The reports from Qualcomm's opening keynote at this year's CES 2013 conference are pretty astonishing. You can watch a supercut of the "highlights" but here's a few choice bits:
- Three incredibly forced actors portraying a fifty-something marketing executive's idea of what "young people" do with their "mobile things"
- Steve Ballmer bounding on stage like Jerry Lewis upstaging Dean Martin and babbling about Microsoft products
- Big Bird (!!!) appearing to promote an educational app and making a joke about outsourcing characterized by some as racist
As a marketing guy, this seems like a very teachable moment.
People smell bullshit. The opening bits with those three actors--excruciating. Absolutely painful to watch. And that's because they are utterly false moments. Not just the actors, who were poorly coached to project their flimsy personas to the cheap seats, but the very content itself. It's a completely tone-deaf generalization that attempts to reduce perhaps the most complex, innovative, and transformative technology of all time--mobile computing--into wacky caricatures. Within minutes, I am already disconnected from the event and anticipating everything I will hear is full of shit.
Know your show. Control is key. When you're up there doing a keynote, or a presentation, or a pitch or a demo or whatever, that's your moment. Surrendering that moment is something to be carefully considered and managed. Most of us will never have to face this fear, unless you really think about it--anyone in the professional world has probably had a circumstance where they were saddled with a bum presenter as part of a larger presentation. You know in the pit of your belly that the energy will be instantly toppled over and you or a colleague will have to work that much harder to restore focus.
Too much is too much. I don't even know if Big Bird was the moment when this thing went off the rails, considering there were also guest spots from actress Alice Eve, DESMOND FUCKING TUTU, director Guillermo Del Toro, and an electric Rolls Royce. But although the theme of the event had some resonance in spite of itself--"Born Mobile"--the throughline became so corrupted by random business that any takeaways were completely diluted. Apple is the obvious gold standard for a successful business presentation. Consider their focus--you will hear about the company, then you will hear about a product or products, then you will be done. You walk away with positive impressions of the company's success and an idea of what their latest product is. You know why they want you to buy it.
Forget that Qualcomm is primarily a B2B company, not selling to consumers--what the hell do you take away from all that? People use mobile devices? Young people are annoying? Big Bird is an asshole? It's impossible to say. It cannot be distilled. It's almost completely uncoverable, from a media standpoint--except that it was such a disaster, it begs to be shared.
I doubt that's what Qualcomm had in mind.