What Industry Leaders Thought of DMEXCO 2023: The Talks, Tech, and Trends

Which innovations stole the spotlight at DMEXCO? What is the ad industry’s take on Cologne’s iconic conference after its post-Covid evolution? And what trending conversations will continue among industry players following the event?

Advertising Week gathered insights from the advertising, media, and technology experts who attended.

By R. Larsson, Advertising Week

An unrivalled networking opportunity

Although the guest list was smaller than pre-2020 standards, multiple attendees remarked on the significance of the event as a hub for progress and deal-making. Sylwia Iwanejko-Sajewska, Country Manager DACH at TripleLift, MBA commented:

“DMEXCO 2023 proved to be the best stage to talk business — a more concentrated turnout meant more focussed and meaningful conversations. Even so, the industry was well represented in terms of publishers, ad tech partners, holding companies, and brands, which allowed us to engage with a variety of key players within the digital ecosystem and gain alternative perspectives.

“The innovative conversations around creativity and AI reinforced DMEXCO’s position as a pioneering digital marketing and tech event, with a great combination of content and networking opportunities. The Online Ad Summit organised by the BVDW (The German Association for the Digital Economy) was particularly fitting as a way to ease yourself into the conference.”

Joseph Worswick, VP of EMEA, Global Head of Sustainability at OpenX also reflected on how DMEXCO’s evolution has dialled up attendees’ results-driven focus: “I really enjoyed being back at DMEXCO this year — the conference was even more useful and personable, as the slightly smaller turnout gave people the opportunity to build more valuable connections.

The AI use cases, privacy-conscious targeting methods, and responsible media practices that filled the stages were engaging and reflected the industry’s need to be incredibly innovative as digital advertising evolves. Retail media was also very prominent, with a lot of content and companies present to support brands and companies in this space. It’s no surprise this is expected to be one of the hottest areas of focus with large potential for growth in the coming years.

The common thread running through all these topics was the need to demonstrate value for businesses, reflecting the industry’s intense focus on testing new approaches and driving results.”

Decoding the business value of AI

Attendees did not need predictive capabilities to know AI would be high on the agenda. Evgeny (Ev) Popov, Executive Vice President & General Manager, International at Verve Group noted the dynamic between AI and humans remains front of mind:

“Looking into the future, conversations around how to merge artificial and human intelligence to future-proof the industry were prolific, with attention shifting from concerns that AI could replace human jobs to the possibility of implementing technology to enhance human teams and boost their productivity.

“For example, AI can enhance contextual targeting by analysing contextual signals within milliseconds and identifying the right moments and spaces to deliver ads to engaged audiences. The result is highly targeted privacy-safe advertising that answers emerging challenges of the digital ecosystem.”

Meanwhile Sergii Denysenko, CEO at MGID provided a balanced view on AI’s impact for both publishers and advertisers: “Publishers voiced concerns about the impact of generative AI chatbots on site traffic and industry jobs, along with the challenge of protecting their content from web crawlers and the risk of fake news and deepfakes as AI proliferates.

“Yet, chiming with DMEXCO’s tagline ‘Empowering Digital Creativity’, they also reported increased efficiency in using AI to help with content production, ad sales, and other tasks. Advertisers, meanwhile, focused on how AI can enhance creativity and reported its value in content and text-to-image creation.”

Ensuring responsible advertising is more than a talking point

Vincent Villaret, CEO at IMPACT+ commented on the rising importance of green initiatives: “A recent IAB Europe study showed sustainability to be a top three priority for the industry earlier this year, and that was reflected in our discussions. A growing number of businesses are now moving from testing phases to scaling solutions and building environmental KPIs into their business strategies. The positive change in attitude towards the environment is a welcome breath of fresh air for the industry, as more and more players in the ecosystem implement actionable strategies to reduce their carbon footprint.”

The topic of progress extended beyond environmental concerns to encompass social responsibility as well. Emma Newman, Chief Revenue Officer, EMEA at PubMatic expressed the need to further this endeavour:

“DMEXCO is one of my favourite conventions, and so I want to hold it to the highest standard. This year, I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in many productive conversations and valuable collaborations, but noticed the event sorely lacked diversity and inclusivity across the board. Organisations must realise that being progressive goes beyond investing in technology — it’s equally, if not more, about nurturing creative problem solving by embracing unique perspectives from underrepresented groups.

“While it was great to see some speakers touch on DE&I, the significant business benefits that can be achieved when we prioritise diversity among upper and middle management — as we demonstrated in our seventh annual DE&I report — really needed to be shown in action.”

Solving for a privacy-first, cookieless era

One key topic that made an impact at DMEXCO was privacy-led, post-cookie innovation. Jan Heumüller, Managing Director Central Europe, Ogury commented:

“While agencies and brand marketers are increasingly concerned with maintaining audience addressability in a landscape void of third-party cookies, 41% are still unfamiliar with cookieless and ID-less targeting solutions. With less than a year to go until all cookies are wiped, the clock is ticking. Now is the time for the industry to analyse alternative options and enhance in-house capabilities with the right partnerships to guarantee continuous success, especially once identity-based targeting becomes a distant memory.”

Summarising the current challenges with progressing past the cookie, Ben Putley, CEO & Co-Founder at Alkimi shared:

“With Google slowly but surely phasing cookies out of Chrome from July 2024, marketers are seriously considering how to navigate this tidal wave of change set to hit our industry. Many are finding it hard to explain to their clients what targeting and optimisation will look like in a post-cookie world, making me optimistic about the potential for decentralised technology to step in and help bridge that gap.”

Retail media, CTV, and audio are major players in the omnichannel mix

DMEXCO also shed light on exciting developments across media channels, with GroupM NexusHarry Harcus commenting on the resounding future of digital audio ads:

“It was great to see audio vendors and brands enthusiastically discuss the potentials of digital audio at this year’s DMEXCO. The findings from GroupM Nexus’ and IAB Europe’s recent report backed up this elevated presence. Media buyers are preparing to come out on top of this wave and incorporate digital audio ads into their omnichannel mix to innovatively strengthen their media plans.”

Ryan Afshar, Head of Publisher Development, LG Ad Solutions remarked on the value of CTV for buyers: “The opportunities that CTV can bring marketers dominated conversations, and I was pleased to see a particular focus on addressing the challenges that still exist within this emerging channel. It was also hard to ignore the explosion of retail and commerce media, with almost an entire hall taken over by vendors innovating within this channel.”

The event proved advertising and eCommerce are indeed colliding, with Nick Morgan, Founder and CEO at Vudoo sharing: “It was very clear from the conference that ecommerce is encroaching into the adtech space, and will play a big role going forward. I hope to see more advertisers attending DMEXCO 2024 to diversify thought leadership discussion, as this year was largely dominated by agencies and vendors.”

InfoSum’s Nick Henthorn, SVP Sales, UK & Europe also believes CTV and retail media are set for a crossover, saying: “Retail media made a notable mark at this year’s event, with retailers such as Lidl and OBI having a large presence. Connected TV also continued to preoccupy industry conversation, with event sessions honing in on collaboration in this space. With this in mind, I expect the convergence between CTV and retail media networks to only grow in significance as advertisers, retailers and media owners adapt to a first-party world.”

DMEXCO continues to bring the advertising ecosystem together and provide fertile ground for advancing progress. It will be exciting to see how these trends develop and which innovations will be on stage in 2024.

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