BlueKai And Oracle: Agencies Comment On The Concerns And Opportunities

oracle bluekaiIs the union between Oracle and BlueKai, in the words of Ovum Research Senior Analyst Gerry Brown, a case of “the cat amongst the pigeons?”

There might be some credence to the idea. As Brown points out, BlueKai is (or has been) a champion of open systems. Oracle is not.

“Certainly few BlueKai partners will enjoy the idea of being ‘bossed’ by Oracle, especially as there is such a disparity in bargaining power between Oracle’s massive size and the minnows of a nascent online advertising industry,” Brown said. “Also, the idea of potentially being locked into the Oracle world, which is often perceived as proprietary, would not likely be so attractive.”

But what do key agency partners think? AdExchanger questioned six of them and while there were some common considerations (the hope, for instance, that BlueKai’s data exchange continues to operate independently over the long term), the level of concern over the acquisition varied considerably.

Click below or scroll down to read their responses.

Scott Ross, SVP of Technology, Critical Mass

On the best case scenario and what Oracle needs to do to get there:

“From Oracle’s perspective, it makes a lot of sense. We’re in the era of the integrated marketing platform…Oracle has been on the outside and you can argue that Oracle buying BlueKai is an attempt to gain more credibility with marketers around the world. The challenge is that BlueKai has been independent. Its strength is that it can integrate across multiple platforms easily…

The best case scenario is that BlueKai continues to offer what they offer to agencies and marketers before the acquisition, which was a really great MDM (master data management) product and the ability to use that fairly seamlessly across a number of platforms. The best case scenario is the Oracle Marketing Cloud gets better and BlueKai can continue to be used independently, because not every product will be an Oracle cloud solution. I wouldn’t want BlueKai to disappear if Oracle became the prerequisite for using it.”

On the concerns:

“In terms of concerns, it’s a little too early to have any at this point. There were some rumors this would happen. But we need to see what the strategic plan is for BlueKai and Oracle going forward. When you look at what we’re doing and what our clients are looking to do, we want to simplify tech. We don’t want another integration point to worry about.”


Alejandro Correa, Director of Partnerships, Neo@Ogilvy

On the best case scenario and what Oracle needs to do to get there:

“What Oracle and a lot of their competitors [are trying to do is to] be the big integrator. They’re trying to be the alternative to using a ton of point solutions. Once you have a company that has all the capabilities, at least in theory, that range across the spectrum from the CMO to the relatively junior person executing campaigns, that opens the door for marketing departments to become less siloed for channels and tactics. Things that right now are being planned independently can become more coordinated and consistent with each other. That’s the ideal.

How does Oracle get there? To me, the key is to allow each product, because at the end of the day they’ll need to develop each one individually,  to play with other products from other companies. They could either be a well-integrated stack that doesn’t play well with tools from others. Or each product can have its own independent personality and its quirks but they work less well together. It’s about finding that balance so that if I really like Eloqua but still want to use Net Insight as my analytics tool, I can do that and I don’t have to buy fully into a single big product set for everything forever. Because switching these things is very difficult.”

On the concerns:

“Being generous to BlueKai, I don’t think in the short term the acquisition will affect their connectivity to any of the DSPs or any other tools out there that should connect to a DMP. Factor in the time it’ll take Oracle to integrate in a meaningful and significant way and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t remain open to sharing their data with other DSPs. In the short term, I don’t think this is a huge issue.

Now in the mid-to-long term, it could put them in an awkward situation. I imagine that other tech companies are going to go out there and start looking at DMPs and those capabilities. What if someone buys a DSP that has DMP capabilities? Then will the integrations that work with that specific DSP-DMP combination work the same with BlueKai and the rest of that stack? That’s where it gets more interesting.”


Jared Belsky, U.S. President, 360i

On the best case scenario and what Oracle needs to do to get there:

“One [principle benefit to the acquisition] would be to get DMPs to realize their greatest potential. A lot of it is around featureset, data availability and engineering talent. In a situation when [BlueKai was] smaller and independent, there might be situations where they’re not investing to their fullest potential. I would imagine Oracle’s war chest will help them realize their product road map vision sooner rather than later, and that will help clients.

Second, my biggest problem with DMPs is that they’re not built with the plug-ins enough in mind. They have to plug in or plug out to a lot of different things: the DSP, the marketing automation suite or the bid management platform. Oracle [will] hopefully build out [BlueKai’s product road map] with the notion of how a marketing automation suite connects or a social automation suite connects.”

On the concerns:

“Right now, I have not seen any concern from my clients…Most of my clients’ biggest concerns are learning how to integrate their data with BlueKai. One client I can’t name has already invested $600,000 and they’re not yet where they want to be. So my clients are not rattled by [the acquisition]. They believe there’s a lot of value in BlueKai and I believe there is a lot of value in BlueKai. The main focus everyone has is how you get the most value out of it. It’s not something anyone has mastered, and I find people aren’t worried about the politics right now.

[The acquisition] does not present a hurdle or obstacle to any client who wants to work with BlueKai. They’re one of my preferred vendors in this segment and the fact that they’re hooked up with Oracle does not scare myself or any of my clients off. I say that emphatically and with a period right now. The only situations that typically create anxiety for clients is if there’s a deeply entrenched competitor…and they don’t want their data to commingle. Most of my clients are comfortable that these pieces of technology are being bought up by somebody, be it Adobe, Google or Oracle. They realize that’s the reality going forward. If you’re a client and you only work with agnostic platforms, your options are going to be incredibly narrowed down.

When I speak to the most senior marketers, SVPs and CMOs, while at any given moment in time there is a little bit of anxiety that there’s this umbrella situation going on, speaking for myself and the clients I most respect, there’s a general understanding that there’s aggregation and consolidation, and if they only want to operate with independents, they’re not going to be choosing the best options on the market.”


Gurval Caer, Vice Chairman and Chief Innovation & Marketing Officer, Wunderman

On the best case scenario and what Oracle needs to do to get there:

“Oracle [has] very sophisticated professionals so they don’t need my advice, but if I have to, I would say make sure you maintain an arm’s length relationship between the technology stack and the data layer. Any client using Salesforce or Adobe or IBM should have access to the BlueKai DMP and the data. It would be a mistake to couple the Oracle technology stack and the data layer so closely that you absolutely have to use a Responsys or another piece of the Oracle cloud to access that data.”

On the concerns:

“[The acquisition] is a concern. The first level is how Oracle ties its cloud with BlueKai, whether you have to buy into the Oracle cloud to access BlueKai data. So far the marketing cloud is essentially a tech cloud, a software cloud. Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce had a little bit of a data proposition, but it was much about improving the quality of the data that we have…What’s interesting here is this is the first time a cloud gets into the data business…How much will Oracle tie its software stack with the data it requires? Will they make that access better? Will you access more data if you’re using the rest of the cloud? If you’re using Responsys or other parts of the cloud, will you get greater access if you are an Oracle software client versus an Adobe client? Or will an Adobe client have equal access to the BlueKai data?

Conceptually, all of those software stacks have connectors with a whole bunch of data sources, BlueKai being one of them. They didn’t care where that came from. You could tap into Acxiom or Experian or BlueKai or anything. And now will that change? That has consequences for clients and agencies. You have to now make a technology/data decision when you build your marketing infrastructure. Can you decouple that? Or do you have to combine the two to make that decision?

Another concern is, for us…it’s a change of competition. We come from the world of CRM, we have our own data and a lot of data on our servers. We also offer a business line that allows clients to aggregate all their first party data and we can append our own data to their data and we can connect that specific line to any public DMP that exists out there like a BlueKai. BlueKai was both a private and public DMP [and] it was always a competitor from a private DMP standpoint. Oracle is now in the business of both private and public DMPs. So far, Oracle was a partner and is a partner across a variety of places…[Now] you get into that classic situation where Oracle is possibly a partner and a competitor.”


Scott Symonds, Managing Director of Media, AKQA

On the best case scenario and what Oracle needs to do to get there:

“What does Oracle need to do? I don’t know how they’re positioning it right now, but for the time being [BlueKai is] a separate property with no obligations to merge or share clients with Oracle right away. That’s got to be the long term interest, but I don’t know how they could position that. My guess is they’ll have to start shaping it where [BlueKai will] be integrated into the Oracle suite in a way that doesn’t compromise all the value that was driven by their independence or flexibility. It’ll take some fairly delicate marketing. Adobe is the leader in how they’re positioning themselves as an enterprise-level marketing technology provider. But Salesforce hasn’t done that yet. They’ve bought these things and haven’t articulated a marketplace vision yet.”

On the concerns:

“Oracle is still new to me as a potential marketing technology provider. I don’t feel they’re rife with conflict yet. As we start getting these guys bundled whether with Oracle or Salesforce, we start to wonder about their investments and favoritisms…I spoke with a couple of clients today and the honest feedback I got was: “Oh wow these conversations about data and data management platforms are for real.” We haven’t hit the concern level. It’s more at a credibility or verification level right now. [Depending on the sophistication level of the client], the talk about DMPs requires some education, what sort of internal changes they’d require. And to be honest, if you talk about AppNexus or BlueKai or Turn, these are not names that older school clients will [recognize]. It’s not a Salesforce or Adobe level conversation. [The acquisitions] bring [unknown companies] into primetime recognition.

If BlueKai uses the fact that they’re unencumbered and independent as a primary marketing hook or differentiator, that’s obviously compromised here. It’s also interesting that these big stacks, whether Oracle, Salesforce, Google or Adobe, if they start to look more like agencies, will clients want more competitive separation from them?”

Jason Kodish, SVP, North America Strategy & Analytics Lead, DigitasLBi

On the best case scenario and what Oracle needs to do to get there: 

“The promise of the integrated stack, whether it’s Oracle or Adobe or whomever, is the flip-switch model of being able to easily onboard a client and see their customer base across different touches. Making the onboarding process very simple and cutting the overhead cost for procuring multiple different vendors. We have a telecoms client that took five months to onboard from a DMP perspective, then another month to onboard from a live data perspective. Being able to onboard a client on in 30-45 days for the full suite is the biggest promise, and being able to switch when you realize, without have to invest too much into a solution, are the two biggest benefits for agencies that find the right solutions for clients.”

On the concerns:

“For the most part, we assume open architecture no matter which vendor we deal with. As an agency, our clients sometimes have preexisting relationships with different DMPs or DSPs or exchanges. We assume a democratization of vendors. Even if someone has a rigid infrastructure, we either won’t deal with them as a vendor or we’ll work with them to open their infrastructure to other vendors. We’re not a single client, we’re 52 different clients.

In the data space, there is no concentration of power on the vendor provider space. They’re still all in a place of proving it, so there hasn’t been a situation where we haven’t been able to plug-and-play vendors. Adobe is probably the worse of that. They have their solution, they have their six different [Marketing Cloud] offerings cobbled together from acquisitions, and they like to talk about the value of integration, how providing a single suite framework helps in-market.

But they will open up other DMPs into their integrated suite, which isn’t the path they’ve naturally laid out, but they’ll let us do that because otherwise, we’re not going to use their other five services.

I can only imagine that [Oracle] will try to cobble together [their different Marketing Cloud solutions]. They’re not my three favorite, to be honest. I’ve never cobbled [Responsys, Eloqua and BlueKai] together before. But that’s Adobe’s go-to-market platform and if Oracle will compete, they need an integrated solution.”

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  1. Many ad-tech companies have a shared dream – if I can just get adopted by the big agency trading desks, my business and my revenues will take off.

    Well, BlueKai was a poster child for success among many other companies found on the Lumascape. BlueKai was widely adopted by the big agencies and now we know how much revenue that was generating. Not much.

    I DO NOT HAVE ANY INSIDE INFORMATION but here’s a common sense observation. Oracle didn’t by BlueKai to stick with a business model where big agencies can push you around in fee negotiations that are designed to crush yours and maximize theirs. Oracle bought BlueKai so that they can generate a game-changing leap in the quality of the solutions that they bring directly to marketers. I’m just sayin.

  2. Justin Grochoski

    “Oracle is not a proponent of open standards”? Since when? You might want to check in with Oracle more than once a decade – things have changed a bit.

    Linux has been their standard platform before they bought Sun, and Java was their standard language prior to that as well. Most cloud vendors push proprietary languages in their platforms to create some stickiness as well and Oracle is one of the few that uses only open standards to extend, integrate and even run their cloud platforms.