What Oracle Gets With BlueKai: Talent, Data, And Scale

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joannaoconnelrevised"Marketer's Note" is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

The rumor mill exploded late last week, with talk of a BlueKai acquisition by technology giant Oracle, and today, Oracle made it official. Extending the thinking from a recent post I authored on the inevitable merging of traditional marketing technology and ad technology players, here’s why an acquisition of a digital data management platform (or DMP) by Oracle makes sense:

  • It provides Oracle instant access to the digital advertising ecosystem. BlueKai was born in 2007 as a 3rd party data provider in the burgeoning display audience targeting space. But it rapidly evolved into a well-recognized data exchange (a one stop shop for a wide range of 3rd party data segments) and has spent the last seven years building relationships with all manner of technology players in support of its data marketplace - DSPs, ad networks, exchanges, other DMPs, data providers and more. These relationships are both business-based (think pricing models) and technology-based (think server-to-server integrations with all those capable; continuous ID mapping across the ecosystem), giving BlueKai massive scale (i.e. reach to users) in the digital advertising universe. And scale matters. Whether marketers are looking to reach modeled look-alike audiences, their highest performing 3rd party segments, or their own customers across the ad ecosystem, one of the most consistent challenges I hear about is doing this “at scale.” BlueKai’s considerable effort in this arena - in both business development and engineering activity – immediately provides its acquirer Oracle with just this.


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  • It makes the delivery of “connected consumer experiences” a reality for Oracle. For all the industry’s talk about “connected experiences” and “the customer journey”, the market reality has been one of known customer technologies (think marketing automation for B2B, campaign management for B2C) on one side of a wall and what I call anonymous digital technologies (think DSPs, exchanges, mobile ad networks and the like) on the other. In fact, it was one of my frustrations while authoring the DMP Wave last year - seeing where DMPs’ reach ended. Specifically, it became clear during the Wave that DMPs were great at anonymous digital data management, but didn’t touch the world of the known customer in any meaningful way. In my mind, this meant a clear point of disconnection in delivering a continuous customer experience. Adobe sagely recognized – and worked to remedy - this disconnect first*, spending the last several years acquiring technologies on both sides of the divide – specifically a DMP (Demdex) in 2010 and a campaign management system (Neolane) in late 2013 – to bridge that wall. If you dig into Adobe’s story today, it’s morphing into one of master ID management which, with the technology stack it’s been building, is no longer just marketing talk, but a real possibility.
  • It brings digital advertising expertise and engineering talent into Oracle. Let’s face it, as I’ve said before, we in the digital advertising world speak a language of our own, and it’s not obvious to anyone but us what we’re talking about. This is a problem for communicating effectively with technology players outside our world, and it’s a problem for clients, who are trying desperately to figure out which technologies they really need to get them closer to what they (say they) really want – a way to reach prospects and customers intelligently, consistently and quickly, wherever they are. As we are already seeing with Neustar, recent acquirer of Aggregate Knowledge, having a strong, informed voice on the digital side is critical. Similarly, I anticipate Omar Tawakol, BlueKai CEO, and other BlueKai’ers spending an awful lot of time over the next several months explaining digital marketing (and what we mean when we say things like “data management” and audience targeting, among other things) to befuddled Oracle execs, sales people and customers. There’s also the reality of our world from a technical standpoint – cookies, QPS, real-time decisioning – as smart and fast as traditional marketing technologies are, they operate on a completely different plane than digital tech, particularly if we’re talking about B2B-oriented systems.  There will be a very real need to get these systems in line with one another.

As my colleague noted this morning, Oracle’s move into digital marketing won’t be without its – considerable – challenges. But from a strategic standpoint, I say, smart move, Oracle. IBM, Salesforce – you’d better step up your game.

Thoughts, comments, send them my way!

Joanna

*At least when we’re talking about massive technology players. Littler guys, like Knotice, have quietly been focused on connecting known and unknown consumer IDs for a while now. x+1 has been delivering connected on-site and off-site experiences for years. And now database marketing player Acxiom, with its Audience Operating System, is squarely focused on data management across both anonymous and known, while CRM agency Merkle is also playing heavily in this space.

Follow Joanna O'Connell (@joannaoconnell ) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter. 

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