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“Storms clear the path for new ways to do things” – the industry reacts to DMEXCO @home

This year, for the first time, DMEXCO (the largest congress trade fair for the digital industry in Europe) was delivered virtually. DMEXCO @home welcomed over 20,000 online visitors from across the globe and – given the huge industry disruption this year – it was no surprise to see “attitude matters” as the headline theme, with responsibility, empathy, and diversity holding supporting roles.

The virtual show came with the advantage of a video-on-demand library, but some attendees observed that the event was more of a lecture than an exchange or discussion; perhaps highlighting the struggle the events industry now faces when trying to replicate in-person events. Attendees were left feeling conflicted, expressing mixed feelings about the execution of the event – while many praised its focus on community and collaboration, the absence of true conversation and emotion was lamented.

Undoubtedly, as digital events mature, there will be opportunities to refine the rough edges. But despite some criticism, this year’s DMEXCO provided a glimpse into the industry’s future; from rapid evolution to the new, digital-first consumer. WNIP touched base with a few industry experts to understand this year’s key learnings.

Rayhan Perera, CEO and Founder, OneDash

“For me, a chief takeaway from this year’s show is the importance of optimising livestream events for the future. Digitising a huge industry event like DMEXCO in such a short amount of time would have been challenging for the organisers but – although real-world events are expected to eventually return – it’s likely the shift towards digital will become a permanent feature of conferences, shows, and expos, so it’s vital organisers take steps to understand audience engagement online and work to boost personalisation and interactivity.

“For example, by immediately presenting attendees with interactive choices around preferred topics, panels and interests, organisers can create a more tailored experience that minimises passive attendance and strengthens relationships. Also, hotspots – or touchpoints – could encourage attendees to click on speakers to learn more about the individual and their company, overlaying information without redirecting the consumer away from the livestream. It’s important brands incorporate interactive technologies like this into events moving forward, and it’ll will be interesting to see whether DMEXCO chooses to retain digital elements next year.”

Jürgen Galler, CEO and Founder,  1plusX

“Despite this year’s challenging times, the first-ever virtual DMEXCO has been a very positive experience for us at 1plusX. The lack of in-person interaction was made up for by a 360-degree stage where our master classes were well attended and provided a great platform to share key learnings and discuss all the challenges facing us in the near future.

Although hard to compare to last year’s DMEXCO,  it was still great to be a part of something that helps move our industry forward.

“One lesson we can take from this year is that storms clear the path for new ways to do things; the key focus of the virtual conference was on ‘attitude matters’ and how the industry can inspire positive changes through responsible and collaborative solutions. We have been part of many interesting conversations on how businesses can embrace sustainable innovation; AI-powered technology and  advanced predictive analytics, especially, will lead and transform brands through changing times.”

Chris Hogg, Managing Director EMEA at Lotame:

DMEXCO @home focused on bringing together publishers, marketers, brands and advertisers, to better understand identity and build a sustainable future that connects rather than divides us.

The digital industry was already working hard to address the challenges of consolidating online and offline consumer activity with consideration to data regulations and cookie deprecation. The pandemic then introduced a catalyst for change, emphasising the importance of adapting advertising strategies quickly and efficiently to reflect ever-changing customer behaviours. As a result, a key focus for DMEXCO @home was how marketers can capture the consumer’s increasingly complex digital life, with identity being a prominent theme. 

Identity is a rapidly evolving market segment and an intrinsic piece of the puzzle for marketers wanting to forge stronger customer connections and justify their ad spend. In the new digital landscape, marketers stand to lose important tools for cross-channel advertising, such as targeting, optimisation, frequency capping, measurement, and data enrichment. So to be successful in reaching their goals of consumer engagement and customer acquisition, marketers require identity solutions that are people-based, privacy first, and open to all.” 

Nickolas Rekeda, CMO at MGID

“Contextual targeting and campaign performance featured heavily in this year’s DMEXCO conversations – only this time, the realities of COVID have shifted the digital industry’s perspective towards more efficient solutions. The new climate has accelerated progress in many ad tech sectors, contextual advertising in particular is being adopted at a greater scale, with positive, relevant ad placements now a priority for marketers.

“Additionally, the industry has renewed its interest in performance-based marketing, acknowledging its importance in a world dependent on business outcomes. Prior to the pandemic, companies invested primarily in anti-fraud and traffic quality verification solutions. With marketing budgets currently facing downward pressure, campaign performance is becoming the ultimate traffic quality validator.”

Emmanuel Josserand, Brand, Agency and Industry Relations, FreeWheel  

‘’Cross-media measurement is a topic that was on everybody’s mind at DMEXCO – with a new framework just announced by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), which  has been in the making since 2019.

“Recent rapid advancements in technologies and increased amounts of data across a whole spectrum of platforms have made measurement simultaneously more necessary and more difficult to achieve. Television in particular is going through a major transition with connected TV / OTT uptake on the rise and a shift to more addressable formats, which means enhanced targeting and optimisation capabilities, and also more complexity to contend with for planning and reporting results.

“Let’s hope the positive reaction to the WFA framework continues to build, and that it proves to be a solid pillar for marketers, publishers and broadcasters to collaborate around as we seek to drive greater cross-media measurement solutions fit for the digital future.”

With the pandemic increasing pressure to be agile and responsive, it’s vital the industry addresses best practices in a post-COVID world. Exploring new, adaptable methods of reaching and engaging consumers will be a priority for all sectors; and so will reshaping events that offer crucial opportunities for the industry to come together, swap notes, and share ideas for future innovation; be that online, offline, or a mix of both. As marketers look ahead, they need effective tools and strategies to plan, deploy, and measure their digital marketing efforts for success.