Sustainability, cookies and recession: a time of challenge and change reflected at DMEXCO

There were noticeable differences at the two day expo conference this year. With some big names missing and less exhibitors, what were people really talking about?

DMEXCO's two day digital marketing expo conference was filled with many positive talks, providing solutions and hope, but the conversation on the exhibition floor seemed to be one of challenges ahead.

Sir Martin Sorrel took part in an uplifting fireside chat wearing sunglasses to shield himself from the bright future of digital emphasising that “data driven creativity will become the future”.

Of the oncoming economic downturn, he added: “Digital marketing drives sales and in recessionary times, marketing clients will become increasingly focused on ROI and performance.”

However, there was a noticeable difference this year in the number of attendees at DMEXCO. There were empty stands, wider paths between exhibitors and shorter queues for coffee.

Steven Filler, UK Country Manager at ShowHeroes Group explained this change: “The economy is obviously part of the reason for this, but there are longer term trends at play. The shift to virtual events and meetings, catalysed by the pandemic, is obviously one of those trends. But even more important is the increasing focus on sustainability. As an industry, we’re becoming more aware of our impact on the planet, the need for companies to take action and be more responsible. Sending the entire company every year to Cologne creates a vast carbon footprint and, with climate change such an important issue, that will be impossible to justify going forward.”

“No real sense of urgency to figure out cookie deprecation”

Google had one of the biggest stalls, overflowing with plants and private work rooms, and Snap had a glow up tunnel in the shape of its iconic ghost, but some big names were not exhibiting. Caroline Hugonenc, SVP, Research & Insights at Teads commented: “It was noticeable that the big German broadcasters and media groups, as well as some of the big social platforms such as Meta and TikTok were missing.

“Of course, the deprecation of third-party cookies and suitable replacements was another big topic of conversation at DMEXCO this year, with industry players showing confidence in a future without third-party data. Lastly, attention seemed very much the topic of focus, from presentations on the Ecology of Attention, to the release of new research and interactive games to capture the attention of visitors.”

On companies' reactions to the deprecation of third-party cookies, Lamy commented: “Companies have to be confronted with the problem. If they’ve got another year, a media agency is still going to use a system they know is working. There is no real sense of urgency to spend time and money to figure it out.”

“In closed rooms, that’s not their biggest challenge”

Nestle also discussed its changes to be more sustainable. Tina Beuchler, Global Head of Media and Partnerships explaining how the brand was integrating measurement and optimisation of their carbon footprint as an advertiser.

However, Anthony Lamy, VP EMEA Sales at Vidmob highlighted a bigger challenge: “The public stance of companies today is to talk about sustainability, but when they talk in closed rooms, that's not their biggest challenge.

“The biggest challenge is inflation, cost savings and reorganisation internally. It's good that they talk about sustainability at the conference but on the other hand, I'm not sure it's the real conversation happening inside companies.”

Preaching about sustainability? Well, don’t fly to DMEXCO

Travelling by train rather than plane caused a late arrival in PMW’s interview with Csaba Szabo, Managing Director, EMEA at Integral Ad Science. This exemplifies the sacrifices that companies are making to be sustainable.

Szabo said: “The number one problem that we are hearing from clients and in our industry is measurement – how to actually bring data to the conversation. Everyone wants to operate and run their business more sustainably, but they don't have the data.”

Yannis Dosios, Global Chief Commercial Officer at IAS continued: “Eventually we would love to get to a place where there's optimisation around sustainability. So you can optimise campaigns so that you minimise your footprint.”

Szabo recognised the importance of purpose internally: “The next generation is super focused on working for companies and working with companies that are very environmentally conscious. So as an employer, we also have a duty to really stand out.”

A talk on sustainability within digital marketing was given by Andrew Hayward-Wright, Programmatic and Sustainability Advisor, IAB Europe. He explained further to PMW: “Since COP26 revealed the severity of the climate situation, the conversation around sustainability within the ad tech industry has grown louder.

“One calculation suggests that the digital advertising industry is responsible for 60 million tonnes of CO2. Alongside ad fraud, wasteful targeting and the use of un-optimised creative assets, a huge chunk of its carbon footprint comes from the supply path and the indirect emissions of partners. If the industry is to take action on the climate crisis, then it will require a new supply path optimisation framework – SPO 2.0 – to adhere to. Indeed, sustainability should not be a USP but a standard operating procedure.

“Whether it be the SSPs, DSPs, identity or the verification companies, finding efficiencies and simplifying the tech stack pathway will go a long way to reducing the amount of energy required to deliver digital ads and subsequently reduce emissions. Creating action points on how every partner can do this and holding peers to account if they are not incorporating these as essential KPIs should be the industry’s top priority.

“The time for action from the industry is now.”

Riding out the economic storm

Emma Lacey, SVP EMEA at Zefr commented: “After a pandemic-induced pause, it was great to be back at DMEXCO in person this year. Inevitably, the current economic climate dominated discussions at the event, with many industry insiders revealing brands’ ad spend anxieties.

“Although the industry, and the world at large, is facing financial uncertainty, brands now have the opportunity to adapt and show their agility. Rather than slashing budgets, brands should instead spend smarter. Maintaining their presence in the eyes of consumers and targeting the channels their audiences love will foster long term returns. By gaining transparency over how budgets are apportioned across the marketing mix and why, brands can better optimise campaigns and successfully ride out the economic storm.”

Microsoft’s Sandra Lopez, General Manager, Marketing, spoke about decoding the future of digital experiences, citing the famous phrase ‘data is the new oil’ – perhaps slightly unfavourable at the conference considering the emphasis on sustainability.

“Advertising is no longer consumer neutral,” stated Lopez, echoing the industry’s focus on personalisation. Putting the consumer at the heart of everything is not new but was certainly mentioned in almost every conversation at the event. In times of uncertainty, economic and otherwise, it’s more important than ever to be visible to your consumer, listen to what they want, and be adaptable in the changing landscape of digital marketing.

@performancemarketingw Want to know what it was like at ine of the biggest digital marketing conferences in Europe? #dmexco2022 with @google @snapchat @twitter and more… #digitalmarketing #tech #conference #work #b2b #google ♬ Sport (60 Sec) - TimTaj