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Confab cheerleader recruits biz, ad exex

Kassan tired of one-sided conversations

Michael Kassan is tired of one-sided conversations.

For years, the Consumer Electronics Show has revolved around companies showing off the latest entertainment devices that they want to wind up in consumers’ hands and homes.

But for Kassan, the chairman and CEO of Medialink, CES is more than just a show about hardware.

Although he’s attended the show over dozens of years, Kassan has spent the past five years as an unofficial cheerleader for the Consumer Electronics Assn., which owns the world’s largest tech convention, trying get more executives from Hollywood and Madison Avenue to make the trek to Las Vegas.

It started with a party — now CES’ official kickoff event, which on Monday night packed more than 1,500 executives from studios, networks, and talent, advertising and media buying agencies into the Wynn Las Vegas’ Tryst Nightclub. GroupM, Interpublic Group and OmnicomGroup, the giant congloms of the ad world, sponsored the event.

“It’s a classic mashup,” said Kassan, something he’s long sought out to do through Medialink, the advisory firm he founded in 2004 to counsel the media, entertainment and tech industries.

Kassan’s point in corralling the execs at CES is to discuss the technologies effecting their businesses, especially marketers.

“For me it’s about bringing the CMO, the CIO, the CTO and the CEO together who historically don’t speak to one another,” Kassan said. “The conversation needs to start earlier. You need Coca-Cola, Unilever and Procter & Gamble to come to CES in droves to be engaged earlier with the electronics industry. If they start earlier, design and manufacturing will take into account marketers’ needs that aren’t always top of mind for people. The Apple iPad, iPhone, Microsoft tablet — people will transact their businesses on these. This is how marketing is going to be done. You can’t treat them as an afterthought.

“It’s like the conversation 10 years ago when people talked about Madison and Vine, Silicon Valley and Taiwan,” Kassan added. “Starting the conversation early with Hollywood made a difference. Starting the conversation early with Microsoft, Google, Yahoo made the conversation different. Starting the conversation early with electronics manufacturers makes the conversation different. That’s what really got me interested in CES.”

Kassan’s week-long program also includes a dinner with invited execs and what he’s branded the CMO Club, curated tours of the CES show floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center that guide media executives and marketers to what they are most interested in seeing when it comes to consumer electronics.

“We’re showing them things that are relevant to what their plans are,” Kassan said. “If General Electric is planning around health at GE, we’re not bringing them to something that’s good for the sheet metal business. That’s why we curate it. Otherwise, CES can be circuit overload.”

Kassan will also moderate a Brand Keynote Panel with execs from Unilever, General Electric, Hyundai, AT&T and Facebook on Wednesday, at the Las Vegas Hilton Theater.

Kassan’s come-to-CES campaign has worked — especially over the last two years, with more reps from both industries coming to CES than ever before. Last year, more than 9,000 entertainment professionals attended the first year of Entertainment Matters at CES. And this year’s 150,000 registrants include more than 5,000 who work in advertising and marketing and 1,000 CEOs from the marketing biz.

“They are here,” Kassan said. “They just didn’t know why at first.”

“This is a conversation about distribution models,” he added. “These are all networks,” citing the 2 billion people a day that visit Walmart and touch a Unilever product, or the 1 billion that connect with Coca-Cola. “Networks today can be enabled by technology and electronics.”

Kassan already has his sights set on next year’s CES and improving his growing club of marketers. “I want to make it compelling so more people come back and bring their CMOs.”

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