DLD 2023 – Looking ‘Beyond Now’: Implications for the advertising industry

DLD can certainly make your head spin. There are only few conferences out there that manage to pack as many high-class speakers and experts from very diverse fields into a tight schedule of 20 to 30 minute sessions and make it work. Somehow. Covering topics from robotics and the industrial metaverse to the latest developments in neuroscience to the opportunities of generative AI for businesses in an hour is a bold move.

Recalling DLD organizer Steffi Czerny’s opening remarks, it all made sense in the end: We live in a time of global poly-crisis. Old rules often don’t apply anymore, but pessimism is not an option. We must look ‘beyond now’, the conference’s motto, to develop a narrative of progress to discover new opportunities for the future. Innovation in the fields of technology, science, communication, art and design, business and industry can provide us with the tools to take back control and tackle the most pressing issues of our time.

AI as the technology of the year, if not the decade

Generative AI has been one of the major topics in the tech world for quite a while. With the recent release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022, the excitement in almost every industry has reached new peaks.

In his tech industry predictions for 2023, Scott Galloway pointed out that unlike other recent technology hypes (namely Metaverse and Crypto), Artificial Intelligence was backed by years of academic research like other key technologies like mobile communication. According to Galloway, AI will do for information workers what robotics did for manufacturing: It will fundamentally reshape entire industries.

New challengers for Google Search

The opportunities of challenging Google’s quasi-monopoly by utilizing AI for search was one major talking point at DLD 2023. Startups such as You.com and Neeva have already integrated AI technology into their search engines. Also, Microsoft’s recent announcement of investing an additional $10bn into OpenAI and their plans to integrate AI into all their products (most importantly into the Bing search engine), could lead to new competitive innovation in the market. However, several speakers, such as Neeva’s CEO Sridhar Ramaswamy and Scott Galloway, pointed out that building an AI powered search competitor is not an easy task due to the increased operational costs and computing power needed. Furthermore, Google employs some of the world’s leading AI engineers and the company has years of experience in the field. So, it is by no means certain that Google will not be able to maintain its dominance.

Alex Turtschan and Simone Jocham, Mediaplus International, at DLD 2023 in our Munich House of Communication

AI as a fluid computer interface

AI might not only change the way we search, but it might also change the way we interact with computers. Today’s interfaces are mostly based around the concepts of apps, often with highly specific use cases, yet lacking a universal, user-centric approach and context sensitivity – as often demonstrated by the lackluster usefulness of many “smart” assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Hey Google. But what if the user could just tell the AI what they wanted to do instead of opening a specific app to solve a problem or complete a task? What if the AI was the smartphone operating system, evoking apps on the go and being highly aware of the context of the problem to be solved?

AI for more fluid and relevant advertising and commerce

As Serviceplan Group CEO Florian Haller pointed out in his session “Beyond Advertising”, many people are annoyed by advertising. Ads often lack relevance and are not relatable. Marketing must become much more immersive to stay relevant. AI can be a part of this by generating relevant product shots and visuals on the go that are tailored exactly to the users’ current expectations and desires – and which might be unique in this form. The same rings true for e-commerce: imagine an online store that doesn’t just show clothes or shoes worn by the brand’s models one doesn’t necessarily relate to, but also provides AI generated shots that match one’s own body type, size, and age?

The future of media and publishing

An inspiring session by Brian Morrissey dealt with the future of publishing. The current media and publishing landscape is quite volatile, and we are facing several bubbles. The streaming market as a direct-to-consumer business is overcrowded with too many players competing for the consumers’ time, attention and share of wallet. We might experience a backswing towards more bundling of content into packages – a landscape, streaming providers initially challenged with their then new business models. Subscriptions have become ubiquitous and have at least partially replaced advertising-based business models in several sectors. With big players like Netflix and Amazon now exploring ad-based tiers for their streaming offerings, we might see a growth of the overall advertising spaces in the video streaming industry.

The big shifts ahead in media and publishing are quite versatile, but come down to human connection, individual relatability, and emotion, not unlike the outlook on the future of advertising drafted by Florian Haller. Individual creators can turn into established brands, a development we have already been seeing in the gaming industry, in live-streaming, and podcasting in recent years. Reaching the biggest audiences no longer is a sustainable future business model, as demonstrated by the disappointing IPO of Buzzfeed and the decline of similar mass-market-mass-appeal-low-effort publications. But most importantly, for Morrissey the future of publishing is about the human connection and emotional bond to the audience, especially in an age of AI-generated, synthetic content.

DLD ventured a wide view into the digital future and the industries affected by it – let’s see where all of this takes us.


Charbel Jreijri, general manager at Mediaplus Middle East, evaluates how brands can effectively leverage the emerging trend of gaming as a marketing channel.

From the first ad ever recorded to modern day advertising, the common denominator has always been the same. Marketers across all industries have the same objective: reach their customers and grab their attention across any touchpoint possible. In the last decade, we have seen the rise and fall of many such touchpoints or media channels, from newspapers to the metaverse and everything in between, the opportunities and risks are infinite. Identifying which touchpoints should be part of your mix and which ones to avoid can lead to the success or failure of both brands and marketers alike.

There are many examples of brands that caught on early to the potential success of social media, eventually becoming successful through this digital avenue. On the other hand, there are brands that took a little too long to accept this digital transformation and are now struggling to retain their market share. However, not everything with hype around its novelty will be a success. We have witnessed a few examples of different platforms’ rise to fame, only to fail miserably. Is this the case with gaming?

Gaming is now the new trending topic; however, it is not a new touchpoint. The history of gaming dates back to the 1970s with the Atari console. From then on, innovation in technology meant a constant flow of new hardware and games that increased the gaming market globally.

Let us first try and understand the reasons behind this hype: the numbers. There are over 3 billion gamers around the world, and this number is only growing. In our region, we see a similar trend with the average time spent on game consoles increasing by 25 per cent in the last 3 years to more than 1 hour and 40 minutes per day. And this is across the total population, not just hardcore gamers. In addition, 34 per cent state that gaming is the reason they use the internet.

Clearly gaming is here to stay, and it is home to a sizable audience that possesses a high disposable income. This makes marketers eager to jump on any opportunity to target gamers. However, as keen as we are to chase after this highly sought-after demographic, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are many opportunities for brands to establish themselves in the gaming universe – from in-game advertising, influencers, and tournaments, the options are limitless. This is where understanding both brand and audience plays an important role in identifying the right solution.

In order to support the journeys their customers take in a comprehensive and integral manner, automotive manufacturers are faced with the question of how to effectively set up their end-to-end customer experience management. MINI is regarded as a pioneer in adopting an excellent approach to customer centricity, and in doing so continuously develops the brand and corporate processes along the customer journey. How this is achieved is described by Ulrike von Mirbach, Head of MINI Europe, and Wolf Ingomar Faecks, Executive Board Member Serviceplan Group SE, Plan.Net Group and The Marcom Engine, in an interview with Lünendonk. The Marcom Engine has been responsible for pan-European and data-driven product and marketing communications for the BMW and MINI brands since 2020.

LÜNENDONK: Ms. von Mirbach, you have been with MINI for 17 years and have been Head of MINI Europe since July this year. Where is the brand today?

ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: Over the course of time, MINI has positioned itself as a strong brand in the market. Thinking in new ways, seeing challenges as opportunities, taking people’s wishes and needs into account in an open and unconventional way – all this is firmly anchored in the tradition of the brand that is MINI. We know what is required of us and understand how to encounter our customers and fans with the right emotions at the right instances. This is reflected in our very active community of millions of fans – not only on the street, but also online with hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram.

It is clear to us that we have to focus on our three core target groups – customers & fans, multipliers and retail partners – in order to be successful. That’s why, together with The Marcom Engine, we are firmly embedding experience management into our marketing and sales organization as a central element.

LÜNENDONK: That sounds like a huge makeover. So let’s take a look behind the scenes at what’s been going on. Can you please outline how you are going about this?

ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: With pleasure. First, we put the customer journey at the center of our transformation. This means that everyone in our organization – regardless of discipline – asks ourselves what added value we can offer our customers at each touchpoint along the individual customer journey. It is important to us to put people at the center of every step we take in our brand communication, taking into account their respective needs and emotions. This is because we believe that customer centricity is not just a buzzword but ‘the’ differentiator of the moment in order to keep your finger on the pulse of the times – or, more specifically, on the pulse of your fans and prospects.

LÜNENDONK: How exactly do you feel the pulse of MINI fans?

WOLF INGOMAR FAECKS: We continuously monitor the online and offline behavior of our prospects and customers and analyze the resulting data for relevant behavioral patterns. This places us very close to our fans and allows us to react quickly should their behavior or needs change.

We derive the requirements for marketing and communication measures from our integral and comprehensive customer experience management and implement them at the appropriate points so MINI customers can see and experience them at the right time.

ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: Just take a look at the communication taking place in the social media community: our fans enthusiastically post photos of their MINI, talk to each other and ask about anything and everything to do with MINIs, and share stories about their latest road trips. This creates a genuine dialog with added value for the individual. Our MINI sales advisors throughout Eu-rope – as the face of our brand – play a central role here for the customers they serve and also for us as a brand. They act as “key opinion customers and sales experts”.

LÜNENDONK: An end-to-end customer experience management approach certainly places complex demands on an organization. How do you make the networking, the individual marketing and communication silos work?

ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: At MINI, we are constantly optimizing processes so that we can respond quickly and with agility to external influences and new requirements. To achieve this, we are developing MINI into a customer-centric organization – with integral and comprehensive horizontal experience management, an effective marketing and communications strategy, a technology architecture tailored to the strategy and, last but not least, the requisite corporate processes.

WOLF INGOMAR FAECKS: These four components are aligned at MINI to pave the way for experience management, track KPIs across individual channels, facilitate integral and comprehensive cross-channel management and optimization, and accelerate feedback from the customer data to product development.

LÜNENDONK: So you could say that MINI is undergoing a process in which you are continuously optimizing brand communication in a data-driven way?

ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: Absolutely. Nevertheless, having the right gut feeling is not something you should forego either.

WOLF INGOMAR FAECKS: By taking the technology landscape to the next level, we can align performance management with the customer journey to optimize touchpoints. With the help of a test-learn-adapt approach, we are continuously testing different designs, presentations and selections for their effectiveness. Atomic asset production makes it possible for us to play out assets in a more specific way, optimize the use of advertising media and implement new communication ideas.

ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: So this is how we continuously review the effectiveness of our measures throughout the entire sales funnel and optimize them where necessary. We opt for various, innovative implementations in the result, and offer our fans a MINI-specific brand experience which in turn satisfies customer expectations, increases brand loyalty and leads to higher sales figures in the long term.

WOLF INGOMAR FAECKS: We can therefore say that a product marketing loop is created which we can feed with the relevant product and communication data around the clock with the help of customer data management (CDM) and a digital asset management (DAM) system. Accordingly, this product marketing loop also has a major influence on how digital media assets are deployed and played out.

In this way, we are moving away from a rigid campaign logic and towards individualized always-on communication in which motif content, tonality and messages are individually compiled and played out on the basis of data points. This process is largely automated. In this area, we are in the midst of a transformation in terms of technology and processes.

LÜNENDONK: What exactly does this mean for your corporate structures?

ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: We are committed to a common European approach. This is not an end in itself, but a prerequisite for taking personalized, data-driven marketing to the next level and creating cross-channel management and a consistent brand experience that works across all EU countries. This is because the brand MINI is firmly rooted as an emotional premium brand in all European countries. In what we refer to as core units, we create digital standards that are fed by the findings and needs of the European countries.

Based on country goals and budgets and standards from the central core units, recommendations are then developed in hubs for country organizations to implement and activate. Al-ways with a strong feedback loop. We act efficiently and consistently across all European markets in this way, playing out the respective campaign nuances along our brand promise. The characteristic MINI feeling and the individual, urban mobility character noticeably permeate every brand communication. At the same time, we increase efficiency alongside effectiveness.

LÜNENDONK: Surely steering the campaigns in multiple countries in this manner also has an impact on the team structure.

WOLF INGOMAR FAECKS: Teams are now working much more cross-functionally, with people contributing their different skills to solve complex requirements together. For the MINI Editions, for example, we planned, designed, produced and executed a complex multi-channel campaign as part of a fully integrated team.

LÜNENDONK: And how does that translate into concrete successes?

ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: For one thing, the flexibility of the pan-European campaign allowed us to ensure that the brand experience was consistent and aligned from the first point of contact through to the point of purchase. Secondly, by involving the countries and their requirements at an early stage, we were able to intensify the activation of the campaign across the countries. The result: an actionable response from more prospects using the same amount of resources with an accelerated speed of response.

LÜNENDONK: How important is the team here?

ULRIKE VON MIRBACH: Paramount. Our successes and the continuous development are due to our closely inter-linked sales and marketing teams. This is because each individual in our European teams brings different experiences and expertise to the table, and at MINI they have the chance to incorporate this and “put it on the road” – in true MINI style. I’m therefore delighted that we are all focused on the brand and our sales with a 360- degree mindset – true to our MINI motto “We are all different, but pretty good together.”

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