The five things I learnt from DMEXCO and Programmatic I/O: A CEO’s Reflection on This Year’s Events

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Anders Lithner

DMEXCO and Programmatic I/O have always been known as hotbeds of innovation, the breeding grounds for industry trends - but this year's events were unlike any other. Amidst the uncertainty and shifting landscapes of marketing and advertising, it was evident that, from events that are usually assured and conclusive, the industry we live in today is standing at a crossroads. Given that so many aspects of these experiences were so different from other years, I wanted to share the key learnings that I took away from DMEXCO and Programmatic I/O 2023. 

Embracing the Uncertainty:

In previous years, the industry has gathered at these events in anticipation of the next big trend; the game-changing innovation that will shape the future of our industry. But this year, it's different, in that it seems no one has the definitive answer. Instead of confidently proclaiming "AI is the future" or "transparency is the key," we found ourselves collectively asking, "what's happening?" And you know what? I think that's a good thing. 

Traditional methods that used to thrive in this industry are no longer hitting like they once did. The diminishing of the cookie of course means you can’t track people in the way we used to. The content creation landscape has evolved, with AI-generated content coming up fast, and traditional TV viewership has never been lower. Finding advertising opportunities in CTV is also a challenge, given the limited inventory - especially when popular platforms like Netflix maintain a tiered approach to advertising.

All these changes have made the marketing landscape a lot more challenging but, from what I’ve seen at the events this year, they are also forcing people to think outside the box a little more. 

One worthwhile result of this uncertainty is to remind us that our industry is always evolving. The absence of easy answers is an indication that we're on the brink of something new and exciting. We're facing uncharted territory, and that presents a chance to think differently and collaborate in fresh ways. 

The majority of the industry is grappling with changes and uncertainties, and although that can be daunting, I felt that at both DMEXCO and Programmatic I/O, people were forced to connect and engage with those they might not have otherwise, opening doors to new partnerships and opportunities. 

The Tech Takeover: 

It was impossible to ignore the palpable presence of tech companies this year, marking a significant shift in both event’s landscapes. What were once forums with significant attendance from publishers, have been subjected to a tech company takeover.  

This shift isn't particularly surprising anymore - it's simply become the norm. In the past, when publishers and tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon had substantial presence, there was a sense that they had answers to pressing questions about how to advertise. However, this year, it's apparent that no one has all the answers, which in a way was refreshing, and felt more genuine. You could say it felt that everyone was on a level playing field - or at least, more so than usual.

The Year of Collaboration: 

One of the standout themes at DMEXCO and Programmatic I/O 2023 was the spirit of collaboration and mutual support that ran through the event. Platform integrations seemed to emerge as the golden opportunity of both conferences, and they appeared to represent a win-win scenario for all those in attendance - the enthusiasm for these collaborations was clear.

What particularly caught my attention was the proactive approach of independent ad tech companies in seeking connections with each other. Rather than regarding one another as competitors, they understood the potential for synergy in cooperation. Unlike past events where the question "how can I help you?" often felt superficial, this year, people genuinely meant it. 

Measurement Matters:

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, my discussions at DMEXCO and Programmatic I/O this year illuminated some familiar yet transformative themes. One prominent question that stood out to me was: how can we effectively advertise in a world in which traditional methods no longer seem to do the trick? The answers are difficult, and that's precisely what makes our current situation intriguing.

In our discussions around new, emerging channels, it became very clear that measurement matters now more than ever. We can't simply stick to old methods anymore. Brands and agencies are struggling to figure out better ways to plan their advertising campaigns and measure their success, not just in one or two channels, but right across the media spectrum. These are complex questions, and nothing I saw at DMEXCO or Programmatic I/O challenged my conviction that brand lift represents a critical tool to help brands and publishers navigate this evolving digital marketing landscape.

A Continued Valuable Experience for Our Industry

Despite what the industry may have been expecting, both DMEXCO and Programmatic I/O 2023 in my view reaffirmed both events’ lasting significance. I believe they both shed light on ongoing transformations and convulsions in the advertising and marketing space: instead of making bold predictions, we embraced uncertainty as an opportunity for innovation.

However, at their core, both the events were primarily about demonstrating our industry’s mutual support systems. Whether through the sharing of knowledge or the establishment of new partnerships and collaborations, it was refreshing to see. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting both DMEXCO and Programmatic I/O 2024, and I think the wider industry will be too.