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3 big insights from OMR 2024, Europe’s top marketing summit

Two claw robot hands shape a clay shopping bag on a pottery wheel.

Illustrated by Robyn Phelps / Getty / Shutterstock / The Current

Last week, 70,000 European marketers descended on Hamburg’s quiet cobblestone streets for OMR, Europe’s annual festival of creativity.

They came in search of marketing inspiration from speakers like Scott Galloway, Kim Kardashian and executives of fast-fashion brand Shein, and for strategic discussions about the advertising trends in motion this year.

These ranged from developing an identity strategy, to winning in the red-hot retail media space, to making sense of a wealth of data. Here’s what unfolded in Hamburg.

Identity as a foundation, not a product

As Google delays Chrome’s cookie deprecation once again, a number of marketers are still unsure about their post-cookie identity strategies.

Amid changing privacy regulations, especially in Europe, authenticated alternative identifiers and AI-enabled contextual targeting have emerged as promising privacy-conscious identity solutions.

But for marketers to access the superior performance of authenticated audiences, they first need to create a win-win that motivates consumers to share their email addresses or phone numbers.

“Take a step back and figure out why you’re trying to do this. It’s about great experiences for consumers,” said Stu Colman, senior director of European identity at The Trade Desk. “It’s about, ‘Do I have enough of a relationship with this consumer to ask this question and get this value back?’”

Only once that value exchange is defined can the digital relationships of the future, AI-powered or not, take shape. “Identity is paramount, but it’s got to be thought of as a foundation rather than a product itself,” said Colman.

Vaith Schmitz, solutions engineer at Twilio, emphasized the importance of “using all the data you collect through CDPs [customer data platforms], attribution, IDs, to create genuine AI experiences down the line.” That’s important because how we engage with content on our phones is changing, said Schmitz. “We had a million apps; now we have 10 apps we use the most.”

AI can also help marketers who are anxious about losing the scale of cookies, by “managing seeds and building lookalikes and models from those, plus interoperability between various IDs,” said Colman.

How to win at retail media in 2024

Retail media is now table stakes for marketers across industries. Retailers’ data used in off-site environments is also emerging as a key tool in a post-cookie identity world.

Tim Nedden, managing director of agency Front Row, called for standardization, interconnectivity and accountability as the industry ramps up its retail efforts.

On a panel, he urged marketers to depend less on walled gardens. He cited a case study of a brand that shifted budgets from a major ecommerce site to Tesco and Sainsbury’s in the U.K. and saw those channels perform up to 20 times better. “Because the shopper group is more relevant, especially for CPG,” he said.

Scaling beyond individual retailers could involve leveraging retail data off-site while also using a brand’s first-party data to build lookalike audiences and statistical twins, said Nedden. These could then be deployed to premium publishers like Vogue and, increasingly, connected TV.

“Prime Video ads could change the TV game. But other retailers can also do it. Walmart acquiring Vizio — that’s their gateway to the living room of people, using retail data to target video ads,” said Nedden.

In Europe, retailers’ smaller sizes compared to their U.S. counterparts means that brands seeking scale will likely pour more ad spend in off-site retail media spaces, he added.

Christian Leihner, head of e-commerce performance marketing at Unilever, said retail media makes it hard for CPG shoppers to miss its brands as they spend time across channels.

Transparency and independent third-party measurements are paramount to successful retail relationships, he added. “We want a seat at the table with the retailer to exchange and determine where we’re going, to make sure that media money is returned,” he said.

As marketers move budgets to retail media from channels like trade marketing and search, the expectations are high. “The money that is being reallocated from other channels needs to deliver the same performance or even better,” said Leihner.

AI can reshape marketing and help TikTok claim its next ‘victim’

Of course, no self-respecting global marketing conference would be complete without bold statements about what’s ahead. Enter marketing luminary Scott Galloway.

“The biggest myth in marketing is that choice is a good thing. Consumers don’t want more choice. They want to be more confident in the choices presented,” he quipped.

This maxim helps explain the rise of TikTok, and also Google’s panicked response to ChatGPT. “Effectively, TikTok and AI, their core value proposition is they removed choice,” said Galloway.

TikTok’s forays into long-form video could heat up competition for video ad dollars. But the market is one still up for grabs, especially as the streaming giants seemingly enter an era of consolidation aimed at giving viewers more value.

For now, it is already becoming clear how AI will reshape advertising: by helping marketers make sense of the ever-expanding troves of data at their disposal.

“People often say that data is the new oil. It’s not — we’re drowning in oil, there is oil everywhere. Data is not the rare asset here,” said Galloway. “What is the rare asset is what to do with all this data.”

The Current is owned and operated by The Trade Desk Inc.