For years, Dmexco has been seen as one of the most important events in the digital advertising calendar, and seems to be the event where marketers and vendors feel they can get the best return on investment.
This year, the line-up featured industry leaders including Sheryl Sandberg, Sir Martin Sorrell and Marc Pritchard as well as some impressive vendor stands. As usual, there were plenty of opportunities to network with peers, and make new connections. Aside from business as usual, there were five key issues that dominated the agenda for marketers, and industry professionals:
Diversity has been a hot topic for tech companies for years. But, yet again minority groups were poorly represented and this lack of diversity was only briefly addressed in the talks. As usual, white men in jackets, jeans and trainers, dominated the floor and gave the impression that we have struggled to address this issue over the past 10 years.
Dmexco did make an effort to try to celebrate women in the industry with the introduction of ‘The Girls Lounge’ which featured talks from motivational speakers and networking, although this also was criticised on Twitter. One third of the speakers on the main stages were women this year, which is an increase from last year. However, with great role models in the industry in attendance and Sheryl Sandberg speaking, it’s a shame that we have not come further on this in our sector.
Brand direct vs agencies
This was the first year that agencies were unable to attend free of charge, which seemed to have an impact on the number in attendance. Additionally, a number of brands were looking to make deals with vendors directly, perhaps sidestepping agencies for programmatic.
Brands such as Disney, eBay, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Samsung and Ikea were all in attendance, with some taking to the main stage to discuss digital marketing challenges. Brands getting more involved in understanding the tech is a great sign for the industry but equally creates challenges, not just for agencies but also for adtech vendors, some of whom may find that working with brands directly brings with it demands that they may not be staffed up for. .
Navigating the halls
The show has continued to grow rapidly, and the days of two halls separating German and International companies are far behind us. However there is still segregation at the event, and this year it was clear that the duopoly was separated from most of the rest of the international tech companies. As a result, hall six and seven contained a real mix of larger ad tech companies and many smaller ones, while hall nine seemed to include the ‘forgotten’ companies - perhaps last minute bookings - with very low footfall except for those attending the conference. Sometimes, it was tough to know what was where, and those at the fringes in halls five and nine perhaps suffered most.
Tougher advertising standards
The majority of the big keynote presentations highlighted the need to continue to promote ad standards and brand safety. According to Marc Pritchard, the industry is doing a good job at eradicating some of these issues, but there is still a way to go. Marc Pritchard was calling for all companies to follow a set of standards including MRC accreditation, TAG ad fraud verification, and brand safety guarantees. Although some of the stories from vendors and marketers at the event seem to prove that brand marketers still feel they have an uphill battle to ensure these issues are not impacting their spend.
The hot industry trend of ‘AI’ was discussed at lengths by attendees, but it still feels like more of a buzzword than an actual benefit to the industry. Many vendors are claiming that they are using AI - with various interpretations on the meaning of the phrase - however it is not clear why they are actually using it. As was stated at ATS in London on the Monday before Dmexco, unless you are using AI to optimise towards meaningful business goals (i.e. sales), then regardless of whether it’s AI or not, it’s not driving value for brands..
Despite dmexco coming a long way in recent years, there is still work to be done to ensure that it accurately reflects the digital landscape. A turbulent start to the year has no doubt affected the messaging around the industry, with a focus on transparency and fraud clearly evident. This narrative will continue to evolve over the next few months, and I for one am looking forward to what dmexco 2018 has in store, particularly as it will be ‘post-GDPR’, a topic that was perhaps surprisingly under-represented.
Gavin Stirrat is managing director at Voluum.