Europe’s premier digital marketing conference and trade fair, DMEXCO, took place in Cologne on September 13 and 14. It’s a microcosm of the digital transformation—the digital economy’s entire value chain squeezed into one space for all to see. The mind boggles at the sheer volume of information presented in DMEXCO’s many workshops, discussions, and lectures. Some 1,100 exhibitors from 39 countries certainly had a lot to share. And a parade of influential speakers such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Philipp Welte, a member of Hubert Burda Media’s management board, had a lot to say in the venue’s jam-packed auditoriums.
Despite the carping from vocal critics in the run-up to the event, some 40,700 visitors made their way to Cologne on the banks of the Rhine River. The turnout underscores DMEXCO’s international acclaim: More than 40% of visitors and 50% of exhibitors hailed from abroad in 2016. Granted, visitor numbers were down from 2016, but the fact that this year’s show was the first to charge admission may have had a little to do with that. On the upside, the consensus among the organizer’s crew and most exhibitors was that the paywall had the positive effect of attracting a more professional crowd.
The same mantra was to be heard echoing throughout the conference and trade fair: If they want more efficient business processes, marketers, sales reps, product developers, and customer service people have to start thinking beyond the boundaries of their silos. Technology is merely a means to support concepts and strategies that enable companies to gain a holistic understanding of the customer. Artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), and automation are the marketing megatrends these days. Much of it may still sound like science fiction, but some of it has already been put into practice in applications and solutions. This is why vjoon, represented by its partner Energy Net, was a first-time exhibitor this year. Energy Net set up shop in hall 7, alongside the likes of SAP, Intershop, and Arvato Bertelsmann.
The drive to optimize the workflows that create content is nothing new, of course. However, many marketing managers are only now beginning to realize the potential of automated processes and database-driven content creation. And that is the domain of systems like vjoon K4. If the reaction of visitors to the booth is anything to go by, they were deeply impressed with vjoon K4’s capacity to make working life so much easier for people who collaborate in and across teams to create and approve content for publication.
The ubiquitous long lines were also quite impressive. Lines may be inevitable wherever an event attracts crowds, but joining the epic queue in front of the Debate Hall was an option only for those with much time to spare and no commitments on the calendar. Food and beverages were pricey; the wait was long. And time definitely did not fly while waiting for one’s turn to answer nature’s call. Of course, nobody stood in line for wifi service—it was so rarely available that waiting would have been pointless.
That said, if what you do for a living has anything at all to do with marketing, DMEXCO has to be a can’t-miss event for you. It lives up to its billing as the “industry’s class reunion”. Yes, you will be confronted with the usual avalanche of buzz words, the occasional poseur-pundit, and hype so exaggerated that it borders on the hysterical. But the many fascinating lectures, discussions, and workshops are very cool, as is a lot of the tech-talk and innovation on display. And that more than makes up for all the hot air.
DMEXCO offers plenty of inspiration to take back to your workplace. And with a little critical distance, you will be able to distinguish the helpful from the hype and cherry-pick what works for you. Some critics griped that the fair neglected domestic topics. There may be some merit to that, but a major international conference simply can’t do without luminaries like Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey on its marquee.