We almost didn’t make it to Cologne for the 2017 #dmexco, THE trade fair for digital marketing. The day before the event, 200 flights had been cancelled – luckily, ours wasn’t one of them. If it were, we would have missed 1,100 exhibitors from 39 countries in an area of about 100,000 square meters and more than 570 international, top-class speakers on 18 stages with over 250 hours on the conference program. Not only would we have struggled to support our customers, but the event is also genuinely exciting for communication experts. It is even more so, if you, like we do, work for IT and technology companies that actively shape digital transformation. But what makes #dmexco special, and why should you visit it?
First of all, you will notice that while other large-scale events like CeBIT struggle for their raison d’être and are reinventing themselves, #dmexco keeps on writing its success story. That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise, that among marketing experts, the event is no insider tip anymore. And this isn’t only due to its high quality networking – also the high level speakers are proof, that this place breathes digital marketing. For example, between the booths of the Facebooks, Googles and Oracles of this world, now there is also a dedicated hall for start-ups. The only downer was the fact that if you wanted to experience top speakers like Facebook’s managing director Sheryl Sandberg, Youtube director Robert Kyncl or Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey live on stage, you had to show up early or stay outside. After all, the halls were closed all too quickly due to overcrowding.
The internet is Germany’s strongest advertising media for first time
A highlight of every #dmexco is the traditional publication of the OVK report (Kreis der Online-Vermarkter im BVDW) at the beginning of the exhibition. This year, it yielded the central, although not surprising revelation: In 2017, the internet had advanced to become the strongest advertising media (even) in Germany, mainly on the shoulders of the growth engines video and mobile. This is a clear indicator, also for us as PR professionals, as to which channels will keep gaining relevance in the future.
However, the event in Cologne wasn’t only about digital marketing – in fact, the focus was on digital business in the broadest sense. Along these lines, topics like autonomous driving, data management and work 2.0 were discussed as well – all of those being topics that we, as advisors for IT and tech companies, have to deal with on a day to day basis.
Transformation requires careful moderation
We were particularly excited about the discussions around artificial intelligence (AI) – a topic, which, as of late, was hotly debated in the areas of journalism and PR as well. This is due to the fact that critics see the technology mainly as a threat to jobs. On-site, the common agreement seemed to be that the chances of creating an exceptional user experience with the help of self-learning algorithms would be paramount. The current discussion, however, shows that the topic requires careful moderation. Since, despite all the euphoria, we know all too well that the success of the most innovative technologies is utterly reliant on its acceptance among people – which is where successful communication comes in as the key factor.
New wine in old wineskins?
Of course, at an event like this, there’s also a lot of buzzword bingo. Here, smart content was the latest trend that stuck with us the most. In any case, marketing and PR experts should google this term if they want to be able to answer customer requests. Whether or not this is just the latest fad is anyone’s guess. Much more intriguing was the following debate: Is it the creative preparation of content or the programmatic playout that determines success?
In the end, there remains a feeling of having been overwhelmed by manifold, but exciting new ideas – these now have to be assessed and translated into new outputs for us and our customers. How this can be accomplished? I, for my part, will stick with the conclusion of Heineken’s Ian Wilson: “Test and learn”. This we will definitely take to heart, and we will try our luck with many new things. All in all, the #dmexco is always worth the journey for me – next time, hopefully, without having to worry whether our plane will actually take off.