Dreamforce: Taking Stock Of Salesforce’s Integration Into Ad Tech

dreamforce cloudThe marketing clouds were heavy with ad tech this week.

On Wednesday, Adobe uncorked its self-serve programmatic platform. On Thursday, MediaMath and Oracle hooked up. And of course, Salesforce is concluding its annual Dreamforce blowout, where Scott McCorkle, CEO of its Marketing Cloud, laid out to AdExchanger how the CRM giant thinks about ad tech.

Salesforce’s most recent development on that front happened back in June, when it connected – via its Active Audiences API – to five data onboarding partners. The total list now includes Oracle’s Datalogix, LiveIntent, Acxiom’s LiveRamp, Neustar, Krux and Viant.

Salesforce’s philosophy is different from Adobe and Oracle, both of which are gradually taking more ownership roles in ad tech. Adobe has its data-management platform (DMP), Audience Manager, as well as its demand-side platform (DSP), Media Optimizer. Oracle bought ad industry mainstays Datalogix and BlueKai.

By contrast, Salesforce is comfortable with partnering, McCorkle said, and doesn’t anticipate that philosophy changing soon.

“Our strength is being a first-party data store, being the CRM and managing all first-party touchpoints,” he said. “Partnering with ad tech has worked really well for us.”

That concentration on managing first-party data is one of the reasons why Gartner Research ranked the Salesforce Marketing Cloud suite highly. Most of Salesforce’s advertising activity occurs through its product Social.com, which enables targeted ad placement on social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. (Salesforce declined to break out how much spend goes through Social.com, only saying that it was “considerable.”)

In other words, marketing can support email campaigns with targeted ads on social networks and possibly beyond, since Social.com hooks into the Facebook and Twitter ad networks.

“That we have social as our foundation of capabilities was a purposeful choice we made,” McCorkle said. “Identity-based advertising is analogous to identity-based messaging.”

To go beyond the purview of Social.com, marketers will need to use one of the Active Audiences partners.

“Our interface with those other [ad tech partnerships] is our path there,” McCorkle said.

Partners Datalogix, LiveRamp, Neustar, Krux and Viant can onboard the data into a marketer’s chosen DMP for segmentation or to a chosen DSP for the actual ad-buying activity. (LiveIntent onboards data as well, but its business is a little different in that it also buys and places ads in email messages.)

Salesforce argues that it activates first-party data against paid media and lets marketers choose which ad tech partners to work with. As to Oracle’s recent announcement that it’s bringing elements of MediaMath’s workflow into its email marketing platforms, Salesforce claims it’s enabled that for a year, via its drag-and-drop Journey Builder campaign interface.

Is there an advantage to having a direct connection to a buying platform like MediaMath? Possibly “down the line with single source analytics,” concedes Salesforce’s product marketing manager Zachary Reiss-Davis. Basically, having that direct connection to a buying platform could enable marketers to pull richer data more quickly.

That being said, McCorkle said there’s more for Salesforce to do in ad tech. He didn’t comment on any upcoming partnerships, though he said there would be more, possibly before the end of this year.

In the meantime, many of the ad tech players active in partnering with marketing tech vendors continue to debate on where else to integrate, and Salesforce naturally figures into that conversation.

However, it’s largely up to marketers to catalyze these connections. Salesforce partnered with Krux, McCorkle said, in part because the two had many shared clients. That’s also one reason Oracle partnered with MediaMath.

But despite the benefits of pushing first-party data into a paid media environment (Salesforce claims its CRM-powered ad buys have an 80% higher engagement rate than ads not bought with first-party data), marketers are still hesitant to dive into the deep end.

Online dating app Zoosk, a Social.com client, isn’t currently using Salesforce’s data onboarding connections for that reason.

“We’re jealous of our data,” said Zoosk’s senior director of monetization Daniel Mori. “And we are very careful of exposing too much of our performance to the outside world.”

He anticipates eventually taking the plunge, understanding that the performance boost might be too much to resist. Adding first-party data to media buys, he said, is likely the future of marketing.

But for now, Mori is content to wait and see how his peers do it.

“That’s one area where we’re not interested in being ahead of the curve,” he said. “First-party data is one of the biggest themes of the day today, and we’re not necessarily interested in being a leader in that space. We want to be protective of our data for the time being and play it safe.”

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