Notes from Dmexco: pushing back and web version 3.0

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If you managed to wade through the glitz and glamour, the free swag, branded pens, stress balls, tote bags or the octogenarians sporting large red umbrellas who were either part of a moving art piece, brilliant guerilla marketing campaign or were just lost on the way to the ‘Kind & Jugend’ conference next door, you would have discovered this year at Dmexco there were some definite trends. Myself (Coleby Thew (CT)), and my colleague Frederik Bentsen (FB) have summarized our takings from the show below:

Web 3.0

FB: Although far from new, the biggest topics that seemed to be on a lot of speakers lips this year were AI and VR and how these connect back to the notion of what is beginning to be coined as web 3.0.

For me this opened a question: what will web 3.0 and these technologies mean for how we connect, interact and engage with users?

As these technologies mature and adoption grows we see that user interfaces are moving towards more natural human interactions, that are based on connecting with our senses (VR and immersive experiences) and our humanity (AI, chatbots, voice search).

Part of this interface shift can be seen last year as Google reported that 20% of its searches were voice, now that Siri, Alexa and Google assistant are improving, the way we interact with users will also have to evolve.

For example, if you pose a question to a voice search or even a chatbot you are returned a structured, concise answer often given in context. It’s only when these services don’t know the answer that they send you to the web, it seems as though the web as we know it is starting to become the old way of doing things.

Human brands

FB: These humanised and natural interfaces are definitely going to help manifest brands, making machines seem more human and bringing brands closer to people.

Bonin Bough said we should “identify trends and execute them,” which is true. Although as we are all scrambling to implement these technologies it’s becoming more important that we take a step back and humanise the user, before humanising the tech.

If we want to connect with people as brands using a more humanised platform or interface, the execution must be polished. Otherwise there’s a risk of boring, or even worse, frustrating your users to a point where they’ll begin to glaze over and grow tired of these technologies.

As said by David Guttenfelder from National Geographic, “we are restless.” It’s hard to engage users in this fast-paced world, where so many things are vying for their attention. We need to reach them where they already are, and reach them in a way that that appeals to their senses and them as humans.

Pure business

CT: Dmexco is pure business’. The 50,000 visitors were welcomed by this banner at the entrance of this year’s ‘digiconomy’ conference in Cologne. After all, in our work it is all about ‘the business of doing business’.

Over the next two days myself and Frederik attended around 20 talks and panel discussions. With a few healthy exceptions, one overarching theme became apparent: business is about numbers, not people. A bit discouraging. In a time where businesses have never had better access to understand and connect with people, and vice versa, it was shocking to experience the apparent disconnect existing in the vacuum surrounding Dmexco. Here are some takings from the conference:


CT: AI was, as expected, everywhere, with promising headlines in the schedule such as ‘Game-changer AI: The impact for the Advertising Industry’ and ‘AI – The hidden Super Power driving the Experience Business’. While industry experts politely debated the use of this new super power and its business potential, one thing they could all seem to agree on was its use for more efficient digital media buying. Not improved consumer experiences or innovations for brands to play a purposeful role in people’s lives. Not at all. More efficient placement of ads to increase reach, click-through rates, awareness – ad-blocker, anyone?


CT: The statistics seem to vary greatly depending on your source of information, but one thing should be clear by now: the increasing popularity of ad blocking software is a direct measure of people wanting to avoid which ever branded message that’s being pushed in front of them. However mundane of an observation this may be, the truth seemed to be lost on the world of digital marketers. People never wanted to be advertised to. Now they have the tools to (partly) avoid it.


CT: Giving people something worthy of their attention may not provide the short-term effects brand owners are looking for. It does, however, give brands a place in people’s lives. To do so, businesses must apply human empathy and understand the people behind the numbers. Stepping into the world of the ordinary human being – consumer, if you will – may be a daunting leap for some. But with all the emerging digital tools becoming available, it may be worth businesses exploring how these can support this leap.


CT: In a business environment so obviously obsessed with adopting new technologies to optimise short term media results, what role does creativity play? It seems to be up to the agencies to educate clients on the importance of applying human understanding in search of effective communication solutions that appeal more than they interrupt.

Coleby Thew is creative technologist and Frederik Bentsen is creative strategist and at Like Friends, a global creative agency based in Amsterdam.