What I Learned about the State of the Digital Industry from dmexco

Last week, I wrote about why Goodway Group attends the Digital Marketing Exposition & Conference (dmexco). This week, I want to share a few observations from the 2016 event. Idea Concept with Gears The growth paradox at dmexco. There were 50,000+ attendees this year—the most since the conference started. As this was my third year attending, I can share that while the addition of a fourth hall definitely reduced congestion, I didn’t feel  those additional attendees represented “new blood” in the programmatic and ad tech industry. The cost of a booth is a sunk cost, and it could be that many U.S. companies don’t feel the benefit justifies the expense. There weren’t new ad or marketing technology companies there creating a buzz. It seemed that companies came there to entertain their UK and European clients. Caveat: This observation is for U.S.-based companies only. “I pity the fool,” Mr. T’s famous catchphrase, comes to mind when I think about data companies setting up shop or competing in Europe. The United States is at an advantage for building a business around aggregating and selling behavioral or geotargeting data because we have a fairly uniform ability to collect signals (cookies, device IDs, or IP addresses) to use for targeting consumers. Imagine how difficult it would be if each state had their own online privacy policy around data collection, targeting, and identity usage. That’s the reality of Europe. Each country has its own guidelines, and some, such as France, are way more restrictive than others. This presents the obvious challenges in identification accuracy and scale for companies looking to expand their market to Europe. There’s an arms race occurring between vendors offering header tag implementation for publishers, and some leaders are emerging. I feel fortunate Goodway Group recognized this movement as early as we did. We’ve been monitoring adoption for over a year now. While header bidding gained popularity with publishers quicker than we anticipated, we’ve been proactively educating our operational and sales teams on the adjustment to the auction process, pricing dynamics, and alternative ways to access quality inventory. For a long time, the concept of “remnant inventory” was synonymously used for inventory available programmatically or via real-time bidding (RTB). That time is in the rearview mirror. Programmatic is now more closely associated with automated work flow and data strategy activation. This speaks to the maturation of our industry and the advancements that have occurred in processing power, system architecture, and CRM audience segmentation. The level of sophistication in conversations we’re having with partners and vendors has increased year over year. The feedback we get in these conversations reinforces our convictions around our bidding strategy and inventory procurement. We know we are addressing the changing market dynamics in a sensible way. Likewise, all the conversations at dmexco had a unique undercurrent. Think about the decisions happening at “bid” time: audience identification and valuation, fraud detection, pricing dynamics, and other factors all happening in thousandths of a second. This is the new reality for the buy side. I left dmexco feeling very confident the strategy we’ve been formulating is sound and puts us in the best position to find our clients’ audiences.