The annual dmexco trade fair and conference in Cologne brings together a range of participants in digital marketing and here a number of those operating in ad tech give their views on the trends they saw emerging in the 2017 event.

The annual dmexco conference in Cologne saw thought leaders gather from across the globe to discuss, debate, and decide what the marketing industry will look like in the next 12 months. Hot topics included business strategy in a digital age, customer experience, artificial intelligence, and, of course, GDPR. We caught up with ad tech industry experts to find out their key takeaways and trends from this year’s conference.

Jen Brown, Marketing Director EMEA, Tealium

“dmexco continues to be a great place to facilitate conversations with existing and prospective customers and partners. This year’s event was just as busy as ever – even with the absence of free entry – with marketers first and foremost seeking advice ahead of the upcoming GDPR. Although we anticipated the change in legislation to be a hot topic at the conference, it was interesting to observe an increase in attendees focusing on the best use of their data, people, and technology ahead of the changes. Marketers were actively searching for technology and advice to plug gaps in their customer view and the event didn’t fail to support this effort.

“In a fast-changing world, confusion exists and as an industry we need to work harder at explaining precisely what we offer and how it differs from our competitors. dmexco enables these types of conversations to take place and helps prepare the industry for the future.”

Nick Morley, EMEA MD, Integral Ad Science

“It is evident from this year’s dmexco event that brands have not lost faith in digital advertising. While it was worrying to see little impact when big brands cut ad spend, it has shown that in an effort to drive performance, we need to ensure every impression has the opportunity to be effective.

“The conversation at dmexco focused on the need for consistent third-party measurement on a global scale to achieve this. The tools are available to ensure media planning can be viewed holistically, across devices, channels, and markets, so the industry must work to ensure implementation. We need the buy and sell side to come together to take action and further improve the industry, as it’s in everyone’s interests to get this right.

“With brand safety concerns still high on the priority list – seen by the many new brand safety start-ups popping up across the halls – we cannot afford to forget about viewability and ad fraud metrics. The latter raised concern among dmexco delegates.”

Ben Barokas, CEO & Co-Founder, Sourcepoint

“Unsurprisingly, transparency was a key conversation at this year’s dmexco event. When it comes to digital publishing, transparency must play a role in how quality content is funded and how we can create a sustainable ecosystem.

“The conversation focused on the need for user data to understand where, when, and how to have the right conversation about content compensation, in order to add to – not detract from – the user’s experience. The modern publisher will need to look at all their revenue streams, overlaying analytics on this data to offer the user control of their own experience with the least friction possible – something they won’t get from Facebook or Google.

“Publishers at dmexco faced questions over how to finance their sites on a sustainable basis. With conversations surrounding content compensation looking at the variations in payment, advertising, and subscription methods, it is clear publishers need to create a transparent value exchange by presenting consumers multiple funding options. Revenue streams are integral to the success of a publication’s profitability, whichever way publisher chooses to approach this.”

Alex White, VP Product Marketing, Sharethrough

“There was a lot of discussion and excitement around artificial intelligence, particularly exploring how humans can effectively work alongside machine learning for marketing activities. It’s the hot topic at the moment, alongside GDPR, which still has both advertisers and publishers cautious and uncertain about how the change in legislation will affect the industry.

“On a positive note, it was great to see native advertising taking centre stage in several conference sessions and work labs. It’s true to say native is no longer a buzzword, and discussions at dmexco further solidified its position as an established mainstream format, particularly as native video continues to gain share of advertising budgets.”

Richard Kidd, VP, Head of Business Development, EMEA, OpenX

“Transparency and quality were the two buzzwords of dmexco. It’s encouraging to see the industry place such strong focus on these two ideals – particularly the need for more transparency in auction mechanics. The industry’s shift towards a first-price auction has brought this issue to light more than ever, as both publishers and advertisers must now consider auction type and adjust their strategy accordingly to find success. During his keynote, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer, Procter & Gamble, praised the progress the industry has made this year in creating a more transparent system.

“Although header bidding has been a key talking point at dmexco for a number of years, it’s evident the technology has a way to go before it becomes a mainstream revenue optimisation tool. This is particularly due to the unresolved challenges around containers and the use of too many header bidding partners.

“Finally, brands were keen to explore how programmatic technologies can combine to deliver a comprehensive buying and selling environment in a multi-screen world, including on desktop, mobile, Digital Out-Of-Home and Internet Protocol television (IPTV).”

Andy Evans, CMO, Sovrn

“Across the annual calendar of ad-tech events, dmexco is definitely the biggest and most important.

“With publishers seeing revenue eroded by ad blocking, inventory migration to mobile and other market forces, subscription models were being fiercely debated, as original content producers might struggle to survive without them. Brand safety remained an important issue and a call for end-to-end adoption of ads.txt and a single user ID system were at the top of the agenda.

“During a presentation to help close off dmexco, Terence Kawaja of LUMA Partners hailed the supply chain revolution as being the single most important conversation of the whole event, stating, ‘If we don't fix this, there is no dmexco’. He challenged the panel, asking: ‘Why do we keep looking at this notion of a CPM?’ and went on to say: ‘Shouldn't we be migrating along the performance curve?’, adding: ‘Shouldn't we be moving to a time or engagement metric?’

Joshua Koran, Managing Director of DMP, Sizmek

“Hailed as creating a new type of internet – one where transparency, data security and decentralisation reign – blockchain was the buzzword on everyone’s lips. Originally made famous through Bitcoin, blockchain – a tool that keeps an open, real-time record of all data or transactions online – is being developed to help the industry improve both workflow and the negotiation process between buyers and sellers. While many people overhype the potential of this solution, Dr. Mark Grether spoke on the need to focus on how this technology improves business outcomes, rather than adds additional latency and complexity to the ecosystem. As a frequent topic of conversation at Dmexco, blockchain offers a potential solution to many challenges facing the industry – including supply chain quality and digital rights management. By making automating components of the programmatic advertising workflow, blockchain offers the potential to help improve the trust and openness within the ecosystem.”

Subscribers can read more of WARC's coverage of dmexco 2017 here. Readers can also sign up to a WARC Webinar, Martech - 2018 and Beyond (Oct 2), which will look at what the growth of marketing technology means for brands, agencies and vendors.

A WARC event, New Technology - Digital Assistants, Voice Strategy, VR and Insights (Oct 18), will explore how marketers can prepare for the changes that are coming their way.