DMEXCO @home: Highlights from the Most Experimental Expo

Last week the digital marketing industry came together on the first online DMEXCO. Due to the pandemic, the expo was in jeopardy, but in less than 6 months, the DMEXCO team rolled out a virtual platform for interactive streaming and networking. 

After attending the event, the Admixer team prepared key takeaways for the programmatic industry and summarized how the recent trends and tech developments would shape the digital advertising marketplace. 

International brands check-in

With over 20,000 guests, more than 800 speakers, and 160 hours of events, DMEXCO lived up to its name as the most important European digital event. Key players in digital marketing from agencies, adtech and martech vendors, and big brands discussed pressing issues for the market, consequences of the pandemic, and recent tech developments.

With hundreds of outstanding speakers, it is hard to recap even the small portion of insights that were revealed on the expo. The line-up was filled with marketing trendsetters, such as Jason Spero, VP of Performance Media at Google, David Fischer, Chief Revenue Officer at Facebook, Adam Blitzer EVP Digital of Salesforce, Jacob Andreou VP of Product at Snapchat. The list can go on and on. 

Representatives of big and medium-sized brands came virtually to Cologne to present new future trends and provide first-hand insights into business development.

Takeaways for the programmatic industry

On the first day, IAB Europe presented their research on the state of media buying in the region:

  • Programmatic in Europe is a €23 billion market demonstrating almost 27% of year-over-year growth. Over ⅔ of the digital ad spend is programmatic now.
  • Insertion Order-based campaigns are in decline for the 5th year in a row. Programmatic is growing in double-digits, but its growth slowed in 2019, as the market started to mature.
  • Video advertising, which was notorious for the slow adoption of programmatic, has picked up the pace, and in 2019, 50% of video inventory is traded programmatically.
  • The main driver for the programmatic adoption is operational efficiency. Advertisers want to exercise more control over their media buying.
  • The main barrier to programmatic adoption is supply chain transparency. Advertisers are discouraged by the fragmented marketplace and long supply chains, which are challenging to keep in check.

Daniel Knapp, the Chief Economist of IAB Europe, gave a presentation on the evolution of programmatic teams:

  • The trend for the in-house programmatic teams appears to be old news. The share of companies with in-house programmatic teams has declined from 38% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.
  • The share of companies outsourcing their media buying increased by 50% since 2019, while the share of companies with hybrid models (with some in-house expertise and outsourcing secondary functions) jumped to 30%.
  • Over the last couple of years, the programmatic became a much more accessible industry for newcomers. The entry barrier and the learning curve is not as high as it used to be at the industry’s dawn.

The industry is maturing; the data-driven approaches to media planning allows advertisers to optimize based on ROAS and LTV. According to Daniel Knapp:

The programmatic industry moves away from the media metrics, such as clicks and likes, to the business outcome metrics. 


Fraud is another critical area for programmatic advertising, extensively covered through the expo:

  • Over the last two years, fraud activities have become more organized and funded. If previously, botnets and click farms dominated in the fraudster arsenal, nowadays, they rely on malware on real users’ devices.
  • Fraud is damaging the image of programmatic advertising. Due to the revenue loss and lack of brand confidence, advertisers are moving away from programmatic channels.
  • 2020 revealed massive fraudulent schemes that span hundreds of apps like TERRACOTTA, or scam video publishers like the ICEBUCKET bot operation that impersonated more than 2 million people in over 30 countries.
  • The digital advertising industry has become more collaborative in addressing security threats and combating fraud. For instance, White Ops and Google’s cross-industry alliance actively works to take down complex ad fraud schemes, such as 3ve.
  • The universal advice for advertisers against fraud is to meticulously check the supply chain and buy only from sellers who adopt industry standards like app-ads.txt (ads.txt) and sellers.json.


For the last couple of years, connected TV was one of the fastest-growing segments in digital. It promised the best of the two worlds: reach and engagement of traditional TV and targeting possibilities of the web. DMEXCO couldn’t miss this topic: 

  • COVID became the inflection point for OTT and CTV industries and accelerated their growth due to the shift in consumer preferences.
  • According to Samsung, 58% of TV viewing is already streaming-based, the traditional linear TV audience is already in the minority.
  • Even in the midst of the pandemic, when so many brands hit pause on advertising, CTV is expected to see 19% of year-over-year growth (IAB survey).
  • CTV publishers may not provide tracking and attribution capabilities that programmatic users are used to. CTV buy-side needs to leverage its power to secure fair measurements and attribution metrics.

New quality of online networking

In addition to three studios which hosted presentations and industry lectures, applied knowledge was also shared on the show floors. The show floor is an online alternative to stand on the actual expo. Companies used the show floors to present their products, answer the questions, and build the rapport with the visitors.

Admixer hosted its own showfloor where we offered adtech advice to buy-side and sell-side of the programmatic market. We discussed with our show floor guests how our SaaS products can help to achieve their business goals:

  • presented Admixer.Network, our adtech solution to build and manage your own ad network. The platform takes care of ad serving, inventory management, and monetization.
  • introduced our white-label solution to launch an Ad Exchange – RTB Stack.

The possibility of interacting and establishing new connections on the DMEXCO platforms was truly immense. The Discovery Graph allowed users to network directly, find new connections based on mutual interests, expertise in a particular field, or shared acquaintance.

According to Elena Storchak, Director of Supply Partnerships at Admixer:

The Discovery graph allowed me to find new leads, discover unexpected connections in the industry, and identify prospects in previously untapped niches and industries. 

On the first day of the expo, more than 60,000 messages were posted via the platform. 

To sum up

DMEXCO always was a flagship event for the entire digital advertising industry and the European market in particular. This year’s expo was under a lot of pressure from the pandemic. Still, the team developed a fully functional platform on a very tight schedule and implemented a new virtual format for networking. 

The expo raised fundamental questions that will shape digital advertising for years to come, such as expansive growth of the programmatic marketplace, industry-wide anti-fraud efforts, and emerging digital formats, such as CTV.