The hustle and bustle of sharp-elbowed gadget-watchers is a time-honored lament at CES, but this year it’s getting to the point where a journalist can’t even get to look at the darn products, what with all the celebrities hanging around. While celeb endorsements are nothing new, the stars are out in full force this year. We’re not sure whether they’re feeling geek chic as Hollywood’s latest status symbol or simply see hopping on the tech bandwagon as the next logical biz opportunity — like having a clothing line, perfume, or brand of booze.
Things kicked off at Panasonic’s press conference when famed eco-warrior Ed Begley Jr. hopped onstage to tout the company’s green initiatives, and was later followed by a visit from U.S. soccer legend Brandi Chastain (and fellow ‘ballers Heather O’Reilly and Alex Morgan) to tout 3-D broadcasting of the 2012 Olympics. The otherwise sedate affair got a mainline adrenaline jolt when surprise guest Justin Timberlake hopped onstage to discuss the launch of Myspace TV — JT is a major investor in the moribund social network, after all.
Not a bad showing, but Sony’s presser upped the star wattage even higher with an appearance by Will Smith, who along with MIB3 director Barry Sonnenfeld did their best to banter amiably following a belabored plug for the movie (in theaters near you soon!). Sony capped its presentation with a performance from an aw-shucks Kelly Clarkson (yes, a Sony artist).
Microsoft dispensed with the idea of a token celeb appearance and instead recruited Ryan Seacrest to cohost the entire official CES keynote along with CEO Steve Ballmer (notably MS’s final one after some 15 over the past two decades). As you’d expect he was perfectly Seacrestian in an otherwise limp show for the ‘softies.
Yahoo! went top-shelf, hosting a more intimate event Q&A with Tom Hanks to launch its first scripted webTV series of animated shorts, Electric City, produced by Hanks’ company Playtone, along with Indian conglomerate Reliance. Despite the only tenuous link to consumer electronics, Hanks was game and hilarious and earnest — a welcome hour’s respite from talking tech specs and MSRPs with already flagging PR reps.
And to promote the launch of the latest installment of the venerable Final Fantasy video game series, Eliza Dushku hosted a Spike TV party while taping CES’s own All Access Live show. To answer the obvious question, yes, she danced with an iRobot.
Speaking of robots, Justin Bieber is scheduled to appear today to promote TOSY Robotics (we’ll eat our press fedora if he doesn’t do the Robot. I mean, c’mon!). Fellow musician Ludacris was already on hand to announce his new line of headphones from his newish brand, Soul Electronics. 50 Cent was thronged by autograph seekers at the launch of his new line of headphones from his brand, SMS Audio. And then there was LL Cool J doing a live demo of virtual studio software for Boomdizzle, a company he cofounded.
Finally, we would be remiss not mention iHome’s choice of celeb endorsement, that bastion of good sense and taste, Snooki! We weren’t around for her visit, but we’re going to take a shot in the dark and guess they announced their latest, the iDunno?