After a two-year hiatus, DMEXCO returned to Cologne this year and the comeback was a success. While exhibitors were smaller in number, the conference felt more contained than previous years, as there was a real sense of focus among the attendees, with an eagerness to get business done.

Inevitably, data privacy and responsible advertising were high on the agenda, as was the current financial crisis and the pressure it’s placing on performance. Despite the challenges the industry is facing, participants came away feeling optimistic about opportunities for innovation and collaboration.

Here are some key takeaways from a few of the industry’s key players that attended.

Responsible targeting and economic uncertainty

Despite Google’s recent postponement of third-party cookie deprecation, it was hard to avoid discussing the need of finding privacy-compliant alternatives. The emphasis on how these solutions can allow for performance was particularly amplified in the context of the current economic downturn, as Julien Gardès Managing Director, Supply, EMEA & APAC chez TripleLift explains:

“With the current economic situation, it’s no wonder that this year’s DMEXCO had a more serious tone – without the craziness of robots and drones from previous years. But less was definitely more on this occasion, as it fostered a strong ‘closing business’ approach, and a more global spread of attendees. And there was still room for insightful discussion on how publishers could maximize their inventory, with marketing budgets under closer scrutiny, and as third-party data depreciates.

“The need to focus on first-party data solutions was clear – as was the fact that publishers should already be preparing for the switch from third-party cookies, despite Google’s latest delay. Publishers need to continue collaborating with advertisers and tech partners in order to find solutions that are truly scalable.”

First-party data featured in many DMEXCO discussions as a viable addressability solution and sell-side conversations mentioned the monetization benefits for publishers – a key consideration as inflation bites. Sergii Denysenko, CEO of MGID, also highlights that delivering quality content to users should be an additional focus of responsible segmentation, as mentioned at the event:

“Publishers discussed the delicate balance of offering advertisers targeted inventory while also respecting user privacy. The need to uphold a value exchange whereby consumers receive relevant advertising in return for premium content was also key.

“Seller-defined audiences (SDAs) were touted as a viable solution to these challenges. Based on first-party data, SDAs enable the creation of audience cohorts according to standardized taxonomy IDs, allowing publishers to offer advertisers data-backed placements for improved targeting.”

Morika Georgieva, Customer Success Manager for EMEA at Permutive continues, “Increasingly, consumers are opting out of advertising, whether it’s through cookie-blocked environments, Apple’s ATT or Chrome’s “reject all” cookies button in Europe. In order to succeed, the ad tech industry must work together to reflect consumer sentiment and empower advertisers and publishers to prioritize privacy while also ensuring that they make money and grow as part of this advertising ecosystem.”

Although the industry is undeniably facing complex challenges, Marc Irwin, Northern Europe Sales Director, Digital Envoy points out that both the buy and sell sides have many solutions at their disposal:

“We all know that cookies are not a viable, future-proof solution for brands to understand their audiences. Many are turning to contextual as it guarantees the user is already interested and engaged in the topic, and this was a big talking point this year. This, coupled with an uncertain economic climate, has led companies to demand more from their ad partners, and the focus is now on quality. This makes the IP address data space very compelling: anonymized IP intelligence can deliver geolocation and connection data without infringing on privacy laws.”

Nora Schwab, Director, Publisher Development UK, LiveRamp adds, “Deep customer relationships are crucial in this privacy-first future, making first-party, addressable solutions which can enable these trust-based relationships paramount for publishers looking to thrive without third-party identifiers.”

Challenges breed innovation and collaboration

There was much talk about how new innovations arise from adapting to these challenges. For Andy Ashley, Global Marketing Director, SmartFrame, the marketers that explore and harness new tech solutions will reap the biggest rewards:

“The current landscape is a very dynamic one: with so many shifts relating to cookies, privacy, inflation, and sustainability, leaders are facing a multitude of challenges to address all at once. However, with this change comes an opportunity for exploration in which we can improve the structures within the industry that do not serve everyone. Image streaming is part of this innovation, serving publishers, advertisers, and content creators alike. By enhancing both the quality of images as well as their protection, image streaming boosts contextual precision while at the same time guaranteeing brand safety, and has the potential to build a much fairer and more transparent media ecosystem going forward.”

This sentiment is echoed by Michal Marcinik, Co-Founder and CEO, AdTonos, who champions digital audio’s reach potential:

“DMEXCO was a great success, and we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to make new connections and share knowledge and ideas. While digital audio did not feature that heavily in the program, it was clear that as the fastest growing ad spend channel around, it was the talk of the town. Conversations revolved around future-proofing solutions, as well as the development of Web3 and IoT, both spaces where digital audio fits well. Not only has audio seen an incredible period of growth in recent years, but smart speaker use is on the rise which proves that audio has far from finished evolving. As products and services become increasingly integrated and hands-free, audio will become more and more indispensable – it’s an exciting time to be in the ad tech space!”

Meanwhile, other conversations stressed the importance of analytical evolution to future-proof audience strategies. Romain Job, Chief Strategy Officer, Equativ, emphasizes the need for industry players to take control of their measurement capabilities to boost returns and survive unforeseen difficulties:

“The industry feels like it’s on the cusp of major change, driven by players determined to map out their own destiny and move beyond market norms – potentially to a point where we might see wider publishers rise up and win more ground as the duopoly loses its grip.

“Following recent growth in interest around granular analytics and revenue optimization, many conversations this year centred on refining technical basics, such as building better infrastructure for efficient and privacy-safe advertising operations. Keen to improve their capabilities and competitive position, publishers are clearly looking to develop smarter setups that harness streamlined ad serving, carefully curated marketplaces, and direct programmatic dealings to maximize the value they gain from ads.”

The bottom line of these discussions was that the industry will need to work more closely together to continue to maximize the benefits of new innovations. As Nicolas Mignot, VP, Publisher Sales & Strategy International at FreeWheel states, greater collaboration with ad tech partners is essential for sell-side success:

“Publishers have highly specific needs depending on the nature of their video offerings and collaboration between ad tech providers is essential for meeting these requirements. Conversations at DMEXCO focused on how publishers need the ability to easily package and sell inventory and audiences, and how ad tech partners can create stronger connections between sellers and buyers by unifying demand sources. This consolidation of demand will streamline programmatic trading for publishers, helping them to maximize revenue while still being selective about which buyers purchase their inventory.

“Focusing on delivering scaled demand so publishers can both maintain this level of control and increase yield will feed into production budgets for more quality content, creating more opportunities for buyers. It’s a virtuous circle, but it will rely on interoperability.”

It’s clear that industry players still have some experimentation to do to ready themselves for the cookie’s inevitable demise, but the sentiment was generally optimistic at this year’s DMEXCO. Publishers have many tech solutions at their disposal to optimize their audience strategies, and greater collaboration within the industry will enhance their benefits. Most importantly, working together will ensure the industry’s robustness in the face of ongoing challenges.

(As published on WNIP)