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The annual ad tech fest is still a packed event, but there are signs that Dmexco may have reached its zenith.

Organizers predict around 40,000 people will attend the event this year, flat with last year when attendance plummeted 22 percent year over year.

The event has become more international in recent years. When Dmexco launched in 2009, international companies represented 10 percent of exhibitors and 12 percent of attendees. This year, 40 percent come from international markets.

Koelnmesse parted ways with its two co-founders, Christian Muche and Frank Schneider, weeks last year. Reports at the time suggested the event would go back to being more German-focused, given Koelnmesse is government-backed and the German Association for the Digital Economy holds the trademark to the show. The rationale was that the event had become too big and had lost touch with its original purpose, leading to some of the original attendees to sit it out.

“They [Dmexco organizer Koelnmesse] wanted the conference to be more German,” said Julia Smith, marketing director for Impact Radius. “They felt it had got too international. But you can’t cherry-pick who you have. We’re all global businesses.”

The usually busiest first day was quieter than usual to Dmexco veterans, which one speculated could be due to paid ticketing being introduced last year.

“Last year was the first year we saw a slight downturn on attendance, and this year it’s been less frantic,” said Chris Hogg, managing director for data management platform Lotame’s EMEA business. “It’s not been as frantic, but it’s still busy and we’ve had quality conversations on day one.”

It’s still become too big for some. Some attendees said they felt the event also has become too heavily skewed toward mid-level industry execs. “Dmexco has simply become too big and too cumbersome to get meaningful outcome from it,” said Christian Dankl, chairman at contextual targeting platform Precise.TV. “It feels like quantity of visitors overshadows quality of content tracks and seminars.”

— Jessica Davies and Seb Joseph

Rumor of the day:
Speculation has been rife at Dmexco that the trade show’s co-founders, Muche and Schneider, who were fired by the conference owners, are due a hefty earnout to the tune of €8 million ($9.3 million) each.

Pornhub’s Dmexco debut
It can be tough to stand out among the sprawling array of stands at Dmexco, but Pornhub hasn’t missed a trick. Not content to rely on drop-ins to its booth, Pornhub has planted itself squarely in front every single visitor at the conference at the one moment they’re most likely to be free: in the bathrooms. Plastered across every toilet cubicle across all eight Dmexco halls is a large ad showing a half-peeled banana against a pink background. In the women’s bathrooms, the strapline reads: “Get Ahead of the Curve.” In the men’s, Pornhub has opted for a hot dog accompanied by the words: “Think Long Term Growth.” At a conference where brand safety is such a big topic, it’s hard to miss the irony.

Dmexo costs
It costs a pretty penny to exhibit and speak at Dmexco these days. For an average (small to medium-sized) 55 square meter stand: €16,000 ($18,615.20) for the space. To build the stand, another €25,000 ($29,086.25). Rigging costs: €4,000 ($4,653.80). Then there’s cleaning and Wi-Fi costs. Speaking will add another €3,000 ($3,490.35). “The inflation is with the add-ons,” said a marketing director of an ad tech vendor. “This year, I was told I had to pay extra for for security. What the hell. Are you telling me if I don’t pay that, then there is no guarantee my stand won’t be riffled overnight while the halls are locked?”

— Jessica Davies

Overheard at Dmexco
“Not enough marketers are here. The fact that so many are nowhere to be seen is reflection of all that’s wrong with the ad tech bubble.” — senior marketer

“The whole bid caching thing did everyone a favor because it took the heat off everyone else. Index Exchange fell on its own sword. I don’t know for sure, but I bet there was some paper shredding going on at other vendors after that happened.” — ad tech executive

“The BidSwitch Express wasn’t that fun because people didn’t know what to do other than get drunk.” — ad tech executive

“We’re a vendor that isn’t pushing to work directly with brands, but we are getting closer to them through agencies. Agencies are bringing us into pitches and meetings because more advertisers want to understand how the supply chain works when it comes to things like take rates.” — ad tech executive

Coming up:
9:45 a.m.: IAB Europe, GroupM, AppNexus, the French Information Commissioner and 1&1 Mail & Media Applications discuss the impact of Europe’s new data protection rules four months on. Debate Stage.
12:55 p.m.: RTL AdConnect, ProSiebenSat.1 Media, Telekom Deutschland and Channel 4 debate media alliances on the “How European media build powerful collaborations to stay competitive” panel. Debate Stage.
1:20 p.m.: Henkel, EVRYTHNG and ThePowerhouse reveal why smart products are becoming the new touchpoint for brands on a panel moderated by Digiday’s Seb Joseph.
3 p.m.: Dailymotion, Trade Desk, PubMatic, and The New York Times demystify auction dynamics in programmatic trading on a panel moderate by Digiday’s Jessica Davies.

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