DMEXCO 2019 – The scent of Cologne
So last week it was off we go again, on the merry-go-round that sees much of the online media industry up sticks and take up a temporary home in Cologne, Germany.
DMEXCO is one big, slightly manic event. But hang on. It didn’t feel as dynamic as last year.
Upon arriving, a line of people were streaming towards the entrance, but that line was thinner than usual, and the bag check had almost no queue (bliss!) so I flowed through the gates without delay.
When looking down from the escalators into the main hallway, a sea of attendees met me and the noise of people connecting was ever present. But I wasn’t being carried along in a wave of bodies. Instead I could make my way with ease and decide where to go first rather than be taken there.
So what was the talk of DMEXCO 2019? Why was it less ‘buzzy’ this year?
The sense I took away from my two days was that no one was doing anything really new. There were no significant partnership announcements and no one was introducing the next shiny new thing. There was a bit of AI talk, some VR and audio noise and some Blockchain speak, but we’ve heard all that before. In fact the key focus seemed to be on what people were concerned about rather than any exciting new developments. In particular, how can I monetise my inventory when I have no third party cookies (Safari in particular, but will Chrome follow)? And related, holy moly, we have to comply with all things GDPR, so if that means the IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF) 2.0 is not compliant what do I do?!
Some of the talk was centred on the now well versed concerns of advertisers. No surprises that Brand Safety, Ad Fraud and Viewability took centre stage. As the UK’s industry owned auditor in these areas, we’re well aware of the extent of the issue and how the industry is continuing to develop solutions that will better protect advertiser brands and budgets. But this year saw the Brand Safety conversation moving to embrace Brand Suitability – allowing the nuances of this issue to be discussed more purposefully.
I also picked up on a smattering of User Experience conversations. These seemed to emanate principally from the (few) advertisers who rightly expressed their concerns about how to reach audiences effectively via their digital spend i.e. in a manner that triggers those audiences to value the experience, rather than sending them running to download an ad blocker!
There was also the concern that vexed those who said, “Ad Fraud - just how much of a problem is it?” Only one thing seemed clear, that the scale of the problem is still unclear (but needs answering clearly)! Is it a 5%, 15% or 30% problem? Knowing the scale of the issue can help the industry decide what action to take. The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), had some helpful insights to offer. These largely confirmed that TAG Certified Channels can reduce ad fraud to less than 1%. So the question left hanging was if this is so, why are more advertisers not demanding the use of certified channels?
So the main concerns extended to inappropriate environments, formats that users dislike, placements that compete with each other and ultimately the need to target and de-dupe reach to be able to know the effectiveness of campaigns. Ironic perhaps, but totally understandable, that on the one hand advertisers want to target people, whilst on the other those advertisers need to be privacy compliant (so not target people)? Ouch! New thinking and a new paradigm required… If only I knew how to invent a paradigm! Perhaps The Ozone Project, Infosum, Permutive and similar new ventures have insights to help us all here?
Overall then, a sense of everything being just a little a bit ‘on hold’. No new answers, just more (but not really new) questions. As an industry, we may be swan-like on the surface but the legs are pedalling like the proverbial spin class underneath.
My DMEXCO stats:
Day 1 - 10km walked, 15k steps
Day 2 - 6.5Km walked, 9.5k steps (plus a further 2.5km and 3k steps to get home via Dusseldorf airport!)
Note to self – bring walking boots next year!