Key Insights from Cologne: A dmexco 2017 Review

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Every September, digital marketing’s brightest minds and boldest voices gather in Cologne, Germany for two days to discuss what’s new in digital. This year’s event boasted more than 50,000 visitors from dozens of countries. Dmexco caters to a more technology-oriented audience than other industry conferences such as Cannes Lions, so the conversation around the event took themes we’ve seen this summer and focused on transformational technology.

Blockchain and artificial intelligence were the big buzzwords on everyone’s lips, as the ad tech space looks ahead to determine how the technologies might disrupt the space, enabling entirely new branches of the industry to flourish. Further complicating visions of the future, everyone continued to prepare for how governments are going to approach regulation of data. Since today’s biggest advertising companies are servicing multiple regions, they will need to keep tabs on the development on many fronts. What are the implications of General Data Protection Regulation, for example, and how will it be enforced?

A broad theme that permeated many discussions was collaboration. It’s a simple idea that is anything but simple in execution and necessary for all marketing companies as they continue to embrace complex technologies. Integration must take place both within companies across departments, as well as externally across organizations, where multiple agencies, technology providers, and consultants work together to deliver a customer experience for an end client.

Naturally, this shift in thinking is going to drastically change how C-suite executives will need to lead. It used to be that a CTO might build a tech-oriented platform, a CDO would deploy it, and a CMO would tell the world about it. The clear breakdown of C-suite responsibilities is going to continue to blur over time, and we might see more companies embrace a convergent, growth-oriented role for the CMO, instrumental across all pieces of the go-to-market strategy.

This collaboration principle also applies externally. Siloes must be knocked down between different players in the industry—ad agencies, digital shops, creative agencies, PR firms, media buyers, and the rest. Teams from these organizations need to learn to work together toward an omnichannel approach, not just to pull off expansive traditional campaigns but to execute groundbreaking new customer experiences.

In decades past, “digital” was perceived by large agencies as an element of any good campaign, alongside traditional elements like print or outdoor display. The smartest agencies took a “digital first” approach, prioritizing digital above other channels and embracing new ad tech as it came along. Now, that “digital first” strategy needs an update into a “digital everything” strategy, in which everything flows from digital in conversation across channels. This strategy doesn’t think in terms of campaigns, but rather in long-term customer experience across many touch points. Such touchpoints will involve tech like AI and machine learning, blockchain, virtual/augmented reality – and more – creating an ongoing digital presence that must be continually reevaluated and adjusted. Campaigns with definitive start and endpoint are officially dead. Experiences are the brand.

Facing a disrupted future with emerging technologies and regulations, shifting responsibilities and escalating expectations, conversation internally and externally must open up to allow for shared information, consistent experiences and the flexibility to allow for the tremendous potential for technology to shape the way brands exist in the world.

Leader, Digital Marketing Services, IBM iX || Editor-in-Chief, thinkLeaders

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