DMEXCO 2019: Key Takeaways

What you missed from the year's biggest adtech event.

40,000 people gathered.

Over 1,000 exhibitors were in attendance.

The top leaders in martech and adtech from the industry's largest companies at the industry's biggest marketing event.

Here are the top trends at DMEXCO 2019 about where the industry may be headed.

1. Privacy is important

DMEXCO's theme this year revolved around trust, something that the marketing and advertising industries have lost a lot of over the past year.

Whereas last year it was the introduction of GDPR that was the main topic of the event related to privacy, this year it was how to operate in a post-cookie world, the backbone of internet tracking.

In the weeks leading up to the event, for example, Google announced that its chrome browser would come equipped with new privacy features that would make tracking user's browsing activity much more difficult.

Apple, which has positioned itself as the champion of privacy in recent years, also unveiled a new API called SKAdNework which enables advertisers to measure their campaigns without sacrificing user data.

Firefox has also announced they would start blocking third-party cookies on their browser soon.

2. The search for third-party cookie alternatives

The end to cookies has the industry scrambling to find an alternative that can allow advertisers to measure the success of their campaigns without infringing on privacy.

Not all are happy about the change, and the benefits and drawbacks made for heated debate at the conference. Anna Forbes of The Trade Desk, for example, said:

"Cookies have developed a bad rep for being synonymous with annoying ads and relentless retargeting – leading many to claim the death of the cookie to be imminent. But what it’s easy to forget is that the cookie is fundamental to the free internet. Without cookie-driven advertising, the internet would cost consumers or have to be privately run."

On the other side of the debate are those that believe the industry needs to confront the new reality and move on. Ozone Project CEO Damon Reeve said:

"The ad-tech community is not yet properly addressing the future of browser-based identity and tracking. The topic of the conference was heavy on highlighting issues but very light on any material solutions, which is where the problem lies. The browsers (including Google) have made it clear that tracking, as we know it in programmatic advertising terms, will be a thing of the past,"

3. The duopoly is growing, adtech squeezed

Facebook's and Google's share of digital advertising dollars continues to grow.

The duopoly's combined share in ad revenues for 2019 is forecasted to reach $176.4 billion, or a 22% increase from last year. Facebook's and Google's combined share of online ad market will jump from 56% in 2018 to 61% in 2019.

According to Cavai CEO Steffen Svartberg:

"This is causing the rest of the advertising industry to be squeezed for money and talent, particularly the ad tech companies, which match advertisers with online audiences but don't have access to the vast data pools accumulated by the duopoly."

4. Brand safety concerns back on the agenda

The difficulties associated with brand safety and controling ad placements was also the theme of several panels at the event.

Mattias Spetz of Channel Factory said that:

"This year more than any other year at DMEXCO, brands are talking about brand suitability and about the sensitivities to politically or culturally hot issues in their regions. In the current geopolitical climate, political, racist and sexist content were particularly sensitive; raising an interesting position on brand suitability and buying truisms."

Grant Munro of Shutterstock built on these concerns, saying that:

"Marketers have to be sensitive of the markets and cultures they’re operating in and reflect this thought process in marketing materials, whilst maintaining true and consistent to the brand."

5. Less people in attendance

But despite having over 40,000 people in attendance gathered all in one place from the small German city of Cologne, the event felt smaller than previous years.

As reported by Digiday:

"There wasn’t as much free swag foisted on attendees as they bounded between stands. Nor were the booth parties that tend to conclude the opening day as extravagant as they have been. In fact, two well-known ad tech vendors did a joint party instead of investing in the costly sum of putting on their individual events."

According to Damon Reeve, CEO of the Ozone Project:

"DMEXCO 2019 was a lot smaller than in previous years. Where it had previously felt like the conference was growing, this year almost all of ad-tech could fit into hall six with plenty of space to move around."

Whether this is a signal of something larger happening in the industry overall is unclear. But the heightened awareness among internet users about privacy, and the willingness of the major internet giants to back privacy means that advertising online may be at a crossroads.

As Ben Walmsley of Publishing, News UK said:

"You get the sense we're at a fork in the road. We need to rethink our business quickly, to devise a user-first and privacy-first world that supports a free information economy, or face a very uncertain future."

In case you didn't get a chance to attend, you can watch all the panels, debates and workshops on DMEXCO's YouTube channel here.

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