The Difference Between Vision & Reality
Turning Vision into Reality – that was the theme of this year’s dmexco. This week I went to Cologne to attend the digital marketing conference and exhibition – a yearly gathering of the “international digital industry.” Here are some observations.
Walking through the koelnmesse, the first obvious observation is that the dmexco has become pretty big. According to the conference program, “dmexco 2013 offered 737 exhibitors, including all of the big names of the worldwide business, presenting their products, brands and visions – the largest overview worldwide of all important themes, trends and leaders of the global digital industry.”
This obviously highlights and comes from the increasing importance and acceptance of digital for the marketing industry. If that sort of relevance was the vision of the dmexco initiators 5 years ago, this has already become reality. The sheer size of exhibitors, seminars, debates and panel discussions and keynotes was impressive indeed.
However, a typical syndrome of the marketing industry is to talk a lot about visions, but struggling with turning them into practice. The ubiquity of digital and the need for a seamless integration across all aspects of the business were highlighted in most keynotes and panel discussions. In terms of the conference part, the dmexco had to offer very interesting talks.
One of the highlights was Lisa Utzschneider (VP Global Advertising Amazon Media Group) talking about ‘Innovating at the intersection of eCommerce and Advertising‘ – a manifesto of customer centricity and a showcase of how Amazon is developing their advertising business. Also quite entertaining was the panel discussing the Future Media DNA with representatives from media companies Bertelsmann, Sky and Axel Springer on the one side and Google (represented by Philipp Justus, Managing Director in Germany) on the other. The future of advertising has become complex and it’s harder and harder to tell the difference between friend and foe, between alliances and competitors. Especially traditional media companies still struggle with transforming their businesses for the digital future. There is still a huge gap between vision and reality.
While the conference part had lots to offer, the reality of the exhibition was quite different. Putting myself into the shoes of a client who is looking for a specific solution to a tricky marketing challenge, the conference might have added as much inspiration as confusion.
The focus on size might make the key challenge of the industry apparent. Not only was it hard to identify any sort of structure across the number of exhibitors from different parts of the business and across disciplines. A clear focus on practical solutions that bridge vision and reality was also scarce. Too many companies, especially from the agency side, don’t clearly position themselves in the market place. Everyone seems to offer everything, which makes it very hard for clients to get orientation in an increasingly fragmented market place.
Having said that, there were positive examples of exhibitors making the most of their booth spaces. I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop organised by Universal McCann. With their vision to consult clients more holistically, the workshop was based on the Business Model Generation canvas. Using a brilliant tool to design and re-design business models, the workshop was run by Jasper Bouwsma from consultancy from vujade.
The workshop brought together participants from a diverse range of companies including participants from Google, Ikea, IP Deutschland, UM, Spotify and different clients, which reflected the dmexco audience quite well. The session produced a lot of interesting concepts in a fun environment and a short time. I have been using the framework a few times, but it was very useful to refresh the thinking by actually doing it. And that is exactly the essence of how to turn vision into reality. It is about being pragmatic. There is a massive shift in our industry about how we create. This was very shortly highlighted in one of the panels on commercial creativity. I think pragmatism through collaboration and experimentation is the way forward. It should be represented more at dmexco 2014.