In the course of a whirlwind couple of days last week, I hung out with ad tech guys, tracking and attribution players, gaming companies, and big app publishers.
Here's what I learned.
On September 13th and 14h, a 40,000 strong crowd of digital marketers descended on Köln. Digiday called Dmexco "the digital advertising industry’s favorite trade show". The event has become unmissable in recent years, and not just for German companies (this year, in fact, visitors came from more than 100 countries).
Dmexco is part of a wider trend: Germany is no longer the sleeping giant of mobile, as a Forbes article recently highlighted.
We've written about the growing sophistication of the German app ecosystem and how we want to evolve alongside it before. Dmexco 2017 was another reminder of how rapidly things are changing.
Here are the most interesting takeaways from Dmexco broken down by the people who cared about them most.
Ad tech companies want better ROI
It seems like every ad tech company out there wants to be a segmentation tool.
This is a smart play. With some growing unease over digital advertising, ad tech companies need to do a better job showing ROI to their customers. Leveraging segments is one way to do that.
Not everybody had a particularly sophisticated view of what that really meant, but it's clear that the next wave of innovation will focus on understanding and discovering audiences at deeper levels than ever before.
A great example of the focus on audiences is Oath, Verizon’s umbrella brand encompassing Yahoo, AOL, Tumblr and many others. Their CMO, Tim Mahlman, recently declared the age of URL based buying dead:
“It’s about finding the audience, executing against it with as much detail in the data as possible, across whatever sites they’re going to”, Mahlman told IDG Communications.
The result? Both AOL and Yahoo have rolled out audience building tools in the last six months.
Big app publishers are focusing on ads
Several big-name apps had booths at Dmexco 2017. Companies like Spotify, Shazam, and Bonial/Kauf.da had all spent serious amounts of time and money on building a presence at the conference.
Is this a sign that companies like these are not getting enough from networks, and that it makes financial sense to go where the big spenders are and make direct deals for their ad space?
I’d love to know more about the economics of this, and how much ROI they’re getting on their spend (or whether it’s not considered on a performance basis and is written off as brand-building).
From the outside, it seems like serious commitment in terms of time, money and energy. Presumably, by cutting out the middlemen, the returns on ad spend within platforms increases despite those extra costs.
Tracking and attribution players are acting on fraud
This one isn't new to Dmexco, but it remains one of the hot button issues for the industry.
Tracking and attribution companies like Kochava, Appsflyer and Adjust are worried about it because their clients are worried about it.
The clients are worried about it because even the biggest players in the industry can't seem to get a handle on it (see: Facebook claiming to reach more 18-24 year olds in the UK than actually exist).
Earlier this year, Kochava extended their Fraud Console to ad networks, which allows real time detection of fraud. Both Appsflyer and Adjust launched major initiative against fraud this week.
The industry is moving and moving fast.
One of the common phrases being thrown around Dmexco was “blockchain ad stack”. There are yet to be any concrete announcements on how blockchain will be used to tidy up fraud, but Venture Beat recently wrote that the application of blockchain technology to digital advertising and marketing ‘could truly revolutionize how we do business’.
One to keep tabs on.
Non-gaming apps are still missing out on data
Despite the headlines going to Tinder and Netflix, top grossing charts are absolutely dominated by freemium games. That isn't by chance. Big mobile game publishers are amongst our most sophisticated clients when it comes to understanding their data and how to act on it.
By contrast, many non-gaming apps still struggle to get visibility into where exactly their budgets are going and which channels are delivering return on investment.
This is all about understanding what data to keep an eye on and how to properly track it. We talk to people all the time about how to use market data to plan spending strategies and - for all the steps taken by the mobile ecosystem - this is still a fruitful conversation for most developers.
Between now and Dmexco 2018, I expect the first two points to become increasingly important. Big publishers want a bigger slice of the pie and think they can cut out the middlemen to get it. Ad tech companies will need to leverage audience segmentation to hold their own.
Ad fraud won’t disappear in the next year, but I guess it won’t be such a hot topic. Everybody will be working on it and, as a result, some of the heat will come out of the debate.
And for all those apps who don’t have a solid grip on their data - what are you waiting for? Get on the phone with us and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know.
Otherwise, see you next year!