The View From DMexco: The Biggest Advertising Conference You've Never Heard Of

Over 30,000 People Gathered in Germany Last Week for a Major Advertising Conference

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Late last week, over 30,000 people descended on Cologne, Germany, for the mega advertising conference DMexco. Now in its sixth year, the event appears to be asserting itself as a critical stop for many North American marketers, who showed up in force.

"We won't be able to do this next year," one American executive told an Ad Age reporter at a small dinner of C-level marketing folks during the conference's second evening. The cause was not money worries, but rather an acknowledgement that "small' won't be possible next time around. "This thing is exploding," was heard more than a few times over DMexco's two days.

Digital focused, DMexco can almost be thought of as the advertising tech sector's own version of Cannes. (Though, as Ad Age reported earlier this year, the tech sector is now invading Cannes as well.) Google, Twitter, Microsoft, IBM, Facebook and more all had significant installations at the event, along with the usual cast of retargeters and ad-tech hustlers.

"DMexco is a solid international conference that focuses on advertising technology and is not distracted from its core purpose," said IPG Media Lab managing partner David Rosenberg, who attended. The conference, he said, "seems poised to be one of the key meeting dates for agencies, tech companies and clients."

DMexco co-founder Christian Muche attributed the conference's size, in part, to its unique format, which emphasizes debate as opposed to the usual selection of panels and keynotes. (More on that in the video below.) There was a "Debate Stage," for instance, with two podiums in the middle of a hall and bleacher seating on either side. AOL's David "Shingy" Shing brought some real fire to that stage, causing Cologne's fire department to make a surprise appearance during the following session.

The conference's moderators didn't take it easy on speakers either. One pressed Google's managing director in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on privacy issues which the company has been under fire for in Europe.

And while Cologne is certainly an unlikely venue for what may become an ad industry "tentpole" -- some in attendance simply said "Cologne" and shrugged -- something is clearly working.

Here's a quick video interview with Mr. Muche, who discusses this year's attendance, and the highlights of the show:

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