I have nothing but admiration for the organizers of DMEXCO, the annual European marketing conference, and the Expo. What an amazing show it is in person, and what an action-packed show they had planned before they had to go digital—800 speakers, two major time zones for live streaming, and two languages. 

The major theme of the conference, of course, was how fast things are changing.  Worlds in upheaval. This seemed especially true in the agency business, where one of the early speakers admitted the business was “over years ago.” Even before the pandemic, clients had shifted from a single agency to perhaps six agencies, which required excessive coordination. They then shifted again to a single-client customized agency, and are now taking their businesses, especially the data-centric pieces, in-house.

There were many panels on cookieless contextual targeting, the superiority of online video, the invasion of podcasts and voice interfaces, influencers (yes, there were TikTok influencers), and what all the changes mean for brands.

Our main takeaway is that like real life, the advertising industry didn’t stop evolving during the pandemic, and many marketers have used this as an opportunity to hone their offerings and messages in real-time, and to update their ad tech stacks. The pandemic may have taken away the ability to see into the future and to plan, but it didn’t take away consumers’ intentions and readiness to buy.

In a fireside chat with Christian Juhl, the new head of Group M, he predicted that by 2021, marketing would be back to its 2019 levels; although, some channels will have changed and e-commerce will have permanently grown.

Key Highlights from DMEXCO 20

Source: DMEXCO

On the very first day, we found out that omnichannel is the new black. More importantly, remote work means when the TV isn’t on, the computer is, and that makes “prime time” an obsolete concept. This means buyers need the flexibility to move their budgets so that funding for newer initiatives, like connected TV, come out of the traditional linear TV budget, rather than wait to be its own line item next year.

For traditional media buyers, some education is involved here since the traditional “where’s my reach” question needs to evolve into “where’s my pixel.” Metrics will have changed. And online publishers have to be educated about the fact that consumers expect a TV-quality experience even from an online platform. If there is no buffering on linear TV, it’s not acceptable on CTV either. 

Online video platforms need to deliver a commercial that not only looks like what you would see on TV but has the added value of being customized to the viewer. Every month this technology is improving, although online platforms admitted at DMEXCO that they still don’t know whether the right ad is being delivered to the right consumer. In a few months, they will figure this out, as they have now figured out how to frequency cap across devices.

Given the challenges of global isolation due to COVID and the sheer size and scope of an all-virtual DMEXCO, the event turned out to be very informative. Some platform issues provided obstacles during the conference and a web-only experience limited access for people on the move. As more event platforms embrace mobile app capabilities, participation across a multi-day event will be more sustainable.

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