Dmexco is shrinking, becoming less international and is evolving into a vendor showcase.
Multiple industry vets told AdExchanger that the sprawling event, considered a must-attend conference along with CES and the Cannes Lions, felt like “sellers talking to sellers.”
Many also noted a lack of agency presence.
“There seems to be less in the way of buyers and less in the way of marketers and agencies,” MediaLink founder Michael Kassan told AdExchanger. “That presents an interesting challenge for the sellers.” (Ascential, which owns the Cannes Lions, also owns MediaLink.)
Dmexco’s own press release confirms the decline in attendance. Last year’s release boasts “1,100 exhibitors, more than 570 top international speakers and 40,700 visitors.” This year’s release notes "40,000 visitors, 1,000+ exhibitors, and 550 speakers.”
“It’s a little lighter than I would have expected,” Kassan said. “I think the conference circuit in general is softer. There’s marginal pressure on advertising holding companies, there’s more general pressure on publishers, there are a lot of smaller companies who are trying to find and fight for that 10% that doesn’t go to Google, Facebook and Amazon.”
Some executives felt an increased emphasis on the German market, which could lead to American companies spending less money on booths in the future.
“Dmexco 2018 had a new look and a new website, seemingly designed to be impossible to understand and navigate,” said Ben Walmsley, digital commercial director at News UK. “In contrast, the ad tech industry seems to have realized that it must head in the opposite direction.”
This marks the first year without Dmexco’s founders, Christian Muche and Frank Schneider, helming the event. In November 2017, the conference’s main organizer, Koelnmesse, fired the two, citing contractual violations. Muche and Schneider sued their former client for damages and won but did not attend this year’s Dmexco.
Despite a rocky year of preparation, many felt the conference was a valuable experience. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and GDPR dominated most panels and informal conversation.
Dmexco’s organizers will have decide whether they want to hone in on the conference’s German legacy or expand.