Progress vs. Perfection: Learnings From CES 2019

Mark McKee General Manager

Though I’ve attended the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas many times over the course of my career, this year felt different. My overwhelming takeaway from the event: in 2019 the focus has shifted from perfection to progress. As a result, we’re going to see some tremendous strides this year in terms of innovation and progress toward smarter, more unified advertising solutions.

As an industry, we’re often are so focused on the Holy Grail that we lose sight of the value created along the path to that perfect end state.  But it’s clear that the industry is ready to stop talking about what to do, and start doing it! I heard this theme repeated throughout CES—at meetings with publishers and advertisers, panel discussions, and over end-of-the-day cocktails. While it’s undeniable that there’s more work to be done to create better solutions to engage and measure audiences, we’ve made incredible strides. Even more importantly, there’s a new willingness to iterate and figure it out together.

FreeWheel, in particular, was one of the companies echoing this sentiment.  We took the opportunity to launch our new brand campaign at CES. The campaign, “Now You Can,” sums up how FreeWheel is reimagining what’s possible in media. We’re driving the industry forward by unifying linear and digital TV, and creating the solutions necessary for brands and publishers to succeed. And it’s not just our vision for what we hope to do: it’s what we are doing right now. We are bringing automation to media planning, buying, and selling, along with the transparency and control needed to make every plan, for every brand, better. In short, we’re making the impossible, possible.

It was fantastic to see our campaign launch in Las Vegas!  Many of my colleagues from FreeWheel joined me to connect with clients, partners and peers within the premium video ecosystem. Upon our return, we gathered to discuss the trends and themes that were prevalent throughout the week. A number of clear themes emerged that are worth sharing.

Advanced Advertising is driving growth, scale, and a better connection between consumers and marketers” – Carmela Fournier, Executive Director, Data Platform


The ongoing progression and evolution of advanced advertising—including connected TV, linear addressable and cross-channel measurement—was one of the most common themes discussed at CES.  Television is truly evolving, and it is clear that it’s no longer just talk. Real proof points—including household addressability, data enablement, and the unification of digital and linear systems—are being put on the board, and the industry is being re-shaped on a daily basis. For the first time, it feels like technology is no longer a barrier, and the conversation is shifting to how the industry can work together on business terms to move television forward. As Dave Clark noted on the CES stage as a panelist on advanced advertising capabilities, “It’s not a technical challenge at this point. It’s more of an operational challenge, and a measurement challenge, and a pricing challenge and a go-to-market challenge, and a transaction challenge, which I think will all be worked out through 2019.”

“Operators and programmers are excited about laying the groundwork to scale their addressable solutions in 2019. There’s incredible opportunity here.” – Geoff Wolinetz, SVP Client Relationships

FreeWheel made great strides in Linear Addressability in 2018, and it was clear the industry is hungry for more. What’s exciting is that both Programmers and Operators are eager to work together to make this a reality. In an interview with Medialink’s Michael Kassan, Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal chairman for ad sales and client partnerships, estimated that the market will hit $3 billion in addressable TV advertising during the 2019-20 season. “I think we’re finally there. The capability is there and there are enough companies there for you to be able to get the immediacy of scale with the addressable functionality the advertisers have become used to on the social platform,” she said. It’s exciting that what was once a far off dream is a true reality in 2019.

“A new trend we are seeing is the number of initiatives aimed at cross-platform measurement. That’s an important move for the industry because ultimately we need to understand de-duplicated audience reach across television and premium digital video.” – Claudio Marcus, GM, Data Platform

Our in-house data expert Claudio Marcus took a timeout from the CES floor to speak with Broadcasting & Cable’s Jon Lafayette about key innovations impacting the industry, including the importance of cross-platform measurement, and what’s next as linear and digital continue to converge. This was a key topic throughout the week, and will continue to be a focus at FreeWheel and throughout the industry. It’s important for the broader TV ecosystem to pull together to advance the state of the industry so we can bring more value to advertisers. Watch the entire video.

“Diversity is a complex, multi-faceted topic that requires expansive empathy to understand wide-ranging perspectives on the positives and negatives of “otherness.” – James Rothwell, VP Global Agency, Brand & Industry Relations

 It wasn’t just about technology—but also the people that make our industry go. It was exciting to see the theme of inclusion so prevalent throughout the week. At CES, FreeWheel sponsored the Advancing Diversity Honors and the Hall of Diversity Induction, hosted by Jack Myers and MediaVillage. Aligning perfectly to our core values of supporting diversity at all levels of our organization, we were thrilled to offer a unique mentorship opportunity to attendees of the job fair that coincided with the event. FreeWheel’s commitment to building a culture where each person feels valued remains a core part of our operating principles.

“There is huge importance behind companies coming together in the digital age to advance the TV business.”– Joel Celestin, Sr. Director, Supply Side Relationship Management


But it really did all come down to collaboration and partnership to move the industry forward. In order for the entire industry to stand up to fierce competition and provide the best experience for consumers, we must strive for progress, not perfection, as we collectively seek out opportunities for collaboration and partnership that will lift all boats. We look forward to leading these conversations as the year progresses.