Unexpected textures, appearances and pivots. Less intricate architecture and more thrills. Storytelling over information. Clear sustainable messaging and practices. CES 2024 always delivers a few surprises and dark horses from the exhibit world, but this year’s show marked a major shift toward experience over showcase among the big names on the floor.
As we toured it all with some of the biggest brands in the world in Las Vegas, we reflected on many of the trends, which ranged from (very) tall walls to vignettes to “attractivations.” Here’s our “Best” list… the most eye-catching, impactful and, yes, unexpected exhibit experiences at the show.
- Scenes, Stories and Showstopping Booths from Las Vegas
- Theme Park-Style Thrills Take the Cake on the Showfloor
- Q&A: 10 Minutes with Stacey Gromlich of Siemens
For questions and agency/fabricator credits, reach out to Rachel Boucher, [email protected].
Design & Delight
BEST OF SHOW. Literally the talk of the show—at the top of everybody’s list. Korea’s SK, which traded in its mysterious black box exhibit (2023) for the bold and bright “SK Wonderland” this year, was an amusement park-themed booth space, nearly 20,000 square feet in size, designed to “transport CES visitors to a world with less pollution, less waste, more green space and more clean air—all powered by technologies that reduce greenhouse gasses.” Staff in safari vests handed out passports that attendees used to navigate the space and that doubled as scorecards to earn stamps toward premiums (incentivized giveaways trended this year).
The showstopper moment: a miniature Las Vegas Sphere installation at the center complete with rotating graphics and messaging. Meanwhile, a hydrogen-powered miniature train carrying CES passengers circled the footprint on a track and then went into an LED tunnel for a “ride” alongside moving graphics. Across the aisle, crowds gathered for a Dancing Car performance demonstrating a fully electric car of the future and its capabilities. A Magic Carpet Ride on a self-driving vehicle powered by clean energy and guided by AI using “low-power semiconductors” earned a ton of buzz—even if demand was so high only VIPs experienced it. There was also an AI Fortune Teller activation powered by “high-bandwidth memory technology” that came with a 45-minute queue. We’re all used to lines at amusement parks anyhow, right?
At one point, characters in vintage boardwalk-style garb galavanted through the exhibit, which added to the whimsical vibes. And while you didn’t walk away knowing exactly how SK is at the center of all this green tech, SK Wonderland left a big enough impression to want to research it all later, which certainly kept the brand top of mind in the days that followed. (Partner: SM Culture & Contents)
Turkish global tech brand Togg showcased its new electric sedan T10F—a first for Turkey—and the mobility ecosystem around it with the exhibit rooted in a “Togg’ether Beyond” theme. The colors were similar to last year, but the space featured new activations. To explore the future of mobility, attendees were invited on a three-part journey, comprised of a T10F experience, where they could experience the vehicle’s AI capabilities, an immersive tunnel exploring the Truemore mobility digital platform, and the clean energy ecosystem that offered a gamified deep dive into reducing the carbon footprint and making sustainable choices. For completing each experience, attendees were rewarded with the tokens to earn a free NFT. Sustainability wasn’t just a message in this glowing aqua-blue space. The brand purchased carbon credits to offset the environmental impact of its exhibit, including transportation. The majority of materials used were rented and recyclable, and trees will be planted in Turkey for each completed experience. Strong coffee and Turkish delights were, well, a delightful touch (and much appreciated after a long day on the showfloor).
The warm, glowing amber might seem like an unexpected color for Mercedes-Benz, but that was exactly the intent for the brand’s CES 2024 exhibit, all about the experience inside the vehicle. A bright-red CLA Class concept car made for a captivating focal point (and a camouflage electric prototype was cool, too), but all the magic—and the crowds—were deep in the heart of the exhibit, around the seat box showcasing the brand’s new Mercedes-Benz Operating System (MB.OS). Just a few people at a time could experience the new AI-powered virtual assistant and the exterior design features, and the amber surroundings set an intimate and luxurious tone. And yes, when surrounded by walls, lit up the ceiling.
Has that same footprint since before some of our interns were born. A curved LED wall and high, sweeping curtains framed the entrance to Panasonic’s booth in its usual real estate on the showfloor. Neutral tones, mirrors and lighting play, from projections on the curtains to projected signage, caught our attention. These were, in fact, intentional choices by the brand as part of its Green Impact initiative, and much of the booth incorporated environmentally friendly tactics, from less building materials and carpeting, to leveraging booth joints made from “high concentration cellulose fiber molding material ‘kinari'” in its display tables, which will be used in future exhibit experiences, too. A sustainable energy-themed 3D city on a media table rotated through content, while nearby attendees got an up-close look at green hydrogen production components and how Panasonic is embracing it. Attendees loved the mist created in the Nanoe Moisture+ zone within curtained showcases. Analog moments, like a voting station for attendees to decide what advancements will have the most impact in the future using kinari coins, was a departure from years of digital “touch” engagements. (Partner: Czarnowski)
Like a jewelry box of textures and accents, Kohler’s reimagined CES booth turned heads with its sheer panels, glass walls, marble and tile facades, luxe lighting and an array of live water features for demos of its Anthem+ smart showering valves and controls. Kohler wanted attendees to experience home wellness innovations designed to help consumers create their own spa-like retreats at home. Stepping into the brand’s booth on the showfloor certainly felt like one. (Partner: 3D Exhibits)
Intrigue & Functionality
The 21,600-square-foot Hyundai booth, its largest yet, featured a fortress-like exterior and literal journey inside through hydrogen “software-define vehicle” innovations and AI technologies aimed at creating a “safe and free” future. What might be described as a vision board greeted attendees as they entered through the massively high gates (indeed, there was a long queue, but the reservation system reportedly worked well). Wall-to-wall LED displays outlined the brand’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. Because of the timed entry, attendees could freely and comfortably explore other exhibits in the space including a full-on demo of a hydrogen fuel cell tram on “tracks” for environmentally friendly public transformation. (Partner: Astound Group)
The bright red “Life’s Good” signage and message stood loud and clear at the entrance of LG’s booth alongside the brand’s traditional welcome moment, which this year featured a wall of wireless transparent LG Signature OLED TVs that danced and had attendees pausing for video. Inside the space were seven separate zones with vignettes, each with their own engagement strategy—among them, an LG Alpha-able concept vehicle on a rotating stage; a ThinQ smart home theater zone with spotlights that moved to different displays as a voice narrated the demo; and the brand’s signature curved screen tunnel experience showcasing webOS “infinite entertainment.” (Partner: Czarnowski)
Google rolls out big ideas that show up at the following year’s exhibits (remember The Ride, SK?). This year, the brand created a futuristic Android station outside the convention center atop yards of poured concrete with vignette-rich pods of demos for attendees to explore on timed entry. On arrival, attendees could scan a QR code for access to an augmented reality experience by Google Geospatial Creator with The Bot serving as a guide offering tips on what to explore in the space. Among demos we loved, one that promoted Google’s new AI-powered “suggested responses” capabilities of its messaging system (Magic Compose in Google Messages) via physical postcards. Attendees could come up with a message on the screen and have it printed out and mailed, bringing together the best of digital and physical worlds. (Lead Agency: Media.Monks. Build: Sparks. Interior Fabrication: Pink Sparrow. AR Integration: Left Field Labs)
Samsung traded in last year’s gallery-like design for the open-concept Samsung City, complete with street signs and pedestrian crosswalks on the concrete floor below (which, we might add, we prefer over the plush carpet—and it was more sustainable, too). Vignettes explored Samsung’s lifestyle products and household innovations, as well as its sustainability initiatives. Martha Stewart even dropped by for a cooking demo (it’s a good thing). Under a dark, neon-lit space Samsung showcased gaming products and partnerships. In a smart pet zone, a theater with a vignette of a backyard and a dog on-screen rotated through product demonstrations with a voice narrator and automated lighting and video cues—again, this was a big trend across the showfloor. Looking up, a second-story observation deck let VIPs take in the activity on “the streets,” while lighted ribbon installations overhead created a central focal spot in the footprint with the tagline, “SmartThings.” (Partners: Creative/Strategy: Cheil Worldwide; Build: MC2)
If the orange glow from the circular booth facade of the HD Hyundai booth didn’t draw you in, the badass, 15-foot-tall AI-powered Concept X excavator positioned on the main stage that moved back and forth on a track during presentations on a massive LED wall behind it, certainly did. Crag-like shapes and projections were designed to make the exhibit feel like a futuristic construction site. The main attraction (aside from Concept X) was a “VR Twin Fun Ride” that helped attendees visualize future work sites powered by HD Hyundai innovations and had them rotating in all directions. Attendees could also remotely control equipment within the “Twin Xite” zone using a simulator that showcased tech that allows operators to analyze their loads’ “see-through” metal buckets using sensors and cameras. We loved the extra-large tiered bench seating overlooking the footprint, which was a magnet for floor-weary attendees. (Partner: MC2)
Kia Connected Home
The Kia Connected Home exhibit at CES 2024 welcomed attendees into the EV life and all the technologies behind it (like the brand’s future “vehicle-to-home” charging capabilities) in a two-story modern home exhibit, complete with a permeable paver driveway, turf grass and outdoor lounge spaces. The centerpiece of the experience inside was an immersive test-drive simulation where attendees hopped into the seats of an actual EV9 as first-person perspective 3D video displayed on the screens and created the sensation of driving the vehicle that rotated on a turntable. What we loved: the structure’s matte black finish that allowed key features of the design to pop; the viewing deck that offered stunning views of the Las Vegas sunsets each night; and the complimentary coffee and snacks bar attendees were treated to right after they were invited in. (Partner: EWI Worldwide) Read more here.
The retail giant made a “grand debut” and subsequent splash at this year’s CES with a keynote and a 10,000-square-foot, two-storied exhibit in the Central Plaza that walked attendees through the company’s vision of retail innovation through interactive timelines. It began with an interactive touchscreen experience that showcased the patents the brand has been awarded since it was founded in 1962. In the next zone, attendees explored technologies that are transforming the supply chain. One of them—a game that invited attendees to compete against Symbotic, the brand’s automated pallet builder; and another, an AR experience that allowed you to scan backroom shelving units that triggered pop-ups.
And how do you showcase the scale of complex systems and evoke the joy of shopping at the same time? Take attendees on a 4D ride! This Universal-style activation “flew” attendees along the entire supply chain, through farms with strawberries you could smell to next-gen distribution centers all the way to the produce section of the store to be delivered by a drone just in time for a birthday celebration. What we dug most: the movie theater-like waiting area before the ride with plush blue carpeting and blue walls and a framed movie poster teasing the film and other Walmart services and partnerships. Well played, Walmart. (Partners: LEO Events; Interactives: Gramercy Tech)
Siemens’ all-new CES exhibit was divided into four sections that presented the company’s innovations. Live featured intelligent habitat solutions with Inhab. In Work, attendees could check out a mixed-reality headset by Sony that empowers engineers to work together in the industrial metaverse and, for example, design custom parts for Red Bull Racing. Play highlighted the work of Unlimited Tomorrow, an innovator using the Siemens Xcelerator platform to create affordable and customizable prosthetics. Make showcased the work of Blendhub in using Siemens technology to tackle food insecurity and transform food production. In a sea of walled-in booths, the Siemens space felt warm and welcoming, while structured and easy to navigate. Attendees could step in on any side, sit down under a sound dome and, for instance, watch a two-minute story about making perfect-fit limbs for children who need them before exploring the touchscreens and kiosks to see the tech in action. QR codes offered an even deeper dive. (Partner: Freeman) Read more here.
Offering a strong theme and story, Canon’s travel-inspired booth experience was designed like an airport with a check-in counter and flight times on the screen, runway signage on the concrete floor, a mix of activations in the “departures” zone, before heading to your “gate” via a narrow corridor and onto plush red carpet where you reached your final destination and activations. The experience promoted Canon’s upcoming travel show, “Now Boarding: Argentina,” as well as visual storytelling equipment, including the 100 Canon Cinema EOS-based 4K camera and lenses via a cool 3D photo activation; and a Kokomo virtual reality demonstration of face-to-face immersive calling. On the destination side, Canon hosted a live focus group with Australian luggage brand July to showcase its AMLOS solution, with its team taking live feedback from CES attendees to collaborate on a new travel-themed product. (Partners: Publicis Media Content & Innovation; Sparks)
All in the Details
Even more booth designs and exhibit experiences from around the showfloor: