Industry reacts: Dmexco @home

Tyrone Stewart

On the 23 and 24 September, the world of digital marketing and advertising descended on Dmexco 2020, only this time – thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic – it was all done virtually and away from the famous Koelnmesse exhibition centre.

The Dmexco @home event featured more than 20,000 participants, 800 speakers, and 260 exhibitors from all over the world, all brought together through a digital platform. Over 10,000 visitors were continuously live on the platform for both days and, on the first day alone, more than 60,000 messages were sent, with 56 per cent of participants going a step further and using audio or video calls regularly.

Overall, the program was over 160 hours, including 163 masterclasses and workshops and two events-in-event.

So, what did the actual participants think about the virtual conference? Here’s what some have to say:

Owen Hancock, Marketing Director, Impact EMEA
“‘Attitude matters’ was the motto of Dmexco this year – and despite huge challenges, not least the inability to convene in person – the event did bring together industry leaders. Marketing and media professionals took the time to look ahead at digital trends and the workplaces of tomorrow, taking the opportunity to take stock and evaluate their own positions.

With a new lens of social responsibility now evident, alongside awareness of the acute need for empathy and transparency during this challenging time, positivity, diversity and collaboration were all buzzwords. Certainly, it’s true that agility is needed like never before. Fortunately, this has led to increasing awareness of the importance of partnerships, in times of Corona, as companies work together to solve some of the challenges we face.”

Lauren Douglass, SVP Global Marketing, Channel Factory
“It would be pointing out the obvious to say that this year’s event was different to previous incarnations. But it did distinguish itself in more ways than one, and this included its speakers’ growing appreciation of the need for brand suitability. As the industry continues to tackle new frontiers of fraud, trust and sustainability are being called for like never before, in recognition of the fact that empathy with audiences does not go hand-in-hand with disregard of brand safety.

This year’s event reflected a year in which discussions around fake news and digital manipulation, as well as brand safety, grew louder. It was great to see decision-makers get together, albeit virtually, to help carve out an attitude and approach of responsible collaboration when it comes to protecting the industry from irresponsible players.”

Peter Szyszko, CEO, White Bullet Solutions
“Events like Dmexco help to bring about necessary debate to protect the advertising ecosystem and the wider public. While Cologne's annual digital marketing event was very different this year, this was not necessarily in a bad way. Attention has shifted to some of the most significant issues facing our industry. And while discussions around trust and transparency have been ongoing for some time, awareness of the need for action has never felt stronger – especially around the fight against ad funded piracy. There were less buzzwords and more sober debate and this is a welcome step forward.”

Ed Preedy, CRO, Cavai
“As expected, mobile-centric marketing took centre stage at DMEXCO as speakers encouraged advertisers to embrace mobile messaging. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s the growing reliance on smartphones as a means of both communication and entertainment. International mobile industry experts took to the Dmexco stage to take a deep-dive into the world of messaging apps including WhatsApp, RCS and SMS to share omnichannel and chatbot strategies as well as explore the power of content monetisation and mobile payments. We heard best practices for how brands can capture consumers’ hearts and minds with conversational marketing. Speakers shared illuminating insights such as 90 per cent of consumers regularly communicate in chats, making it the ideal channel for brands to establish ongoing dialogues with consumers. Beiersdorf shared their NIVEA case study on using chatbot technology to provide product advice, gather data and increase direct engagement with consumers. With rising expectations from brands, providing conversational advertising on the devices consumers use the most, was one of the key takeaways from Dmexco’s two-day expo.”

Niklas Bakos, CEO, Adverty
“With gaming hailed as the world's favourite pastime during the pandemic, it was no surprise this topic featured heavily across many Dmexco stages. Industry experts shared their insights on why mobile gaming remains the most popular category on app stores. They also covered how brands can identify advertising opportunities in gaming to target different audiences through a range of platforms, genres and approaches. Nearly 3bn people worldwide play games meaning billions of streaming minutes are generated by influencers on YouTube and Twitch alone. Dmexco attendees discovered the unrelenting growth of the e-sports and gaming industry over the last few years as it progressed from a gathering place for nerds to a mass-market global phenomenon. Experts also shared their thoughts around the influx in mobile gaming, which due to the pandemic, has opened up the player ecosystem to many different demographics. For marketers initially unaware of the huge growth potential of mobile gaming advertising, Dmexco showcased brand success stories from platforms like Twitch that has seen a rapid content evolution in recent years.”

Matthew Goldhill, CEO, Picnic
“As a result of the global pandemic, consumers are naturally spending more time on their mobiles than ever before. Dmexco speakers alluded to this growing trend with several sessions stressing the need for advertisers to effectively leverage the digital channel with the largest global reach. There were plenty of masterclasses on how brands could create thumb-stopping ad campaigns that had a fair chance at competing for the consumers’ attention. Much was said about premium mobile ad formats that can no longer be created in isolation. For mobile brands to stand out in a noisy social feed, contextual 15 seconds ads need to be developed to compete in an increasingly mobile-centric world. Across several Dmexco stages, the theme of adapting and repurposing TV ad formats was a central one. Advertisers were encouraged to take risks with their mobile ad formats and treat mobile and TV channels as two separate channels with separate advertising requirements. Ultimately, Dmexco provided audiences with a blueprint for developing strategies to grow consumer engagement on mobile and drove home the importance of better understanding consumers to serve them more relevant advertising.”

Gary Taylor, Deputy MD, TMWI
“In response to the global challenges faced due to the current climate, Dmexco led with the topical theme of “Attitude Matters,” and gathered thought leaders and marketing experts to share their opinions on topics including purpose-driven marketing and tech for good. Speakers discussed the importance of living up to their CSR policies amidst growing expectations from consumers who demand brands to become more socially conscious.

A key topic covered across all Dmexco stages was the growing importance of mobile-first marketing strategies, particularly as consumers continue to spend increasing amounts of time on their smartphones. Indeed in China, the mobile internet has become the global pioneer and trailblazer for future development. This opens up new challenges and opportunities for marketers looking to engage one of the world’s biggest populations and leading e commerce consumers. It was impossible to discuss mobile at Dmexco without also discussing social advertising on platforms like TikTok, Twitch and Snapchat, all of which are experiencing exponential growth during the pandemic. With two jam-packed days of insights, attendees at Dmexco left with key takeaways on everything from content commerce to in-app ads as tactics to improve customer experience.”

Julia Smith, Founder, The Digital Voice
“Brands, media experts and tech platforms converged at Dmexco – albeit virtually – this year to showcase the positive ramifications of accelerated disruption. Whilst there have of course been many negative influences to come out of the pandemic, the annual trade fair for digital marketing and advertising did allow us to take a moment to celebrate the creativity and innovation at the heart of the advertising ecosystem. Many ad tech businesses can pride themselves on a job very well done: They have expertly navigated entirely new frontiers and dramatically changing contexts throughout a challenging 2020.”