Laura Baeyens, Junior Communications Manager at the WFA, looks back on key digital trends at this year’s dmexco every marketer should know about.

dmexco is the kind of digital marketing event you should prepare for in advance to get the most out of. With an estimated turnout of more than 55,000 delegates, a thousand exhibitors and a hundred sessions, dmexco is without a doubt one of the biggest gatherings for digital aficionados.

Here’s a breakdown of the five key digital trends at this year’s dmexco every marketer should know about:

#1 V for Video: mobile, short-form, with sound

From live and 360° to mobile and short form, video was the cool kid at dmexco, proof of the growing power and potential of video as consumers are progressively moving towards a video-first web.

In his keynote, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox predicted that “the average user will spend 3.4 hours a day watching online video by 2020″ and that “70% of all mobile traffic will be video by 2021”. With Facebook going all-in on video and mobile, Cox unveiled some innovations in the pipeline, including new features for Facebook Live (i.e. live ad breaks, seamless video features on feed, etc.) and Canvas Ads (“immersive storytelling designed for mobile”).

Touching on mobile video, Google’s SVP for Ads, Sridhar Ramaswamy, emphasised on how important it is for marketers to tap into consumers’ “micro-moments” (a.k.a. instants of split-second consumer decision-making and preference) in building a mobile-first world. “Brands that put people’s ‘moments’ at the centre of their decision making will win”, he said.

With consumer attention spans decreasing, short-form video created significant buzz at dmexco as the next wave brand storytelling, further intensified by the presence of Snapchat at the event.

Considered the ‘third force’ in the so-called duopoly of Facebook and Google, Snapchat took a jab at the ad offerings of its rivals, with Chief Strategy Officer Imran Khan emphasizing the importance of sound in video ads; videos without sound are just “moving banners” that marketers shouldn’t even bother with, he argued. Khan also gave delegates a peek at new Snap Ads features that allow marketers to link their 10-second ads to long-form videos, app installs and websites.

#2 Pokémon Go’s legacy and the other V…

Building on video and the recent hype over Pokémon Go, it comes as no surprise that augmented reality was the talk of the town.

Although two-thirds of the respondents of a quiz by Unruly said that they were currently spending more on 360° video than on drones, AR or AI, they also estimated that they’ll be spending more on AR in five years’ time as they see immersive experiences being the way forward for video.

On a different stage, The New York Times, Starcom and Mercedes-Benz discussed how, through VR, storytelling can help brands understand better and be more empathetic towards their consumers. They advised marketers to explore how the technology fits in their strategy, instead of immediately getting on the VR bandwagon because it’s a shiny new thing.

Despite VR being omnipresent at many marketing events this year, the technology still struggles to convince brands, given its slow adoption by consumers. On a more positive note, Nielsen found that mainstream consumers are in fact really interested in VR, with many planning on purchasing their own headsets in 2017.

#3 Artificial Intelligence: Deus ex machina?

Artificial intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction. At dmexco, IBM’s Chief Digital Officer, Bob Lord, showcased the convergence of marketing and technology with Watson; IBM’s system that uses cognitive computing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data. The company’s most recent offering, Watson Ads, lets consumers interact directly with Watson through advertising, where they could ask questions about a product or service and receive relevant information from the supercomputer. This aims to help brands make their advertising more engaging and personalized.

The most promising demonstration of AI goes to Blippar, an image recognition app that uses AR and machine learning “to bring the physical world to life”. Ambarish Mitra, the app’s CEO and founder, highlighted how several brands have already been using the app for their products and services. P&G cosmetics brand Max Factor, as an example, created print ads that “come to life” when placed in front of your phone camera. Blippar can then recognise the user’s skin tone and recommend products.

Another exciting AI innovation to look forward to is Facebook’s photo app, currently in its testing phase. With artificially intelligent photo filters that can render both images and videos in the style of famous artworks in a matter of seconds, the app can make a typical night sky look like Van Gogh’s The Starry Night!

#4 Better ads to fight ad blocking

A far less optimistic trend discussed at dmexco is the rise of ad blocking. Nearly one-third of content are being blocked around the world, and an estimated 419 million people are blocking ads on mobile. Instead of finding ways to block and bypass ad blockers, industry leaders including WFA, IAB, ANA, Google, Unilever and P&G joined forces to improve the online ad experience. Thus, the Coalition for Better Ads was launched at dmexco. Coincidentally enough, Adblock Plus also announced their “acceptable ads” platform during the event.

#5 The chatbot experience

2016 is the year of the bot. Chatterbots, better known as chatbots or simply bots, took the industry by storm this year with publishers, as well as brands and retailers including Barbie, General Electric, Microsoft, Pizza Hut and Uber, starting to use bots as consumers are spending more time in chat environments than ever before.

A bot is a service, sometimes powered by AI, where people can have human-like conversations, be it functional or fun, with a bot through any chat interface such as Facebook Messenger. At a dmexco panel on managing a million conversations at once through this new form of marketing dialogue, experts regarded bots as a great way to help “brands who have great stories to tell” manage direct conversations with consumers, instead of just sponsoring conversations through publishers.

‘Til next year!

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