Dmexco 2016 -- Buzzing With Insight Or Bored With Buzzword Bingo?

Well, it started off with a bang -- the media news of the decade, Bake Off was leaving the BBC. Then, before anyone stepped foot in the Cologne Messe, we heard the hosts were quitting and, at the end two days later, news filtered through at the airport departure gate that Rona Fairhead was quitting the BBC. In between times, there was a lot of shaking hands, nodding, jotting down notes and wondering if we'll come again next year.

For those who aren't too familiar with huge extravaganza that is Dmexco, it's where thousands of the great and good of digital marketing from around the globe meet and wonder if anyone's got some new slides to go with the point they were making last year. It's also the annual chance to queue up for half an hour to buy a sausage that's way too long for the bun it comes with as you vow never to have a ham and cheese roll for breakfast again. Then it's time to queue for an hour to buy a train ticket which, for some unknown reason, can be bought as a single or a quadruple, never a return? These queues demonstrate the show has clearly outgrown the space it's allocated in Cologne's massive Messe and the talk, as ever, was that organisers need to sort out the, not altogether unrelated, queues for food and the toilets. Decent, reliable WiFi would be a nice addition too.

This year, however, I don't know if it was just me and the writers I was hanging out with in the press room and speaker halls, but there seemed to be a feeling that we'd seen it all before. It's hard for brands to put up people who have got something revolutionary to say -- that's for sure, but we'd actually started an informal game of 'buzzword bingo', only to find there was a session dedicated to the very same topic on day two. You know the sort of thing. "Content Velocity", "Data-Driven Customer Experiences" and, particularly this year, "VR in storytelling". Don't get me wrong, there are some interesting discussions around these topics, but to sum up the writers' mood, we'd kind of heard it all before. Now, newcomers may well have been well served, so that's a very good thing. For the rest of us, I probably summed up the feeling over a final drink at the end of the show by suggesting that maybe there's not all that much new to say? We've had a vision painted of the future over the past couple of years  that is still developing and so it's going to take time until we see the future-gazing actually happen so the story can move on or at least be elaborated upon with fascinating case studies.

The stand out presentation of the two days, for me, was the speech featured in yesterday's London Blog about how Pixar puts in the hard research yards gathering data so it can tell better stories by making characters seem more believable so they elicit an emotional response from audiences. It had everything you need. A point marketers can take to heart with a demonstration of the point up on the screens. The people who draw the characters went so far as to get psychologists in to tell them how your eyes move when you remember a real event and when you're in the process of telling a lie. Watch a Pixar film and you'll notice how these tiny details bring you in to emotionally connect with characters that are actually just drawings.

Although I've picked it out for buzzword bingo, VR and storytelling were huge topics and the New York Times' production of 29 VR videos paints a future in which brands can brings consumers far more immersive experiences, so long as they remember it's all about the experience and not the brand, of course.

Other than that, I have to say, there were a lot of discussions that were interesting and a lot of smart people made good points. But, i don't think anyone came away this year feeling they'd picked up on a new vibe or learned something new. Maybe the organisers picked up on this ahead of schedule when they included a session on Buzzword Bingo? But here's a prediction for you. Same time, next year we'll all be on a flight to Bonn-Cologne Airport no doubt discussing Bake Off on Channel 4 and wondering if we're going to be excited by something new -- again.

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