Jack Wayman, 1922 to 2014

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Photo from Variety

I wonder if Jack would have liked his Memorial? The Consumer Electronics Association, producers of CES, gave Jack an emotional send off today at the Grand Hyatt New York. Jack started CES in 1967 and was the force behind CES becoming the largest trade show in the United States. Jack died at 92 years old. He had an amazing life.

He reportedly had five wives, (one of his wives confided that number to me), five children, 13 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. While he adored his family, the greatest love of his life was his girlfriend, Katrine Barth, a PR agency owner who competed against me for many years. I’m not going to get into how unfair the competition was for my company during their affair, I’m saving that for the book I may write someday.

After the romance was over (scandal galore), Jack liked to pretend that his relationship with Katrine had no impact on me. The fact that she got to meet all of the new exhibitors first and received his nod of approval to anyone looking for a PR program, could have easily put me out-of-business. It did the opposite, it made me stronger.

I saw Katrine at the Memorial service today. We kissed, we hugged. I knew her for many years before she hooked up with Jack so there was a history of many good times. She accompanied the 30-year old daughter she and Jack had together. To his dying day, Jack was still in love with Katrine. Call me if you want more details. Jack would have approved my gossiping about him. He loved the attention, dead or alive.

Jack was one of the most gregarious, personable, handsome, smart, accomplished, and dedicated businessmen I have ever met. He was all business. That was one of the reasons he loved Katrine so much. He could share CES with her.

Jack was also a decorated U.S. veteran. He served in Europe during WWII as a combat infantry company commander and fought at the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, earning multiple awards including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart with Cluster and two Presidential Citations. .

We learned during the Memorial that he was a great athlete and a terrible driver. His eldest daughter gave a moving speech about his last days on Earth that I want to share with you. I will tell you more about it tomorrow. I never heard of anyone dying the way she said he did. He was in control to his last dying moment.

The Largest Trade Show on Earth

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I finally found another person who has attended every CES: 82-year-old Bernie Appel, former President of Radio Shack.

First of all, if you didn’t read yesterday’s DigiDame, please go back one post to learn all about iris scanning. I missed the deadline last night to publish my daily email alert because I was on the telephone yakking to my daughter Whitney. The post talks about how iris scanning is the next big innovation after fingerprint identification. It is fascinating, so don’t miss it.

This is the end of the second day of International CES. I walked my feet off. The show is now 2 million square feet of exhibit space and 2,700 exhibitors. Approximately 155,000 people descended on Vegas for the show. Compare that to the 17,500 folks that attended the first CES in New York City in June of 1967. At that time, there were only 200 exhibitors. CES, you’ve come a long way baby.

Take a tour of the hottest tech at CES 2014 here.

On My Way to CES

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Security camera captures the activities of a friend’s driveway in NJ

My plane takes off for Vegas Saturday morning at 7 am. I am lucky that I’m not in Manhattan because the snowstorm could have screwed up my flight plans. I spent the entire day organizing my schedule and files for the week.

I also had to pack, answer 60 last minute emails for CES, write posts for clients on their social media platforms, partake in an hour long conference call, check my “to do” list, download everything I need to refer to on the plane, charge all my devices, and write this blog post. Somehow I also managed five personal calls and to inhale ten snacks as well.

Of course, I spent the day checking the snow levels back in NY. Knee deep in thought, I get an email from my friend which contained a picture of his driveway in NJ being shoveled.

That normally would have been routine except my friend is here in Miami, nowhere in the vicinity to take that picture. My friend’s D-Link camera is strategically hooked up outside of his home so he can monitor his driveway. He also was able to capture a still picture from the video recording being shot. He sees everything on the D-Link app he installed on his smartphone.

Even though I’m about to embark on the biggest innovation show ever, my pal’s email still blew my mind. The ability to see your home in the north while you sip iced tea in the south for a mere $150 still has a wow factor for me.

Trust me, I have seen security cameras and smartphones work together before. My nephew had a security camera focused on his dog just to make sure she was happy while the family was away for a few hours. I was flabbergasted the first time I saw that capability. And I still am.

I may be jaded about a lot of things, but when it comes to the digital world, I continue to remain in a euphoric state.

CES and Me, Part Two

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It is very strange to be attending the International CES as a senior. After all, just 47 short years ago I was the cute, effervescent junior reporter who got all of the news scoops. My older men friends in the industry helped me succeed by getting inside information that turned into my page one stories.

There was no pillow talk going on. These guys were just friends, and I had plenty of them. Some were fellow journalists, others were owners of mom-and-pop electronic stores. The mom-and-pops were the independent neighborhood store owners.

Richard Ekstract, the Hugh Hefner of the electronics industry, labeled me “Queen of the Sweaty Arm Pits Crowd” because I found my calling amongst hundreds of retail entrepreneurs who I knew on a first name basis. I spent 11 years telling their stories, collecting news from them, going to their weddings and parties. I was in my element.

I didn’t know it at the time, but covering the retail beat all those years provided me with a strong business sense. I can deal at any level and know if something will work. The indie retailers taught me why a product sells and what it takes to get it sold.

It was great being a part of a segment of the industry that made things happen. When my retail friends walked into a booth at CES, you would think Frank Sinatra showed up. All of the manufacturers would lay out the red carpet and want to wine and dine them. I miss the excitement of watching all of this take place.

It’s a different world at CES today. Everything is impersonal. The place is so large that it’s like going to a foreign country. You have to learn a new language and customs every year. Everything changes very quickly.

I’m totally up for it, but i can’t possibly be as engaged as I used to be. At 66, I am not hanging out in lounges until two in the morning, nor am I participating in a round of shots. Unfortunately, that is where a lot of the business takes place at a trade show. I think back to the many nights when I had one or two hours of sleep and then had to get up early for a full day of business. What was I thinking?

I am no longer popular and very few people know my name. If I want to stay in the game, I have to make adjustments. I swallow my pride and watch others get all the glory. At the end of the day, I shouldn’t really care. It’s really about the journey, not the round of applause.

CES and Me, Part One

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From this: Laura Foti, then of Billboard Magazine, and me in the early days of CES

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To this: The years of walking the show floors of CES is embedded in every line

Forty seven years ago, I attended my first CES. I believe I am the only living soul who has attended every show. The founder, Jack Wayman, who is now in his 90s, missed one year due to an illness. There will be older people than me at the show next week, but no one with my attendance record.

Does anyone give a hoot? Not really. Ever since I started HWH PR 37 years ago, I really have been a Lone Ranger, promoting everyone but me. Before that, I was a trade journalist covering the CE industry. I was also a columnist for Home Furnishings Daily (HFD) for eight years, then editor of Consumer Electronics Monthly for three. During that time I was the top editor of CE Show Daily, the magazine that was issued every day at the show. I controlled the most important editorial coverage that was distributed on the show floor.

Those were the days. I would walk the show floor and exhibitors would call my name. Everyone knew each other. Even though 20,000 people attended the CES, it was like one big fraternity. Today, at 150,000, it has turned into a transient major city. People come and go faster than some folks change sheets on their bed. It’s no longer called the Consumer Electronics Show but rather the International CES because of the significant number of tech innovators who show up from around the world to exhibit year after year. The majority of the products shown now are not even in the consumer electronics category.

You have to be “strong like bull” to cover the entire show floor. Everywhere you turn there are gadgets and gizmos that are product category game changers. All of these innovators come together once a year in Sin City to strut their stuff. Who ever knew the world could be so creative?

I have been fortunate and privileged to be a part of this evolving world. When I think of all of the people I started with in this industry who are either dead or retired, I get very weepy. I am the last of the charter members who helped build this industry. I don’t need others to praise me. I have my memories to keep me going.

I plan to devote the next few posts to stories untold. Some of them are X-Rated, so stay awake.

Next Big Playground for Apps

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Remember when your car used to be your great escape? It would be you, the road, and the wide open skies. The alone time used to be so therapeutic. The transition time of getting from here to there was just what you needed to calm your nerves, get a better perspective, and refresh yourself.

All that is about to end with the infiltration of apps in automobiles. Ford has been leading the way for years with digital experiments and now the company is getting more serious than ever. During CES, Ford announced a new expanded app developer program, Sync AppLink, that will now allow you to use your dcar’s voice command and dashboard controls.

· Wall Street Journal
· USA Today
· Kaliki
· Amazon Cloud Player
· Aha Radio
· Rhapsody
· Greater Media
· Glympse
· BeCouply

Existing apps include Pandora, Stitcher, NPR, and Scout navigation.

Ford divides compatible apps into three categories: News and Information, Music and Entertainment, and Navigation and Location. News apps such as the Wall Street Journal will have stories read out loud for the driver. Aha Radio not only plays music and podcasts, but also features location services, finding destinations such as restaurants on the road ahead for the driver.

To use the apps, the driver needs to have them installed on a smartphone, connected to the car by either Bluetooth for Android or a cable for iOS.

Ford announced a new program at CES to make it easier for developers to create apps for Sync AppLink. Ford retains approval over app integration with AppLink, ensuring quality for the automotive environment.

Please watch the video below from CNET, a leading tech news site, which explains how the apps get installed and work.

There Are Millions of Me

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When I saw hundreds of bloggers listening to someone talk about video streaming at Blogworld in Las Vegas today, I realized that the competition is so vast that I better turn up the volume on my DigiDame branding initiatives. I have been posting every day for almost a year and I am still not rich and famous.

Blogworld, a conference and exhibition that teaches everything you need to know about being a successful blogger, is at the Rio Conference Center the same days as CES. Since I am here before CES officially opens tomorrow, I decided to scout Blogworld out today.

I was shocked to see the crowds of bloggers in the hallways, in the conference rooms, and walking around the exhibition center. I am not sure how many of these people make any money at being a blogger, but there has to be some potential, otherwise all these people would not exist.

Michael Fields from WordPress, told me the number of bloggers writing about every topic imaginable is growing so fast that it is difficult to keep track of the actual count, but it is in the millions. Bloggers are made up experts, people who think they are experts (me), and folks who work for corporations that are allowed to express themselves on an independent platform. Don’t think bloggers are just unemployed people who have nothing better to do. Most bloggers have lots to share and are becoming as popular as well known journalists. The wonderful thing about blogging is that it gives the writer independent freedom. No one is monitoring the copy.

Blogworld also caters to podcasters, web TV and video creators, and social media pros. No matter if you are well-established in the online world or just starting out, Blogworld is a great networking platform. Bloggers from over 50 countries attend.

One other great piece of advice from Fields is that I have to go to more blog meet ups. These local events will provide me with strategies and know how that will give me a stronger voice in the senior market.

Tomorrow, I will be posting some very interesting finds at CES.

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The Names Were Changed To Protect The Guilty

area 51I have so many funny and remarkable stories about attending CES over the years that it will take a little time to remember all of the shenanigans. The one that sticks out the most is when my PR agency, HWH PR, represented a company called Intelegen , a small cap public company (a penny stock). Intelegen was going to introduce a new type of TV that was supposed to be better than high definition. Two women out of Silicon Valley headed up the company and wanted to put a special PR spin on the introduction, so they claimed they found the technology in Area 51, a secret military base. They spent a million dollars building a look-a-like military base structure in the parking lot just outside the Las Vegas Convention Center for a press conference to show off the new technology.

I asked Jenny, the CEO, to see the new technology hours before the conference. She gave me some tap dance answer that it was still being unwrapped in the shipping area of CES. Not to worry. We lined the entrance to the structure with folding chairs for the press. About 100 members of the media showed up. Jenny kept them waiting a half hour until some of the press folks started yelling out for the press conference to start. Still no Jenny. It got so bad over the next 15 minutes that a few of the older members of the press started to yell out obscenities. “What the f**k is going on?” was one of the familiar ones. It continued to get much worse. Finally, an hour late Jenny appeared. She got booed immediately. She just smiled. She babbled for 15 minutes about how she got in to Area 51 (all fictitious) and why the technology was so advanced. She was boring everyone. Then the bedlam started. “We want to see the TV! Shut up already! We have been here for two hours! Stop the BS! Show us the goods!”

Then the unthinkable happened. Jenny told the audience that the product never arrived. The grumbling was more than my ears could handle. All of a sudden, I felt that I was transported from Earth to another planet. While I felt bad for myself repping this fraud, I felt worse for my young staff who I imagined were quite demoralized given the looks of shock and dismay on their faces. If I were one of them, I would have felt like I needed to look for a new job because HWH just got a bad rap. To this day, there are one or two press people around who remind me of that event.

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If that was not bad enough, we also had another client who was not exactly faithful to his wife. He was having a long term relationship with one of the young gals who worked for CES management. When I first met him, he was a rather large guy. Then he lost 75 pounds and discovered that he had some sex appeal. Most of the time when I visited his company, he would ask for alone time with me to share photos of his escapades. I would give him all the right reactions to make him feel special (his monthly retainer was huge for the time), and then I would actually meet with his staff to make sure HWH was actually involved in important work so we couldn’t get accused of any CEO personal favors. My relationship with the number one guy forced us to do double the work load just to secure our relationship.

The CEO, Joseph, used to sleep in the same hotel room with his girlfriend during CES. One year his wife showed up on day two of the show. Luggage in hand, she called him from the lobby of the hotel announcing her surprise arrival. He went into full panic. He immediately called me. I had to go downstairs to the lobby, explain that he was in a meeting, and take her to lunch. The girlfriend moved her stuff into my room and I was stuck with her for the remainder of the convention. The things I’d do for our clients.

The owner of the publication I worked for many years ago almost strangled me one morning at the show because I had stopped the presses the night before when I noticed the pagination of our daily magazine was out of order. Most of it was written in advance. We kept page one and a wrap-around for daily news. I was at the local Vegas printer proof reading the draft when I noticed the mistake. I was editor-in-chief, so I could make the call. My boss didn’t agree and was furious that the publication was late to the show floor. I would have called him when I saw the mistake, but he was busy entertaining some broad in his room. How would I have known that? He told me he didn’t want to be disturbed when I had last spoken to him. So be it.

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Then there’s the time I got an urgent call at 10 pm to go to the CES hotel suite of the CEO for a major Asian company. Many of you own this company’s TV sets. Lucky for me, I was located at the same hotel. When I arrived at the suite, the head American executive was sitting on the coach with a swollen red face. I found out that they had had a fist fight after some screaming had gotten out of control. I have no idea who threw the first punch. I was called to the suite to settle the argument about why the American guy was getting more editorial coverage than the Asian chief. The truth was the Asian exec was really shy and the American guy had a huge ego. The American did offer his boss several opportunities, but he had declined. They really were both jealous of each other and probably wanted to use their fists to settle the score. I told the truth and eventually got fired after a 17 year relationship. The American executive got bounced, too. Ironically, the Asian official was called back to Korea (oops, I gave away another clue) six months later. I haven’t represented this company for seven years. Since I left, they have hired and fired eight agencies.

Okay, I am filled with hundreds of stories, but I have to end this somewhere. The one last story is about two reporters who were dating. They were very well known in the consumer electronics industry. They denied the relationship until she got pregnant. Only a few of us knew the situation. They decided to get married during CES in one of the Vegas wedding chapels. They left the press room at noon and were back by 2 pm, hitched. I was giving a press conference at 3 pm. They both attended. We announced the marriage over the microphone, and the press conference turned into their wedding reception. Everyone still remembers that day. They lasted about 12 years.

I Have Attended Every CES, Who Cares?

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While the world is getting ready for the end-of-the-year holidays, the 200,000 people who are planning to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas are in preparation mode for the January 7th to 11th event. CES is the largest trade show in the world and the center of innovation. I have been attending CES since its inception in 1967. There are only a handful of industry people who have been around as long as I have. Most early show attendees are either retired or dead. I was 19 at my first show so the fact that I lasted longer than most is no big surprise.

I used to have a lot of clout in the industry because our PR agency repped some of the biggest names in the business: Samsung, Sony, DuPont, Panasonic, JVC, Olivetti, Sanyo, and Philips. There were others but I can’t remember them all without checking our records. We also represented hundreds of smaller companies that were big at the time and are nowhere now. I was an industry reporter for the first 11 years of my CES journey (at Home Furnishings Daily and then at Consumer Electronics Monthly).

Then I became the owner of an agency that pitched more innovative products to the press than anyone else on earth. I got very little recognition for my accomplishments, though, because the founder of CES, Jack Wayman, had a girlfriend in PR for many years who competed against me. And now I am not a part of the in-crowd who work directly for the organizers. This in-crowd comes and goes, so I decided to stay as far away from that group as possible. They can’t take away from me the dubious distinction as “the longest survivor.”

Oddly enough, my agency is repping two products at CES that are getting a lot of the attention from the press: a 110-inch 4K TV set and the first high definition portable audio player. One of the biggest concerns I have in my working life is staying relevant, so I am thrilled to be in the middle of all the action without any formal CES affiliation.

I am in a giddy mood because today the Associated Press did a story on our client who is introducing the first high definition portable audio player at CES. The article is being picked up by hundreds of print and broadcast outlets. There is nothing finer in the world of a publicist. We pitched the product and the writer at AP did the rest. These days the digital world calls the editorial pickup that we are experiencing from AP “going viral.” Click here to see the original AP story and click here to see how Yahoo picked it up.

Tomorrow I am going to write about some of my most unbelievable moments at CES. A few are X-rated, so be sure to come back.

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