DMEXCO 2018: The Key Themes

By Uwe Scheid and Nea Sabeva, Mindshare Germany

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The European adtech industry descended on Cologne, Germany this week for the tenth annual DMEXCO (Digital Marketing Exposition and Conference). It has become one of the leading digital marketing events in Europe. Below are the key themes from 2018.

Details and Implications:

Responsibility & Trust:

The motto this year was ‘Take C.A.R.E.’ standing for Curiosity, Action, Responsibility and Experience. The aim was to arouse curiosity, raise awareness for change and appeal for industry responsibility given the current consumer uncertainty. Many speakers touched on the topic of responsibility throughout DMEXCO, starting with the opening keynote of Deutsche Telekom CEO, Tim Höttges, who demanded that companies take more social responsibility. He said that digitalisation drives the people before itself, adding: “many are overwhelmed by the situation.”

Many speakers from across the industry (clients, publishers, agencies) touched on the topic of trust and how that trust can be brought back into the digital advertising business. Everyone agreed it had to be a combined effort of all parties involved.

Artificial Intelligence:

Still a hot topic this year, both on the conference stages as well as on many exhibition stands. But DMEXCO did not deliver new and innovative perspectives and mainly showed use cases already known, e.g. more elaborated targeting, image recognition etc. A recent study by IAB Germany showed that 78% of companies say that AI is important but only about 52% think that they will be able to exploit the full potential of the technology.


A similar picture can be seen with blockchain – a technology that certainly has the potential to be used in a lot of areas of the digital ecosystem. Speakers repeated the same promises that blockchain solves transparency issues, eliminates fraud and addresses the flaws in OpenRTB but there was little to no examples of how blockchain solves real business issues today which are relevant for the digital advertising industry. The blockchain revolution is still coming but there is a way to go yet.

Other topics discussed at DMEXCO were Voice Search and Augmented Reality, seen by some attendants as the next big thing but currently still a niche segment of digital marketing.


DMEXCO is still a key event of the digital advertising industry, but it has to be seen whether the new strategic direction will be successful. Many argue it is not a truly international event but instead a German conference with a sprinkle of international on top. If the technical detail and implications of adtech, data, AI and blockchain is your thing, then it is likely a more interesting visit than the other global events in the marketing calendar – CES, SXSW, Mobile World Congress and Cannes – but it remains to be seen how well DMEXCO can compete with these events as it battles for share of mind and time in CMO diaries.

Further Reading:

DMEXCO | ExchangeWire | AdAge | Digiday