Whether dmexco replaces Cannes as the ‘go-to’ event on the marketing calendar remains to be seen, but there’s no doubting that this a bigger event than ever. Matt Green, Global Lead – Media & Digital Marketing at WFA, looks back on the main themes from this year’s event.


More than 40,000 delegates made their way to Cologne to see 570 speakers, extending across 250 hours of programming.

dmexco is part conference and part exhibition, of course, and navigating through the seemingly endless maze of 1,100 exhibitors is as much part of the experience as is hearing from Marc Pritchard, Sir Martin Sorrell and Sheryl Sandberg.

(Top marks go to Plista for their jungle-themed booth which included a treehouse, swings and palm trees.)

The mix of sales pitches, business meetings and open sessions has created a potent opportunity to discover what’s really on the industry’s mind.

The main themes from this year’s event were:
 

Two seconds is not enough…

Brand safety, viewability, fraud and measurement are pressing advertiser concerns that haven’t gone away. With the introduction of new controls over where advertising appears and around the type of content that can be monetised, Facebook says that they’re listening.

“At Facebook, we take very seriously our responsibility to earn and maintain the trust of our advertiser partners—and give them the confidence they need to invest in us. That’s critical to their success and ours,” the company’s VP, Global Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson told a session entitled ‘Video: Connecting People, Reshaping Marketing’.

Despite having made progress on its transparency concerns, P&G is looking for more. Marc Pritchard urged the industry to come up with the “next generation of digital ads”. Average digital ad viewing time of 1.7 seconds, with only 20% of ads viewed more than 2 seconds, wasn’t good enough.

"Obviously we stopped wasting money on 30-second ads, and we're designing ads to work in 2 seconds. But this raises a deeper question. Looking at it through the lens of the consumer, how valuable are these ads? The bottom line, it is time for marketers and tech companies to solve the problem of annoying ads and make the ad experience better for consumers," he said during a session entitled ‘A Transformational Roadmap for Brand Building’.

dmexco is an illustration of how much has been achieved in the 20 years since digital marketing industry was born. Marc Pritchard’s call to action reminds us that there is still much to be fixed in the digital ecosystem before we can move on to digital nirvana.


The cognitive computing era is the next digital revolution

It’s always exciting to see where the industry is going and the future was best expressed by Bob Lord (CDO, IBM) who told delegates that the “cognitive computing era is the next digital revolution”.

The spectre of AI and VR was a background shadow to the conference this year (podium dancers at the opening party wore VR headsets, raising the question what they were watching to distract from the hall of middle-aged men in blazers!).

While there’s lots of talk about AI, practical use cases are thin on the ground. Shiseido, however, and its Alessio Rossi (CDO, Shiseido) provided some practical examples.

AI is powering Shiseido chatbots in Hong Kong to respond to consumer beauty questions, explained Rossi. The organisation is also using IBM’s ‘Lucy’, powered by Watson, to interpret their own internal marketing data, plus the data provided by a number of external partners, to provide immediate answers and solutions to marketers, empowering them with information. “It’s early days and you have to go there in steps,” he says, “but the potential is huge”.

Where humans fit into the future of marketing is another unspoken question…


Data is still the connective tissue

dmexco visits typically see promises of what’s to come. The next wave of change offered by exhibitors in 2017 was greater use of dynamic and personalised ads which create unique content dependent on myriad factors.

All this depends on data of course and from highly complex probabilistic attribution algorithms to decisioning engines, Customer Data Platforms, IoT and everything in between…Data remains the driver of the digital marketing industry.

Programmatic is booming and is the most workaday example of how data is being applied in digital advertising. It’s also abundantly clear that many companies exhibiting at dmexco have built their businesses around third-party audience data segments, used for programmatic purposes.

This is all good until regulators come in and rain on the parade…GDPR was an incredibly hot topic at dmexco this year (where the WFA launched its Guide to GDPR for Marketers). There was lots of head nodding, and confident assertions that it’s all going to be OK. Delegates seemed to focus on data collaborations and data sharing (the acceleration of second-party data). However, it’s still not clear that they will be  fully compliant with the new regime.


Consolidation is the elephant in the room

The speed of change in the digital marketing sector means that with each year, dmexco ushers in a new set of players, challenges and solutions. Many exhibitors from previous shows are now under new ownership, including TubeMogul (acquired by Adobe) and Krux (acquired by SalesForce) and many others besides. Claims from tech companies that “they’re not for sale” don’t ring true.

Despite continued success of the sector and digital’s ability to continue to grow its share of ad spend, GDPR and pressure from clients, among other factors, are likely to drive further change. The one guarantee is that consolidation will continue.

 

This article was originally published on the WFA Blog. You can find the article here.