DMEXCO interview: welcoming Verena Gründel

Verena Gründel has taken on the role of Brand and Communications Director to become DMEXCO’s new host. What will her tasks be? What drives her, and what does she think the digital industry should be putting on its to-do list in 2024? We found out.

Photo of Verena Gründel
Image: Bernhard Huber

“Having a great team behind you is almost as good as having magic powers”

Verena Gründel

Verena, you started as DMEXCO’s new Brand and Communications Director on February 1. How have your first days been?

Verena Gründel: Honestly, they couldn’t have gone better. My colleagues have given me such a warm welcome. It felt like they had really been looking forward to me starting. Anyone who has been on a video call with me may have noticed the “Welcome” banner on the wall behind me. During my onboarding program, they fully immersed me in the topics explored at DMEXCO. I need to learn quickly because September isn’t that far away, and there’s a lot to do before then.

Your new role hasn’t existed in this form before. What exactly will your tasks be?

My main task will be to act as DMEXCO’s official host and media representative. I’m also part of the DMEXCO Board, together with my colleagues Christoph Werner, Jan Garnefeld, Thomas Mosch, and Eva Heintz. The five of us, together with our ideational and professional partner and owner of the DMEXCO brand, BVDW, set the strategic framework for DMEXCO. My tasks also include enhancing and internationalizing the brand and building and maintaining international media cooperation. I’m also responsible for providing strategic support to the team when it comes to analyzing trends and markets, setting topics, and building 365-day communication.

You studied journalism. What drove you to make the switch to the events sector?

I’ve always been passionate about my journalism work. But over the past few years in my role as editor in chief at W&V, I also acted as a strategist, representative, and manager, which I really enjoyed. At DMEXCO, I can combine all that, while still occasionally producing content in the form of articles, podcasts, and more. So it’s the perfect mix for me.

You took two months off between finishing your previous job and starting at DMEXCO. What was the reason for the break?

I always throw myself into jobs with a lot of passion and commitment. I used the two-month break to reset and switch into DMEXCO mode. Also, when do you ever get the chance to take such a long break, normally? I did a month-long tour of Hawaii, which was an absolute dream, and then completely relaxed for a few days afterwards. That meant I could fully recharge my batteries and really hit the ground running.

When was the first time you attended DMEXCO?

This year will be my 11th time at DMEXCO. I attended the event for the first time in 2014 as a journalist, and I haven’t missed one since. I even found a photo of me from back then. In recent years, I’ve had the pleasure of regularly anchoring the big agency panel discussion, which brings together the industry’s key players. So I’ve been well acquainted with DMEXCO for years now.

Image: Twitter

You bring a unique individual perspective to your new role at DMEXCO. Based on your experience, what industry trends do you think will shape the coming year?

Without a doubt, everyone will still be talking about AI in marketing, building on its potential, and taking things to a professional level there. We’ll see some cases of AI washing. Weeding those out from AI applications that actually add value will be key. The industry’s most important task this year will be to create the conditions for using AI in the future, developing innovative business models, and carving out competitive advantages. The possibilities are endless, and we must seize the opportunity.

What will drive the industry this year apart from AI?

The definitive phase-out of third-party cookies will also continue to be a huge topic. A survey conducted by DMEXCO revealed that the majority of marketers still don’t fully have this on their radar. I worry that it will be a rude awakening for some. In my opinion, the promising advertising media that will be on everyone’s lips are retail media, DOOH, and addressable TV. At the same time, the economic recession will maintain its grip on the industry for at least this year, meaning that businesses will be investing more carefully and thus consolidating their media plans.

Let’s go back to some more personal questions. What motto guides you through your private and professional life?

I always say, “In the end, there’s always a way through somehow.” Sounds flippant, but it’s true: Even when some challenges appear tough, obstacles are put in your way, you have bad luck, and everything seems to be going wrong – if you really want something and pull out all the stops, you’ll always find suitable approaches and solutions. This guiding principle helps when you have an editorial deadline as well as in the run-up to an event. However, the most important thing is to stay positive and not bury your head in the sand.

Do you have a role model who guides you in your work?

Not in the serious sense you’re probably meaning, but the cartoon character Bibi Blocksberg really inspired me as a child. She’s always happy, triumphs in all her adventures, and always finds solutions with creativity and a knack for improvisation. And she makes mistakes, but puts them right and learns from them. I haven’t managed to develop magic powers myself yet, but having a great team behind you constantly trying to make things possible is the next best thing. I think I’ve found that at DMEXCO.

And to wrap up: What are you looking forward to most at DMEXCO?

Two things: Working with my colleagues as a team to put together a mega event. And then welcoming the whole community to Cologne on September 18 and 19 and spending two awesome days together.

About Verena Gründel

With a degree in biology, Gründel has 15 years of experience working as an editor for a number of media companies that specialize in marketing and advertising. After finishing her studies in Marburg, Germany, she completed an editorial internship at the WNP Verlag publishing house. She then spent some four years writing for iBusiness before moving to the marketing department of W&V in 2017. Two years later, she became a member of the editorial board there. In early 2021, she was made editor in chief. When she’s not working, she likes to travel the world, walk or ride her motorbike through the mountains, and bake Neapolitan pizza for her guests.

Follow Verena on LinkedIn and Instagram.