Out of 170,000 people attending CES this year, I am the only one who has attended every show. Yes, every single one of them. There are a handful of others who claim they have too, but I didn’t see them. And if I didn’t see them, I’m pretty sure they weren’t there.
For the first 11 years of CES, I was one of the most important members of the consumer electronics press. I was a reporter and columnist for HFD and then Consumer Electronics monthly. I had more news scoops in a year than Häagen-Dazs served. The industry was so small that I knew everyone, and everyone knew me.
In those days, I couldn’t make my way down an aisle of CES without stopping a dozen times to shake the hands of industry friends. We all knew each other by first name. I knew their wives, (sometimes their girl friends), children, brothers, sisters, parents and pets. My social life was their press conferences, weddings, anniversaries, holiday parties, Bar Mitzvahs, Baptisms, funerals, and memorials. My calendar was completely full.
Those were the days. I knew about products that were going to be introduced before certain company executives. The inner press core was often asked their opinions about the potential of products while they were still on the drawing board. I sometimes felt that editors like Aaron Neretin, Manning Greenberg, Dave Lachenbruch, Richard Ekstract, Bob Gerson, Cathy Ciccolella, Art Levis, Art Weinberg, Bob Angus, Murray Slovick and yours truly shaped the direction of the industry.
Murray is still here but I don’t remember him from the very beginning. The first year was 1967 at the Hilton and Americana hotels in NYC. The Consumer Electronics Show (now CES) had about 20 to 25 exhibitors. I was assigned to cover retailer reaction to the show because I was too young to talk to the gentleman of the industry. My editors thought I couldn’t do too much damage with what they termed “the sweaty arm-pit crowd.” I loved all of the retailers back in the day (Trader Horn, Friendly Frost, E.J. Korvette, Newmark & Lewis, Luskin’s, Stereo Warehouse, etc.)
I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. The education I received during my eight years at HFD covering retail was in some way better than a business degree at an Ivy League institution. It gave me the knowledge and foundation to be an entrepreneur for more than 40 years.
Life was very different then. Retailers used to send groups of 10 or 15 executives to cover CES. They would work all day and party all night. My next boss, Richard Ekstract, owner of CES Publishing, (not to be confused with CES) hosted some of the most lavish parties during the show. I was so lucky when he drafted me to be managing editor at CE Monthly because not only was I a thought leader at a well-respected monthly magazine, but I also became the editor of the daily magazines at CES for three years. The shows were twice a year then so that totaled six shows, four days each. I was in charge of 24 issues. Mama Mia! Where did I get the strength?
The shows were minuscule in those years compared to today. I remember Jack Wayman, (the founder) and his then wife Sheila, standing in the luggage arrival area at the Las Vegas airport greeting everyone with balloons. He was quite the showman.
I consider myself very fortunate to have worked in an industry that is filled with innovation every day of the year. My PR agency, HWH PR, which I co-own with my husband Eliot Hess, has been privileged to introduce many of the inventions in the industry over the years. We represented Samsung for 17 years. They were a no-name Korean manufacturer when we started with them. They got famous, we made history.
Today, as I prepare to leave for CES in Vegas, I’m just as excited as I was day one in 1967. What’s the big payoff? HWH PR is introducing a product for a client that is going to change the world of medicine and automobiles forever. Other industries to come. It’s truly wonderful to be in a leadership position at my stage of the game.
I am thrilled and grateful to get new clients and to constantly be creative for the ones we represent year after year. It’s a wonderful time to be alive and work in the digital era.