Beer, Bratwurst and Bots — what not to miss at dmexco 2017.

James Harris, Global Chief Digital Officer

This September the digital media world will once again descend on the Koelnmesse in Cologne Germany for the annual dmexco expo and conference.

For many years dmexco was something of a secret, populated almost entirely by adtech practitioners, but in the last few years this has changed drastically and dmexco has now firmly cemented its place as the global digital media tent pole event, with ever increasing numbers of agency types, clients and global media owners rubbing shoulders with the adtech types who still continue to attend.

However, with an excess of 50,000 people attending and over a thousand different exhibitors colliding in a sight and sound aligned to a multitude of talks and debate, some brilliant, some not, dmexco can be a difficult event to navigate, so to help here are my top picks of what to not to miss.

The conference theme this year is ‘Lightning the Age of Transformation’, which in plain English translates to a focus on digital transformation and how organisations and individuals can best embrace this.

Around this topic there are many scheduled talks and debates (at dmexco they refer to panels as debates) that all promise to navigate this challenge, but my pick of the bunch is LIGHTNING THE AGE OF TRANSFORMATION: DO WE NEED A NEW MINDSET? (13th 10:30am — Congress hall) and is moderated by Dentsu Aegis Network’s Chief Strategy Officer, Nigel Morris.

This session promises to explore how digitization is impacting human beings in business, what skills are needed in order to master digitization and ultimately is a new mindset needed to allow man and machine to work better together in the digital economy?

Man and Machine working together is also another key theme that we will see at dmexco this year, with an unsurprising number of sessions focused around AI (artificial Intelligence) machine learning and technical innovation.

For me the pick of AI sessions looks to be the opening Keynote by an old colleague of mine, Bob Lord, now Chief Digital Officer for IBM entitled ‘COGNITIVE AND CREATIVITY: USING AI TO TRANSFORM INDUSTRIES (13th 10am — Congress hall.)

In this, Bob promises to share with us how artificial intelligence is transforming industries and inspiring creative minds, demonstrating how creative thinkers are exponentially enhancing how they create and innovate with the help of cognitive systems, like IBM Watson.

Alongside this session, and whilst not strictly about artificial intelligence, I personally won’t be able to resist the session from Microsoft entitled HOW HOLOGRAMS WILL CHANGE MARKETING (AND OUR LIFE) FOREVER (13th — 10:30am — Experience Hall)

This session promises to show us how in the future, holograms, gesture control & voice recognition will make technology more human than ever before, but how this current revolution is taking shape almost unnoticed, and will leave many behind.

Whilst dmexco is a great celebration of all that is new, positive and exciting, in the world of digital, this year’s conference will also not be without a few dark clouds as the current industry challenges around ad fraud, brand safety and viewability take center stage too and become a key area for discussion and debate all on their own.

For me the best of the sessions dealing with these challenges looks to be the one entitled ARE WE DIGITALLY DRUNK? SURVIVING THE MARKETING TRANSFORMATION (13th 14:30 — Congress hall)

This debate promises to explore the current mood of disenchantment around digital marketing, driven by deception, visibility and brand safety issues. The session will also cover what needs to change here and help articulate a new definition of digital advertising.

Whether it achieves this or not, we will have to wait and see, but for sure it is guaranteed to generate plenty of debate amongst those attending.

But let’s not end on a negative note, indeed beyond the numerous talks and debates, there is a lot of other exciting things to experience and most notable of these for me looks to be the the P&G start up hatch, a new attraction this year, taking place at 11:15am on the 14th in the Debate hall.

Here start up businesses will get the chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of digital media luminaries and investors in pursuit of a £20,000 cash injection for the winning pitch. This event is not to be missed.

And that £20,000 would also buy a lot of beer and bratwurst too, which ultimately as any dmexco veteran will tell you is the real reason that everyone looks forward to dmexco coming around each September.

You can check out the Dentsu Aegis Network micro site for dmexco here.

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