CEA's Shapiro On CES, 3D & The Economy



With the fourth quarter upon us, the 2011 International CES being two and a half months away, not to mention the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Fall Forum being held this week in San Francisco, it seemed like a good time to sit down with Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of CEA.

Shapiro met with TWICE earlier this month and discussed a variety of issues — from changes coming to International CES, which CEA owns and produces, to economic issues facing the CE industry as a whole.


What do you think some of the highlights of the 2011 International CES will be?


Without sounding totally optimistic, there will be no shortage of news. There are many product announcements that will be made [representing] tremendous innovation, so all signs point to an extraordinary CES.

We just announced we will have two keynote speakers from the automobile industry, Audi chairman Rupert Stadler and Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company. They join Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, Verizon’s Ivan Seidenberg and and Samsung’s Boo-Keun Yoon as 2011 CES keynote speakers. And we have other super senior-level executives attending too, which haven’t been announced.

One of the things that I am beyond thrilled is that we just received an award for being America’s Greenest Show for the 2009 International CES. This is huge. The green theme will continue during the 2011 show. We are a very green industry and we want to get that message communicated at our show. We will again have the Sustainable Planet portion of CES where companies introduce their green products.


Speaking of the upcoming show, why has CEA decided to create a CES Connected Appliances TechZone for major appliances?


The trend is that many of these products connect with the Internet. They aren’t just boring white products anymore. GE Appliances, Kenmore and Bissell have signed up and there will be others. We think that this is a natural extension of the CES. The products are designed to network and connect and improve consumers’ lives. And they save energy which is also a theme at CES.

Including appliances in CES matches the philosophy of the show, which has always been to go after those areas that can help provide attendees with ideas … on how to expand their businesses, and where they can learn about new technology. It is not only the convergence, but the serendipity of finding something new which will make a difference for your business.


What was the reaction to the rerecent CEA 3D National Demo Days effort?


The degree of support and participation and enthusiasm that was generated was quite amazing.

The challenge the industry faces were that the expectations at the beginning were off the roof. 3D has been positioned as a new product. It is not a new product. It is an amazing feature that will enhance viewing. The message we have to get across is that 3D is part of a great TV set. It can be watched in 2D. 3D is has to be experienced to be understood.

Sixty of our member retailers, including Best Buy, Comp-USA, Fry’s Sam’s Club, Sears and lots of specialty retailers, hosted special events, promotions and demos. It was critical ESPN got on board. We were concerned would have the same demo over and over. ESPN provided 40 hours of 3D content that weekend. We also did a media tour which went to 30 different sessions to cities around the country and included a TV audience of over a million viewers. We did it from ESPN in Bristol, and CEA’s Megan Pollack was on with ESPN’s Dana Jacobsen — they did a promotional spot. Commercials promoted the event. We provided retailers with marketing and PR messaging, 3D content, plus training materials.

The results were good. Seventy-two percent of the retailers said they want us to do it again, over two-thirds said that it helped that shoppers were more interested in 3D, and most of the retailers are saying they are seeing increased inquiries about 3D.


Since 2003 CEA has been accepting retailers as members. How has recruitment been going?


I think it is going phenomenally well. If all goes according to our nominating committee [this week], Randy Fry of Fry’s will become chairman of CEA. Gary Yacoubian was elected chairman when he was with MyerEmco and then went to Monster. Best Buy, Walmart, Sears, Amazon, Crutchfield, eBay, RadioShack and QVC. Twenty-two percent of our members are now retailers. We have around 2000 members, so we have over 400 retail and integrator members.

We provide retailers certification training, financial management services, our market research … a suite of member savings programs for discounts on business services. And they can spend face time with CEOs of suppliers and competitors in a non-selling environment to establish relationships and become better business people.


Industry executives have said for more than a year that CE sales won’t get back on track until there is more job creation in the U.S. What can the CE industry do to create more design, engineering, manufacturing or retail jobs here?


First of all, the CE industry is doing better than almost any other industry in the U.S. despite the current economy. You can make the case that the consumer electronics industry is pulling along the U.S. economy now.

For example, Apple products are creating a phenomenal amount of U.S. jobs — applications designers, retail, others, improvements and efficiencies.

The role of the CEA and the industry itself is that there is a framework of innovation and the ability to introduce and sell new products. Jobs will flow when Americans have confidence in future economic growth. But there can’t be confidence when government is continually attacking business. We have the second highest corporate tax rate in the world. When taxes are uncertain, when new rules keep coming, when new mandates keep coming, we are in a very difficult place now as a country.

But the industry itself is going to survive with or without the U.S., and that is what we have to realize. We are in a global economy. The best thing a government can do is create an environment where innovation or whatever the country is good at can prosper.

Our nation is not one that is well-suited to the type of low-cost manufacturing that China, Indonesia and Vietnam are. We are really good at coming up with creative, innovative ways of solving problems.


For those non-CEA members, what is the Innovations Movement?


The Innovations Movement is focused on getting Americans to agree with our position that innovation is the best chance the United States has for economic growth. And innovation requires free trade, attracting the best and the brightest, [having] reasonable corporate taxes and getting spending under control. Those are the basics of the Innovation Movement platform. We have 80,000 people signed up in a year, and we hope that a new Congress will be more sympathetic to these positions.

But even if you look at the Tea Party, which is hard to define what it is precisely except being against big government and big government spending, it is not an inconsistent theme. There are Americans concerned about the future of the U.S. economy. So that is a theme that is resonating with our leadership and leadership in other industries.


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