Whoa CES! Power Outage Plunges Show into Darkness

A News Story and a Metaphor

CTA's marketing message for CESCTA’s marketing message for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year was “Whoa!” While this is a reference to surprising innovations, it now appears that the biggest Whoa! to emerge from CES was a power blackout that hit the Central and South Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center on Wednesday afternoon. Social media was buzzing and many show attendees posted images of the darkened halls with some of the biggest booths – Samsung, Panasonic – quite literally in the dark.

There really is nothing sadder-looking than a technology tradeshow…without power. Considering the coverage we’ve seen about CES in the general media this year, that blackout could be a metaphor about the declining power the show holds over the market these days.

See more on a darkened CES, the industry’s biggest tradeshow…

Ironically, the blackout just may give a boost in media coverage of the event. And based on our survey of the media this week, a boost in coverage is something the show could really use.

For example, were surprised to see in this Monday’s New York Times that there was barely more than a paragraph about CES, with a pretty blandly worded almost workman-like description of the big technology fair. Over the last few years, in an unscientific survey of the media during the show, we’ve detected an obvious downtick in enthusiasm for what in years past used to be an event that dominated the news cycle during the week.

CES2018 power outage

CES 2018 was plunged into darkness yesterday, when a transformer “flashover” caused a power outage in the Central and South Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. [Photo from CNET]

Stuff Announced ‘Never Amounts to Much;’ Some ‘Doesn’t Even Ship’

Even Recode, a technology website launched by former Wall Street Journal technology reporters – whose primary beat is covering everything technology – offered a pretty insipid assessment about the impact of CES in their report on Monday.

Las Vegas hosts the annual Consumer Electronic Show this week, which means you’ll be seeing a flood of gadget announcements about smart assistants, electric cars and giant TVs. Here’s a smart preview from The Verge, along with an annual warning: The biggest companies in tech — Apple, Amazon, Google, etc — generally don’t show off their most important stuff at CES. And much of the stuff that does gets announced at CES never amounts to much — some of it doesn’t even ship.

How’s that for a closer? In essence, they are saying that consumers should not get excited about this gear, because it either won’t appear, or it will be a disappointment.

This Stuff ‘Will be Forgotten About in the Months to Come’

Even USA Today’s report was especially unexciting:

While much of what you will read about from CES over the next few days will be all about the cool stuff we journalists see, there’s something that often doesn’t get talked about.

Some of the stuff we rave about will either not see the light of day, or more realistically, the stuff we liked in January won’t catch on with the public, and it will be forgotten about in the months to come.

Their enthusiasm just oozes off the page, doesn’t it? The USA Today writer goes on to challenge you to remember what the big stories were from CES last year. Don’t strain yourself, you can’t remember.

In a “where are they now” type of segment, the article goes on to reveal how the top 6 items from CES 2017 have fared since their introduction and tremendous positive “buzz” then. You guessed it – they either never launched, or fizzled after their intro.

Are you seeing the enthusiasm gap?

A News Story AND A Metaphor

So in a funny way, the power outage at the show is both a news story, and a metaphor of the power outage of the show.

Dark Samsung booth

It’s hard to see, but that’s the darkened Samsung booth on the right.

Late in the afternoon on Wednesday, CES put out a press release about the “limited power outage in the Las Vegas Convention Center.” Here is the CTA’s statement in its entirety:

Official CES Statement on the Power Outage

“Today at approximately 11:15AM, the Central Hall and South Hall bridge meeting rooms at the Las Vegas Convention Center lost power. Power in the south Hall was restored within minutes, and power has now been fully restored to all areas. A preliminary assessment indicates that condensation from heavy rainfall caused a flashover on one of the facility’s transformers. We are grateful to NV Energy for their swift assistance, to our customers and their clients for their patience and to the staff for ensuring the safety and security of all attendees and exhibitors.”

During the power outage, security guards at hall entrances blocked anyone from entering the halls, even though they already were full of people. Many attendees chose to leave the darkened halls to move to outer windowed hallways or outdoors…instinctively moving towards light.

It was all over within a couple of hours. But the excitement of the blackout is sure to give something more for attendees to remember…and the media to talk about.

About Ted

A sales and marketing specialist - primarily in the technology industry - I've experienced a sort of "circle of life" in business. I've been a mass merchant retailer, a specialty retailer, a specialty manufacturer, a large volume manufacturer, a distributor, and even represented sales representatives. Now the owner of a marketing company that works with a variety of businesses on improving their strategic marketing and business development - I analyze issues from all angles to develop holistic solutions.

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