Approximately 40,000 digital marketing pros will descend on Cologne, Germany this week for the seventh annual Dmexco conference. Over the years, the two-day expo has grown from an event that fostered Germany's tech scene to a global gathering of big-name brands, agencies and ad-tech companies.
Cologne's gothic architecture along the Rhine River provides a picturesque backdrop for a conference that's inching its way toward being considered one of the world's biggest marketing events.
"We have CES and Cannes as primary industry tentpoles [right now]—this is fast becoming the third tentpole," said Wenda Harris Millard, president and COO of Medialink. "When we think of media, marketing and advertising converging, this is where those three really come together."
Indeed, speakers including WPP CEO Martin Sorrell, Twitter revenue chief Adam Bain, AOL president Bob Lord and Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar will draw global crowds, while more than 800 exhibitors from tech giants like Salesforce, Facebook and Google will show agencies and brands the newest digital bells and whistles.
"This conference has such a great reputation all the sudden," said Linda Holliday, founder and CEO of Citia, which is exhibiting for the first time this year. "I wasn't really aware of it a year and a half ago, and suddenly it's all people are talking about."
Tom Channick, head of communications at Sharethrough, agreed, adding that getting big, global brands together in the same room is part of Dmexco's appeal. "One of the biggest draws of Dmexco is the opportunity to tell your international story and reach new audiences that the U.S.-based events may not reach," he said.
For Medialink, this year's event is all about focusing on creative and storytelling. The strategic consulting group has brought along 12 of its retainer clients—a mix of newbies and repeat attendees, including Popsugar, The Onion, Citia, Sharethrough and NewsCred—to talk shop and also huddle up in a camping-themed booth, complete with a line of Wes Anderson-inspired tents, chairs and a smoking fire.
"The campsite comes from the whole idea that storytelling has been happening since the beginning of time," said Dee Salomon, Medialink's CMO. "The Latin word for 'hearth' is focus. We wanted to build something off of that."