A barometer for current digital challenges and innovations, it’s no surprise DMEXCO was awash with talk of data privacy this year. Right from the conference’s opening presentation — hosted by the IAB’s non-profit branch DigiTrust — focus centred on how both publishers and advertisers can keep online revenues flowing, as regulation and anti-tracking tools diminish the power of the cookie. But data security was far from the only topic sweeping the ever-frenetic hallways. Buzz also swirled around the emerging opportunities fast-expanding digital media horizons and monetisation avenues — with supply-side players especially enthused about connected TV, alongside virtual and augmented reality.

To discover where the industry needle is right now, and what’s next, WNIP checked in with several leading players as events in Cologne came to a close:

Andrew Morsy, Managing Director, International, Peer39

“If there was any doubt regarding the current status of the ubiquitous cookie in the ad tech world, this year’s DMEXCO provided clarity; the industry is pivoting hard away from its default targeting and tracking tool. With the biggest web browsers making meaningful changes to increase the blocking of third-party cookies, the consensus at the event was that the future lies in alternative solutions. There was a resurgence of solutions such as privacy compliant and cookie-free contextual targeting, rather than audience-based messaging to deliver effective ads to consumers.

“Another hot discussion topic was how certain brands are moving apace their media execution in-house rather than outsourcing, primarily because of a desire to control costs centrally, and remove questions over trust and transparency. Ad tech providers and agencies are collaborating together to strengthen current relationships, be part of in-housing strategies and secure long-lasting future partnerships with advertisers.”

Jeff Meglio, VP Agency Partnerships, Sovrn

“As the ad tech world steers away from third-party cookies, many of the discussions that took place at this year’s DMEXCO were facilitated by companies seeking alternative ways to target consumers. Mentions of digital privacy regulations added further pressure to the conversation, as the emergence of data laws – spearheaded by the GDPR – continue to limit companies’ abilities to effectively target and measure ads.

“However, it would be wrong to assume the dialogue at DMEXCO was completely tainted with pessimism. Many in the industry – including Sovrn – believe the reduced dependency on cookies can only be a good thing for the industry, encouraging intelligent advertisers to evolve and transact in newer, more transparent ways. Lasting success for the programmatic ecosystem depends on adtech adjusting data sources and targeting methods, and DMEXCO proved there are still companies willing to adapt to ensure a more trusted and engaging era.”

Francesco Marini, Senior Account Manager, MainAd

“A key topic at this year’s DMEXCO was the importance of in-app and mobile advertising. Speaking at the event, Ryan Leslie, the music producer and entrepreneur who founded SuperPhone, revealed that 98% of all text messages are read within three minutes. This illustrates how consumers are constantly connected to their phones, and exhibits the massive potential for brands and advertisers looking to reach audiences through mobile devices.

“In-app advertising is one way brands can build relationships with their customers, with mobile users spending 1,350 billion hours in apps each year globally. Brands and advertisers should be adopting highly relevant, data-led methods to reach customers on mobile – powered by machine learning to engage and convert active users.

“Key features of in-app marketing currently include loyalty schemes, push notifications and geo-targeting to fully resonate with individual mobile users, while they are on-the-go. Brands are also experimenting with immersive technology, as illustrated by ASOS introducing virtual catwalks to elevate the in-app experience even further.”

Fran Cowan, Vice President of Marketing, International Advertising Association, UK Chapter

“DMEXCO 2019 has been underpinned by discussions around trust. And rightly so. It’s one of the biggest challenges for today’s marketers and advertisers. Consumers are savvier – and more skeptical – than ever before, faced with waves of personalised ads, some of which cross the line between helpful and hinderance.

“In her keynote, Salesforce CMO, Stephanie Buscemi quoted their recent Consumer Trust study: 54% of consumers believe companies don’t operate with their customers’ best interests in mind. That’s a marketer’s worst nightmare. And part of our role at the IAA UK is to ensure standards across the industry are conducive to gaining and retaining consumer trust, to champion authenticity and transparency, and help brands foster deep relationships with customers that go beyond sales. After all, when consumers trust what companies are telling them or showing them, and the content they’re served is relevant and appropriate, their engagement is high and brands will reap the rewards.”

Andrew Buckman, COO at Sublime

“The theme of this year’s DMEXCO, ‘trust in you’, has never been more relevant. Consumer privacy and transparency are key pillars in the industry, particularly as regulations have become stricter. Yet this year’s event revealed divided opinions towards cookie consent – with many experts arguing it lays the foundation for personalised advertising, while others claiming the ‘death of the cookie’ will soon be upon us.

“Ultimately, marketers need to look at new ways to activate audiences across numerous sites and multiple screens. It may seem all doom and gloom at a time of the ‘cookie-pocalypse’, but instead, it should be seen as an opportunity to radically reconsider how we engage with consumers.

“As well as discussions around high-impact ad formats, marketers also reverted conversations back to ‘traditional’ forms of advertising, such as storytelling, examining how different formats can work together to create meaningful ads. The industry is fast-paced and brands are always looking for new ways to reach consumers. It will be interesting to see at next year’s event how advertisers and brands have tackled this issue of finding new ways to reach consumers.”

Ben Barokas CEO and co-founder at publisher platform Sourcepoint

“Privacy issues have dominated conversations of late, labelled as one of the greatest threats to publishers. But at this year’s DMEXCO event, there was a definite positivity in the air. At last, the industry has a solution to concerns surrounding the use of third-party cookies – Authenticated Consent. The new wave of identity-based consent brings with it transparency, trust, and improved user experience, as well as the confidence of regulatory compliance for all parties in the chain. And with consumers fully in control, the relationship can develop over time, increasing engagement and paving the way for premium content of the highest relevance.”

Bill Swanson, VP EMEA, Telaria

“After DMEXCO this year there can be no doubt that the shift towards Connected TV (CTV) and over-the-top (OTT) devices is global, and growing. Conversations were focussed on the potential and how to harness this; it’s clear that those primed to benefit the most from that growth – and help the industry evolve in a positive way – are the organisations already with video first experience and global reach.”

Victoria Usher, Founder & CEO, GingerMay

“I caught up with a wide variety of clients at DMEXCO, who discussed trends that span the entire ecosystem. One point that united many conversations is the potential death knell of the cookie, how this will affect the marketing and advertising landscapes, and possible outcomes and solutions. It will be interesting to see how the industry has progressed when we return next year and what a post-cookie world will look like for marketers.”

Nickolas Rekeda, CMO at MGID

“The issue of monetisation was a hot topic at DMEXCO this year, including discussions around alternative strategies and the recent problem with Firefox for publishers – likely to cause damage to publishers if not acted upon.

“The problems caused by this update will no doubt fall to the publisher because it is their job to take care of the opt-in and opt-out process. Moving forward, some publishers will need to update their opt-in policies, which is already being done in India.

“The creation of a platform for publishers to control their monetisation opportunities was also a key point at the event, something we believe will also help provide transparency to publishers. It is important publishers monetise through high quality, relevant content to reduce the risk of intrusive ads being targeted at consumers and create a positive relationship with everyone involved.”

Eldad Maniv, President and COO, Taboola

“AI has dominated the conversation at DMEXCO for a number of years. As the technology and compute power are evolving, it is clear that AI is not yet another buzzword — it is nothing short of a revolution, and marketers need to be ready for it. Algorithms will do a better job than humans in many areas, including media buying, campaign optimisation, and even basic creative. Those who will not adapt, could find themselves irrelevant, just like carriage drivers when the railway was invented.”

“Personalisation has been touted as one of the biggest promises of the digital world, yet only a select few tech companies, such as Netflix and Amazon, have been able to truly master it. Personalisation is not when you use my name in the ‘Subject’ field of an email, or when you slap a custom banner on your homepage. It’s when you start to communicate messages tailored to my needs and state of mind across all media, online and offline, at all times — this is the holy grail of marketing in the age of AI, and it’s not very far.”

Chris Hogg, EMEA Managing Director, Lotame

The recent cookie changes were a major conversation point at DMEXCO. Everyone from brands to vendors and publishers need to adapt accordingly. But the question is how? At its core, this is a connectivity issue. Third-party cookies play a critical role in the onboarding of offline data into web environments and are also the best connectors to sync such data with activation platforms, like DSPs, ad servers or even attribution tools. Historically, third-party cookies have been the ID plumbing of choice for connecting and activating first-party data. Without robust ID connectivity via third-party cookies, marketers and their technology and media partners have to rely on a hodgepodge of different ID types and inefficient connection techniques. That’s a problem. This could lean to an environment where the only places marketers will be able to use their first-party data is in the large walled gardens. That will only reinforce their market power over everyone else, threatening the independent Internet.