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EVENT REPORT

10 Ways Exhibitors Got Attention at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas

Photo: Michael Tweed

The International Consumer Electronic Show ran from Thursday through Sunday across three Las Vegas convention spaces—the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, and the Las Vegas Hilton—with piggybacking events and conferences throughout the city beginning and ending before and after.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which owns and produces CES, reported a record-breaking international audience. More than 30,000 of the show’s estimated 140,000 attendees came from outside of the United States, the association announced Sunday. The show’s overall attendance numbers were good news for an economically battered and tourism-starved Las Vegas: With attendance the past two years at about 110,000, 2011 saw a healthy 27 percent boost.

One of the show's largest and fastest-growing features was the “iLounge,” which debuted last year. Some 200 companies snapped up booths in the 50,000-square-foot space to showcase products compatible with Apple devices. On the celebrity scene, Lady Gaga returned for a second year to the Polaroid exhibit, and everyone from director Oliver Stone to rapper 50 Cent shilled for other exhibitors.

Organizers Sunday also announced a schedule change to the 2012 CES, when the show will be held Tuesday, January 10, through Friday, January 13. The change no doubt is welcomed by Las Vegas and event planners alike because of the probability that it will keep attendees in town for the third and fourth days of the show, and perhaps encourage them to extend their stay for a weekend of leisure in Las Vegas. Many CES attendees historically have left on Fridays or Saturdays, which meant much sparser attendance on the final day, Sunday.

Here are 10 of the most eye-catching and buzz-generating exhibits and events spotted at this year’s show.

1. CNET
On its return to its prime real estate just outside of the main entrance of the convention center’s South Hall, technology news and reviews Web site and CES partner CNET “really wanted to stand out this year,” said CNET vice president of marketing Jill Byron. A massive digital canvas broadcast screen was topped by an electronic ticker tape that was “just a great way to broadcast from our booth and highlight all of our great coverage,” Byron said. “Our strategy was to showcase that CNET is a shortcut to what’s hot at CES this year.” The booth, which was designed in-house and built by Freddie Georges Production Group, also included a record 30 hours of live programming from the showroom floor.

2. NBC Universal
NBC Universal’s Jack Morton Worldwide-designed exhibit was startling in both its simplicity and complexity. Sheer white curtains provided an inviting border to the 6,300-square-foot space, which was dominated by a 25-feet tall, 30-feet-in-diameter globe sheathed in the same white material. Far from simply a decoration, the globe was powered by nine motors that opened and closed its panels to reveal a fully functional broadcast stage. The globe highlighted various NBC Universal networks, including SyFy, Bravo, and Oxygen. Bravo’s activities during the show included airing live segments with cast members of the network’s Real Housewives franchise. The exhibit also included a fully functional TV studio that broadcast live segments from MSNBC and CNBC by the likes of show hosts Chris Matthews and Maria Bartiromo. “The idea was that everything at NBC has a screen on it,” said Jack Morton vice president and design director Patrick Larsen. “We wanted to create an environment that was immersive.”

3. LG
At LG's booth, the company’s massive parcel of show-floor real estate—easily 10 times the size of more standard booths—showcased everything from the Korea-based manufacturer’s latest mobile phones to its SmartTV products and high definition televisions. But a massive display wall—with too many LCD screens to easily count, visible as attendees entered the convention center’s packed Central Hall—is what drew thousands through the space. The exhibit design was a collaboration between LBest of Korea and Sparks of Philadelphia and the five-week production was completed by Sparks with some specific product display elements fabricated by Korean-based partners of LBest.

4. Audi
In an entirely Audi-designed event, Audi AG’s Chairman Rupert Stadler drove on a stage at the convention center for his keynote event in the company’s prototype, all-electric eTron sports car, with CEA president and C.E.O. Gary Shapiro as his passenger. Stadler was introduced by veteran character actor James Cromwell, who played Dr. Alfred Lanning in the 2005 film I, Robot. “It was science fiction. A world where robots are everyday objects and live along humans...where cars drive themselves,” Cromwell said. “This was the vision of the world in the year 2035. It was science fiction. Or was it? Ladies and gentlemen, Audi is creating ‘science fact.’”

5. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Panasonic
Panasonic, a leading manufacturer of Blu-Ray players, loaned its exhibit’s theater to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, which invited Darth Vader and a legion of Imperial Storm Troopers to help make the announcement of pre-order availability of Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray. Joining 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment president Mike Dunn was Bill Carr, an executive with Amazon.com, which expects brisk orders of the DVD set.

6. BlackBerry
BlackBerry’s exhibit, built by the Taylor Group, was dominated by three huge blue and black cylinders, all with enormous LED screens continuously broadcasting promotional video about a variety of the mobile device manufacturer’s products. To build buzz for its electronic tablet, the BlackBerry Playbook, it imported Lara Spencer, of entertainment TV show The Insider, who hosted appearances by celebrities ranging from new CNN talk show host Piers Morgan to hip-hop musician Common.

7. Intel
Taylor and 2LK Design returned to create computer microprocessor Intel’s impressive 12,000-square-foot booth, which included an enormous, front-facing LED screen and about 30 plasmas, all topped by a waved ceiling that changed colors to the pulsating beat of the exhibit’s music.

8. Microsoft
Microsoft’s theme was interactivity, as it used its exhibit space to provide attendees with an up-close and personal opportunity to demo its Kinect for Xbox360 in four half-circular booths. Microsoft’s dizzying array of home and office products also were on display in the space built by Freeman.

9. Motorola
The brand brought dazzling light, deafening sound, and attention-grabbing scale to its exhibit, where monster LED screens literally serving as exhibit space walls and other displays made up of four high-definition screens. George P. Johnson Company assisted Motorola’s tech mavens in creating the red-and-black-dominated space.

10. Marvell
Semiconductor manufacturer Marvell brought a 7,200-square-foot booth with massive circular hangs with encased moving digital designs. A 20- by 12-foot LED screen completed the look. “This is the dawning of a mobile era,” said Marvell director of corporate marketing Wendy Matthews, who oversaw the Derse Exhibits-designed exhibit.