Every year, dmexco brings with it a motto which defines the tone of the annual gathering. For those at Koelnmesse this year, myself included, that motto was ‘Lightening the Age of Transformation’. And in today’s market, ‘transformation’ refers to the digital sort – the process of welcoming more and more digital into our lives.

Digital transformation has its pros and cons
The ad world stands at the heart of digital transformation. As a dynamic industry, it is often among the first to adopt new technologies, and regularly contributes to those in research and development. In recent times, these technologies have included social media, AI, and smartphones. The industry has seen each one of these as an opportunity for generating better customer experiences.

However, the excitement of adopting these new technologies is not without its drawbacks. At dmexco this year, the sentiment is that we need more of the following: Accountability and transparency. With digital ad spend surpassing that of TV last year, and expecting to reach $83bn in the US in 2017 alone, according to eMarketer, advertisers are carefully tracking their money, making sure that every penny they spend goes toward a human impression.

Why is this so important? By investing in advertising, brands are trusting agencies to generate an ROI – that means making sure that the brands’ target audience hear the message. We have a responsibility to collaborate and provide standards so that advertisers and publishers knowingly operate in a brand-safe environment.

Industry leaders have their say on the industry issues
In his keynote speech, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble, said that the industry was 60% of the way to the new era of digital transparency. This new phase, he argues, will have the following: A single viewability standard for all, accredited third party measurement verification, transparent agency contracts, TAG-certified ad fraud prevention, and little to no brand safety risk. These changes, he adds, will allow us to assess the true value of our media investments.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was another high-profile speaker who discussed the need for better standards. She mentioned that, having heard advertisers’ concerns about safe environments and measurement, her company is investing money to develop new tools for them. To this end, the company made several announcements regarding its platform, addressing issues such as brand safety, third-party measurement and set a timeline for accreditation by The Media Ratings Council.

dmexco also saw the launch of the Coalition for Better Ads. This alliance of organizations, whose founding members include Google, GroupM, IAB and notable publishers, aims to improve consumers’ experience with online advertising by setting out quality standards, developing technologies to implement these standards, and encouraging overall awareness. This comes as consumers increasingly adopt ad blockers to do away with irrelevant and annoying ads. However, the rise of ad blockers does present an opportunity for advertisers to deliver higher quality content.

What’s next for the industry
There have been many exciting changes in the industry in the last few years, and I am excited to see how tech tools such as AI, AR, and VR expand the marketing toolkit. However, as dmexco’s key speeches reveal, the industry still needs guidance so that it embraces technological changes in a way which is fair for all – from marketers and advertisers, to publishers and consumers. Tomorrow’s industry leaders will be those who lighten the Age of Transformation by demonstrating their successes in being transparent, collaborating closely with brands and publishers and ensuring high-quality consumer experiences.