during CES. Every business these days is short-staffed – from the airlines to the hotels to the taxi companies. When you add the tidal wave of 100,000+ people that washes over Las Vegas during CES, virtually everything will be overtaxed.

So be prepared, during peak times, for the long waits for shuttle buses, monorail, taxis and Uber or Lyft drivers – and allow a cushion of 30-60 minutes to the commute between your hotel and the LVCC exhibit halls.

If you’d like additional insight on PR at CES 2023, email us at bianchipr@bianchipr.com or call us at +1.248.269.1122.

Author: Jim Bianchi

Jim is president at Bianchi PR with 40+ years of B2B PR experience in corporate and agency settings across multiple industries.

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