“Trust in You”: What DMEXCO Was About in 2019
The Digital Marketing Conference was held on September 11-12 in Cologne for the 11th time in a row. Featuring a thousand exhibition stands from various companies, hundreds of speakers, more than 40 000 visitors, round tables, interviews and discussions with professionals who pave the way towards the future of the industry, such an event for Inventale was an invaluable opportunity to synchronise watches and get acquainted with the best of the best.
The topics’ range expanded beyond marketing, unsurprisingly. Mar-tech, ad-tech, agencies, publishers, and advertisers - all involved were brought together. Such richness of attendees emphasised the 2019 motto “Trust in You,” since there is no trusting relationship without open communication. But more on that later.
Judging by the stories, digital marketing has been living without major crises and is busy setting things in proper order for now. There were many cases on how companies had adapted AI to solve their business tasks, dealt with fraud and dishonest players, benefited from the age-old email, already accustomed video ads, and still exotic VR.
Future-proofing subjects were brought up too. Take, for example, podcasts, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, streaming services, video games, influencers. All of these promise many field days to come for those who invest now. In AI-related conversations, one could hear “steal our jobs” motives and the critique of biases sneaking into algorithms from inevitably prejudiced human developers.
There was a consistent amount of revisionist speeches of various kinds. Customary approaches have outlived its’ utility; business needs a creative impulse. A whole separate issue is the current perception of the companies’ scale and effectiveness, which do not correlate with long-term planning but still dictate the way all business processes are adjusted.
The conference participants concurred on revising marketers’ global mission: companies and corporations have a responsibility towards society, should inspire it, and contribute to meaningful goals. The ultimate practical objective of marketing is sales growth, obviously, but responsible consumption matters more and should be considered foremost.
DMEXCO organisers were quick to set an example: together with Social Business Treedom and Productsup, they will plant a forest in Kenya to partially compensate the CO2 emissions from guests travelling to Cologne.
But let’s go back to the conference motto. Like golden threads, the narrative of broken trust ran throughout the whole event. It is not news, but the way the question was put is somewhat fresh. Until now, the discussion on this topic has always reduced to finger-pointing which has not led anywhere. And so it was necessary to pause this simmering conflict and rewind.
How did it happen that neither users nor the industry have any trust whatsoever? The primary reasons voiced at the conference were overwhelming ads flow and overly complicated technological chains within drastically fragmented ecosystems.
GDPR adds fuel to the fire. The European market is worried about the sudden artificial competitive advantages of the US and China. Against this background, implementation and setting up cookie-less processes, providing ePrivacy, and estimating garden walls profitability are becoming particularly acute issues.
As for users, the success formula was derived quite easily. Personalising content to the detriment of privacy is a poor choice; better take proper care of the content quality. From this perspective, the GDPR even does the industry a favor, forcing it to rebuild the business to fit into the globally growing ethical trend. Still, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to where the balance between personalisation and privacy lies.
In contrast, it seems no one knows yet what to do with the tangled out of line technical web. We cannot outrun automation; it offers exceptional perspectives for each specific task, which was mentioned so much at the conference. Technologies are an immense help for brand-safety audit, pre-bid analysis, bid prediction, and ad campaign optimisation in general. But the more automated the system elements are, the less we understand how it works. Hence the distrust within the industry.
Of course, some use the lack of transparency maliciously, but it is not them who are the root of the problems. As solutions to tackle the actual issue, these two were offered at DMEXCO:
- Unification. For example, why not run all programmatic auctions on the same principles so that there is no confusion.
- Running a business consistently ethically. If you are not fond of monopolies and afraid that Google will take over your business - do not cooperate with Google (in particular, Roger McNamee called for a GAFA boycott).
The feasibility of both proposals is questionable, but their very existence is pleasing.
DMEXCO has once again shown that new challenges do not wait until the industry has dealt with the earlier ones. Nevertheless, besides souvenirs and useful contacts, we brought home a positive energy from Cologne. Much can be achieved together; that is why such a unanimous desire to figure out what is what and how to handle it is encouraging. We will be sure to return in a year to listen and talk about new trends…
… and check on cutie Carlo from one of Expo stands.