Dbrief on DMEXCO

Last week marked my return to the non-Brexiting part of Europe in several years to attend DMEXCO. My assumption is that most operations people really don’t know a lot about DMEXCO other than Germany is a funny place to go to something that sounds like it belongs in Latin America.

Those that have heard of it group it in the same category as Cannes and CES – conferences that sound amazing but ad ops people only dream of attending. DMEXCO, however, is not like the other two.

Cannes and CES are really only exclusively networking events. Few if any in the digital advertising space go to them to attend sessions or walk a trade show floor. Sure, CES has an amazing “show” but most ad tech people have cleared out before that part even starts.

At the core of DMEXCO is the German ad tech community, which is there to meet with partners and sign deals. No, not get business cards or hand shakes—signatures on the line which is dotted. This is German efficiency at its best.

Around this core, people—around 60,000 of them—come from around the world all looking to talk ad tech. Boasting more than 1,100 exhibits (all of a quality unlike I’ve ever seen in our industry) and more than 570 speakers over 2 days, it’s pretty overwhelming.

So I thought I would update you on the content, but I can’t. For all my talk about DMEXCO being different, I never made it into a session. I tried, but the session I wanted to see (Richard Bush from NYIAX talking about blockchain) had a waiting list. Instead I used my time meeting with everyone I knew from when I was in Europe more often.

From those meetings, I will say that certain themes did emerge that I found valuable:

Everyone is saying that no one is talking about GDPR. It’s true. GDPR came up in every meeting I had and people quietly echoed the same thing: no one is ready and no one really wants to discuss it. It’s amusing how everyone says that and yet scary how much GDPR looms over everything. Apparently, GDPR is the new “It” topic (pun and movie reference intended).

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GDPR has to be discussed openly, so we’re going to bring some people who have been doing their homework and preparing to the Publisher Forum in Nashville in November. To prep, why not take our quick GDPR poll now?  No more hiding, everyone.

The change in auction mechanics: The image that comes to mind is of the “Masked Magician” who reveals how other magicians do their tricks. Apparently we’ve been moving to first-party auctions without anyone saying so and now that the word is out, it’s a “feature.”

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Folks, the industry seems to be running out of tricks. A great read on this: Danny Spears from the Guardian: Moving the goalposts: what’s behind exchanges’ proposed change to auction-logic? And Gavin’s #OPSPOV on the Invasion of the First-Price Auctions.

A cold war world mindset. GDPR. Apple’s cookie blocking. Chrome’s ad blocking. All of these are existential threats to digital advertising.

But the conversations I have with most people in operations—here and abroad—is to commiserate on what these trends mean… and then get back to talking about the day-to-day. Maybe even celebrate the wins of a successful integration or uptick in revenue.

As someone who lived through the Reagan Era where it seemed like any day the nukes were coming our way, there was always a sense of unease, but you kept on living life. I think we have to believe that this will all work out.

People want content, and advertising is a more than fair exchange for getting it for “free.” The alternatives have some real downsides, so let’s not chuck out advertising because it can be interruptive or seem invasive. Let’s just make it a hell of a lot smarter.
Keeping with the German theme, maybe it’s time we tore down the wall between us and consumers and start adapting. The brands are already obsessed with the potential for one-to-one messaging—these are the discussions worth having.