Advertisers head to Dmexco to sharpen their ad tech acumen

The Dmexco conference in Cologne, Germany, has become a giant trade show — and increasingly a priority on advertisers’ calendars as they grapple with ad tech.

The conference, where beer and Bratwurst will be on offer in the sprawling Koelnmesse exhibition hall Sept. 12-13, is also a place where advertisers can learn how their ads are bought online, if they’re prepared to sit through countless pitches.

“It’s just one thing after another in ad tech for advertisers right now and as a marketer you start to think it might better to control that stack yourself,” said Belinda Smith, global media director at Electronic Arts at ExchangeWire’s ATS London event Sept. 10. “That view can lead people to think they need to build the technology themselves, which can potentially lead to bad decisions.”

Advertisers will be looking for answers about everything from what questions to ask in an RFP for a data management platform to whether they really need to be pulling all the levers on every single impression they buy and weighing the difficulties of bringing ad tech in-house, said the five advertising executives interviewed for this article. That said, some preparation is in order.

“Some marketers will go to Dmexco and come back more confused than they were when they left,” said Brian Fitzpatrick, gm of the demand business at ad tech provider IPONWEB. “That’s the nature of a conference that’s as into the weeds as Dmexco is. Marketers need to go into meetings with vendors with a clear question for why they’re there.”

If advertisers were drawn to last year’s event by the rewards of running their own ad tech stack, this year’s attendees are focused on understanding the realities of it.

“Advertisers don’t need to build technology to control how their money is spent; they just need to buy the right ones and own the head contract for it that they then license out the use of to their trading partners,” said Nick Manning, svp at consulting business MediaLink. “Advertisers are traveling to Dmexco to understand how to do all that with the right partners because they realize that they, rather than third parties, need to make those decisions now.”

Key to those decisions will be how much control over data advertisers get from vendors. A year ago, advertisers debated how the coming General Data Protection Regulation would let them use consumer data. Now that the law has taken effect, advertisers are focusing on what’s possible with the data they already own, triggering renewed interest in data management platforms at Dmexco. Manning said big advertisers are attending the event to find out how they trim the fat from their own vendor lists to rely only on high-quality data sellers.

Ad network Tappx expects fraud to be repeatedly raised by advertisers in its meetings at the event. Advertisers have not fully “opened the tap” into mobile due to ad fraud, said the ad tech firm’s senior sales consultant, Laith Al-Janabi. Companies that differentiate themselves from the rest in tackling fraud at Dmexco will reap the benefits, said Al-Janabi.

Beyond ad tech, advertisers are also attending Dmexco to survey the wider online advertising landscape, which includes Amazon’s growing ad business and emerging technology, such as dynamic creative, blockchain and the internet of things.

“My special focus at Dmexco will be on messenger marketing and the different aspects of voice commerce as one of the future topics, said Bernhard Schmidt, global head of online comms and content at jeweler Thomas Sabo, who is looking for businesses that can help him use user-generated content in online marketing.

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