dmexco Survival Guide from an Industry Veteran

Cannes is the most fun. CES has The Strip. IAB Leadership is ideal for catching up with friends. Perhaps Mobile World Congress is the largest… But none of these compare to dmexco’s nearly 60,000 in-industry attendees, its concentration of tech vendors, agencies, (some) brands, and all the rest. Here’s what you need to know about the best ad tech show of the year, writes dmexco veteran and president of Industry Index, Jonathon Shaevitz.

dmexco’s strength is its distillation – focus (concentrated on digital marketing) – location (encapsulated in a single exhibit hall) – and time (two days).

The breakdown

Concentration: dmexco is nothing but digital marketing, as far as the eye can see. Agencies, tech vendors, and publishers attend, in force. Brands don’t set up booths, and tend to keep a lower profile. But, while brand attendance appears thin, I suspect they are lurking far more than the floorpan suggests.

Location: The Koelnmesse has a footprint of 100,000m2, and spans some 11 halls. Enorm, in local parlance. dmexco occupies halls 5-9. The official word is that exhibitors are organised ‘somewhat’ by type. But – in reality – it’s about who scored the best real estate.

– Hall 5 is devoted to both presentations and the ‘Start-Up Village’.

– Halls 6-8 are where the real action is; and this means you can find everyone in a fairly small area. Agencies tend to aggregate in Hall 6, complete with the ‘Agency Lounge’.

– Hall 9 is the newest addition – it felt a little sparse and last-minute in 2016, but I expect it to be fairly full this year, stuffed with a fresh batch of new tech entries.

Time: The rush starts at the door, with a notoriously huge queue when it opens on Wednesday (tip: print your ticket in advance). They line moves quickly, but plan ahead if you want to be first on the floor.

Wednesday is The Day. Many Europeans will start heading home around 14:00 on Thursday, causing the energy in the halls to drop precipitously. Americans tend to stick it out – more for schmoozing, less for business. The upside of the time crunch? Most are tightly focused on business.

All this laser-focus means you need to plan your meetings in advance. Trying to make it happen while you are there is, at best, challenging. Also, most people are in town by Tuesday evening, providing the an opportunity to get a jump on meetings and public intoxication socialising.

The Industry Index top 10: dmexco edition

What else do you need to know about the greatest (MadTech) show on Earth? I asked a few friends for their recommendations – thanks to Jeff Hirsch from Pubmatic and Ari Paparo from Beeswax for weighing in.

 1. Don’t fly into Cologne!
Fly into Frankfurt and take the train. Flights to Cologne are expensive and often require changing planes. The train from Frankfurt is easy, takes about an hour, and runs ~15 minutes or so. TIP: Make sure you book to Köln Hbf (Cologne, Main Station).

 2. dmexco is all about having meetings set up in advance.
Unlike other events, folks will show up for your meetings.

 3. dmexco runs with German precision.
Each meeting starts on the half-hour and lasts 20 minutes, leaving 10 minutes to get to the next meeting. Achtung!

 4. Beware the giant booths.
If you plan to meet with someone at their gargantuan booth, give yourself at least 30 minutes between meetings – finding them will be a challenge.

 5. It’s gotta be the shoes.
You’ll walk the same huge halls a dozen times each day, and the overall dress tends toward causal. Do your feet a favour – think business casual, and leave the patent leather at home.

 6. Spend time in the Exhibit Hall after-hours.
Booth parties provide great opportunities to network.

  7. Shout, shuffle, drink.
Most of the big after-hours parties are loud, crowded, and full of good beer.

 8. Don’t miss out on a little culture.
See the Dom (Cologne Cathedral). It’s a must, and practically the only thing to survive WWII. Bonus: It is right next to the main train station.

 9. Pace yourself with the Kölsch.
Sure, it goes down smooth and comes in tiny little glasses… but you’ll lose count, drink twenty of them, and blackout. BTW, the Irish Pubs are full of the Europeans you want to find. Don’t know why, but it is true. 

 10. When someone tells you they have ‘high-quality video supply’.
They’re lying.

The fact that dmexco takes place over just two days, is very well-attended, and is all under one roof, makes it the most valuable conference you’ll attend this year. Set the auto-responder to “OOO-DMEXCO,” and see you in Cologne.

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