This time last week, the advertising technology community descended for dmexco 2016 – the self-proclaimed ‘hotspot of the digiconomy’. The annual conference sees ad tech experts from across global markets gather to debate and decide the industry’s future. So what were the big topics of dmexco 2016? GingerMay went along to pick out the top trends so – from virtual reality to data scarcity – here is our top selection:

More high-quality data is needed

The fact that the digital economy runs on data is nothing new but it seems limited understanding of how to utilise insight is holding advertisers back. Speaking to The Drum, Executive Vice President of the Nielsen Marketing Cloud, Mark Zagorski, said: “The biggest issues for marketers today are […] access and control of their consumer data, and creating a direct connection with consumers.”

This sentiment was echoed during a panel chaired by IAB president and CEO, Randall Rothenberg, which argued brands must develop better data capabilities and learn more about cross-channel activity if advertising quality is to improve. While CEO of Carat, Will Swayne, asserted advertisers needed to recognise the need for personalisation, IBM’s Chief Digital Officer, Bob Lord was adamant data should be refined: “We have to get to a point where we’re delivering value based advertising with actionable insights, if we don’t have actionable insights we have nothing.”

Virtual reality is the next storytelling medium

At last virtual reality is moving from the emerging technology space to become an attainable advertising tool. In the ‘VR debate’, Lisa Donohue, Global President of Starcom stated it’s time to start thinking of virtual reality as a disruptive communications tool for immersive marketing that advertisers can leverage to “tell stories more richly, universally and globally” whilst building a powerful, emotional relationship with consumers.

Yet as Christoffer Nokelby, Communications Director for Mercedes-Benz Norway advised, virtual reality should be approached with caution. Despite is allure, companies should “do what they always do” and evaluate whether the benefits for their audience and business model justify a foray into virtual reality-based advertising. No problem then for major players like Facebook, which announced that it sees virtual reality as “the next computer platform” and intends to make the technology part of its five – 10 year plan.

Walled gardens drive to consolidation

Unsurprisingly, social media giant Facebook also cropped up — along with Google — in a discussion about walled gardens and their impact on smaller ad tech players. VICE co-founder and CEO, Shane Smith, voiced concerns that the difficulty of competing with walled gardens is forcing small ad tech companies and early start up businesses to consolidate or shut down, predicting “whoever’s last in mainstream media will partner with whoever’s left in digital media – and I think a lot of people in the next 12 to 18 months are just going to go away.”

Smith went on to say that this trend was the driving force behind VICE’s decision to become “platform agnostic” and move towards TV — a method he feels may soon be the best option for budding ad tech businesses in a less diverse ecosystem.

Header bidding takes the lead at dmexco 2016

Header bidding — a programmatic mechanism that enables sellers to offer inventory to several buyers at once, before calling their ad server — is rapidly gaining traction. And, as demonstrated by an OpenX panel covering the emerging technology, it is set to get bigger. When it came to current benefits, Hannah Buitekant, General Manager of Programmatic, Mobile, and Video, at the MailOnline, highlighted its abilities to promote transparency, giving buyers an “end-to-end” view of available impressions, as well as generating a month-on-month revenue increase for the publication itself.

Regardless of initial latency issues caused by too many tags, participants were confident that with solutions such as wrappers being used to reduce tag size, there was great potential for header bidding to expand its reach. As well as existing testing with native formats from eBay, Buitekant anticipated in-app would become the next key area of usage, as connecting with audiences via mobile becomes a crucial part of digital strategy.

So, while dmexco 2016 revealed emerging technology concepts like virtual reality and header bidding are breaking new ground, it also showed development in the ad tech space will be tempered by the need to improve data usage and make more room for budding businesses. But what is life without a challenge — and when do digital innovators let a few hurdles stall progress?