Voice tech, GDPR and machine learning were all key theme’s at this year’s Dmexco ad tech conference but it still felt like there was a distinct lack of marketers at Europe’s biggest annual digital marketing conference.

Every year, tens of thousands of people flock to Cologne for Europe’s biggest digital marketing conference. Turn up to the airport-sized Koelnmesse too early and you’d be forgiven for thinking Dmexco – now in its ninth year – has lost its buzz. But after two days at the adtech extravaganza, it is clear it hasn’t. It’s still big, busy (perhaps not quite as much as in previous years) and a hive of conversations this year dominated by GDPR, voice assistants and blockchain.

It does feel different this year though – less international. Word on the grapevine is that German companies had complained that big global players were costing them business – and that Dmexco’s new owners have been trying to make it more Germanic.

One thing is noticeable straight away: there are more women. And it later becomes clear there is a welcome absence of scantily-dressed women who have been hired to promote adtech businesses. Not a cheer leader, fox in hotpants or lycra-clad booth babe in sight.

The girls’ lounge has gone too; there’s nowhere for women to go and have their hair, nails and headshots done while doused in soft pink lighting.

Whether this is down to new ownership or a wider wake up to industry sexism, there is no doubt progress has been made here. Yes men continue to dominate the halls – in line with the make up of this industry – but women are doing business too and this is refreshing to see.

Making ad tech relevant to brands

What there is a distinct lack of, however, is brands. Dmexco, which draws more than 40,000 people every year, bills itself as a destination for brands, marketers and agencies, as well as digital businesses and tech pioneers. Yet it still feels heavy with ad tech businesses scrambling to gain attention in an already crowded and confusing market.

Yes there were the usual suspects, the tech behemoths like Microsoft, Amazon, Adobe and Google (which was especially strict and on high-security alert this year, vetting the majority of people before they could get on the stand). But the rest – the retailers and FMCG lot – were few and far between.

I’m working on a platform now to try and engage our brands and marketers with more progressive, or the latest, technologies including voice, AI, VR and AR, and all those emerging, promising platforms.

Debora Kayoma, Mondelez

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