Checking In On Oracle's Marketing Cloud Integration

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Oracle hosted a "launch event" Wednesday to introduce its Marketing Cloud, though the fact that Oracle has a suite is about as newsworthy as the world’s roundness. The enterprise software giant has been using that particular nomenclature since it acquired marketing automation solution Eloqua in December 2012.

Oracle’s Marketing Cloud has several components. In addition to Eloqua, there's social marketing software Vitrue, the cross-channel campaign management suite Responsys, the content marketing platform Compendium and the data exchange/data-management platform (DMP) BlueKai. All told, Oracle has spent north of $3 billion to assemble a marketing stack in competition with those fielded by Salesforce.com and Adobe (and to a lesser extent IBM).

Thus far, Oracle has integrated most of these assets. It closed its Responsys acquisition in April, so that’s still a work in progress. And Kevin Akeroyd, Oracle’s SVP and General Manager of its Marketing Cloud suite, couldn’t say when he anticipated the BlueKai acquisition would finalize. In general, he said, it takes about six months following closure of each acquisition for the new technology to be fully integrated into Oracle’s platform.

And it is this ability to integrate that differentiates the Oracle Marketing Cloud, according to Akeroyd.

“We think that making it real – real integration – rather than making it look good on stage is going to be unbelievably differentiated because we know our competitors well,” Akeroyd told a group of journalists. “We know how well they’ve integrated the assets they’ve owned for years, or how not [well]. And we know that integration is not resourced as heavily and is not as core a focus.”

Akeroyd declined to name specific competitors, though he conceded that Adobe has a reputation of having a well-integrated marketing cloud product.

“I don’t want to comment on a specific competitor, but I’d agree that Adobe has done a pretty good job,” he said. However, he insisted the assets that constitute Oracle’s cloud are better than those that constitute its competitors’ respective clouds.

“Again, I’m not going to name names,” Akeroyd said, “but does that particular [competitor] have a multichannel campaign platform, among the best in the industry? No. Did they buy the fourth or fifth best marketing automation while we bought the first best? Yes. Did they buy a version one, 2010 version of a DMP versus what we purchased in 2014? Four years is dog years in terms of the caliber of the technology and the caliber of the audience data marketplace.”

While Akeroyd didn’t explicitly identify which competitors he spoke of, it is worthwhile to note that Adobe acquired the DMP Demdex in early January 2011 and that ExactTarget, prior to its acquisition by Salesforce.com, snapped up marketing automation provider Pardot. When that happened in October 2012, Joe Payne – then-CEO of Eloqua (which is now a part of Oracle’s Marketing Cloud), described Pardot as “the third or fourth place player in the market.”

Besides Oracle’s technological strength, Akeroyd also emphasized its ecosystem of application partners as a key differentiator. Among these partners is a host of demand-side platforms (DSPs) – which underscores the growing collaboration between ad and marketing tech.

“Our customers are insisting they don’t want Rocket Fuel or Turn or Marin or whomever to be disparate from the marketing tech stacks,” Akeroyd said. Many of these partnerships already existed with the BlueKai DMP, which had a reputation for working with every ad tech company.

Akeroyd pledged to uphold that neutrality – which had been a concern among some members of the ad tech and agency communities.

Ultimately, Oracle hopes to establish itself as a leading Marketing Cloud by focusing on the primacy of its tech assets, its app developer community and the quality of its integration. Oracle anticipates its competitors might have strength in one or two of these areas, but not all three.

But if Oracle hopes to claim a fully integrated stack, it still has work to do, primarily in bringing Responsys into the fold.

“Right now, I just gotta make Responsys work really well,” Akeroyd said. “Then my baby step after that will be to get all that DMP data into my Responsys marketing automation engine. Then I’ll need to go from just email [messaging] into display, social and mobile driven responses.”

The next step after that? Hooking Oracle’s ATG Web Commerce application into Responsys’ real-time decisioning (Adobe’s analog, in this case, would be its site content management solution Experience Manager and its personalization engine Target, which are often combined with SAP’s commerce platform, called hybris).

For Oracle, the vision is to put together the stack for its clients so they “won’t have to hire Accenture and spend a million dollars a year and hope that the integration is done,” said Akeroyd. (It’s unclear whether this is an allusion to the recent Adobe-SAP-Accenture trifecta.)

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