It was supposed to be the industry’s big return to live events. But COVID-19 had other plans.
MediaLink has officially canceled its in-person presence and events at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, set to take place on January 4 to 7, 2022.
The consulting firm, which is a long-time partner of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and has a track of programming in the advertising and marketing-centric C Space satellite event at the Aria Resort and Casino each year, has canceled its much anticipated opening night party and executive dinners.
"With an overabundance of caution, we’ve decided to cancel our MediaLink Opening Night and Executive Dinner events at CES 2022,” Michael Kassan, CEO of MediaLink, said in a statement. “We continue to monitor the situation closely, however at this point, it is our intention to shift to a majority of virtual meetings and programming approach for our MediaLink C Space content. We will proceed with our plans to create a virtual show floor tour.”
MediaLink’s decision comes after major tech companies and brands began pulling out of the event earlier this week. On Tuesday, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon, Snap and Meta announced that they would no longer send teams to Las Vegas for CES. iHeartMedia canceled its concert with Swedish House Mafia, set to take place on Thursday, January 6 at Area15.
After that, the ball began to drop. Publications including TechCrunch, The Verge and TechRadar announced they would not send journalists to Las Vegas and istead cover the event remotely. Major ad agencies, including Havas, Dentsu and WPP, are either not sending teams or are scaling back their presences significantly.
Some big brands are dropping out as well. T-Mobile CEO Mark Sievert, for instance, who was supposed to deliver a keynote at the event, withdrew his presence.
The CTA, the nonprofit organization that puts on CES, is forging ahead with the in-person conference. In an article published in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Gary Shapiro, CEO of the CTA said that the “event would proceed unless a government mandate made it impossible to host.”
For advertisers and marketers, the rapid devolvement of CES plans marks another ominous sign for a return to in-person events in 2022. The industry was gunning for a strong start to the year together in Vegas, but the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, which now makes up more than 70% of U.S. cases, has dampened the enthusiasm.
In an interview with Campaign US on Monday, Dec. 20, Kassan said that if CES is canceled this year it “it's going to be a problem” in terms of the industry getting back into the groove of large scale gatherings.
Still, he maintains that CES is one of the most important events on the marketing calendar and there is strong demand for the industry to get back together in person when it’s safe to do so.
“CES is and will remain one of the most important gatherings for the media, marketing, technology and entertainment communities, which is why more than 2,000 companies are continuing preparation and plans to participate in January,” Kassan said in a statement.
“We remain committed to our partnership with the Consumer Technology Association and CES remains an important time on our annual calendar. We look forward to once again returning to Las Vegas for CES 2023."