Oracle’s Kevin Akeroyd: Without Data, You’re Chasing Unicorns

oracleKevin Akeroyd, SVP and GM of the Oracle Marketing Cloud, warned a crowd of 1,500 marketers Wednesday to “beware false marketing clouds.”

All jokes aside, Akeroyd did not mince words about competitors’ perceived strengths at the Oracle Marketing Cloud Interact 2014 event in San Francisco.

“It’s not just web analytics and it’s not going to come from cutting a list from a data warehouse,” he said. “It’s certainly not sales force automation.” Akeroyd’s statement was simple: Oracle will supply your marketing, media, audience-based and customer data needs.

It’s a bold statement, considering Akeroyd acknowledged in an interview earlier that day that “two years ago, when you picked up the phone and said, ‘I’m going to go get me some Marketing Cloud,’ Oracle was not necessarily the name that would come to mind.”

Oracle’s top inhibitor, Akeroyd said, are perceptions around Oracle’s level of openness. “People give us credit for acquiring best-of-breed brands, but they’re not so sure what Oracle will do with them,” he explained. “Which is why we’re trying to overcome that perception.”

Oracle has busily integrated the many marketing systems and technologies it acquired in the last year, including data-services company and data-management platform BlueKai, content-marketing company Compendium and cross-channel campaign tool Responsys.

One key area of integration for the Oracle Marketing Cloud is mobile, particularly Push IO, an enterprise mobile services and push notification provider Oracle acquired through its Responsys buy.

“It’s a channel and another data point where the marketer can send tailored messages in-app,” Akeroyd explained. “If I stitch BlueKai into that, it will tell the marketer Kevin doesn’t open emails anymore, but is consistently on mobile. The more you tie in, the more value there is to the consumer.”

Akeroyd separately spoke with reporters and answered a few questions for AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What’s the integration status on BlueKai, Responsys, etc.?

KEVIN AKEROYD: Unlike in the past, where it was enough to buy best-of-breed, I believe the winners are going to be people who are very committed to integration technically, between people and best practices. Integration is going to become just as important as buying best-of-breed. We believe we’re good at it.

Go back a year with Eloqua and we had to integrate it into our sales force automation and some of our social systems within six months. You don’t normally hear that from a vendor. You’re still asking them about integration two years later. Not to name any names, but I know some of my competitors are three years in and still haven’t done a lot of integration. When we bought Compendium, we had [content marketing], launched native and were live within Eloqua within four months post-acquisition. We’ve gotten to be very good with some of the “wave one” investments, and you should expect us to be equally aggressive around these “wave two” technologies like BlueKai and Responsys, which are new to the family.

Who’s your biggest competitor in the paid, earned and owned space?

The point solution and application is alive and well. The software vendors like IBM, Adobe, and Oracle have all invested aggressively in this space over the last five to seven years and it’s accelerating. As ad tech and marketing tech converge and as [clients] start managing their customer from awareness, which is advertising, all the way through to consideration, purchase, repeat purchase, they need to manage data, content, messaging and automation of delivery and analytics. It draws a whole bunch of players who used to just play in one part of the life cycle to look at this much more holistically. Anyone who’s got a vested stake in the outcome is part of it.

The reason we went out and got Compendium for content and the reason we got BlueKai as the leading audience data marketplace and data-management platform was to manage first-, second- and third- (party data) and paid, earned and owned media. If all you do is throw more software containers and just focus on the delivery and don’t get to the underlying data and content issues, it won’t be as effective than just focusing on delivery and marketing automation. I still believe we’re the only player who decided to make a major investment in a content-marketing platform and integrated it into their delivery system.

Adobe has the data and content piece as well as high-speed infrastructure via SAP’s analytics platform HANA. Will Oracle ever run on HANA?

One of the best analogies I like to use is “Garanimals,” [Ed: This is a line of children’s clothing depicting animals] where you’ve got the zebra top and the zebra bottom. If you insist on putting a giraffe top and a lion bottom together, we’re not going to stop you. Do hundreds of my customers pipe in Omniture web data on a daily basis as standard operating procedure? Absolutely. Does BlueKai fuel hundreds of execution platforms we don’t own? Daily. Until or if I integrate so well that want to put the lion bottom and lion top together because there’s so much value to be created, then it’s incumbent upon me to make sure I work with another vendor of choice, whether it’s an analytics, data or execution vendor.

Customers spend half of their calories managing disparate data sets and doing disparate reporting. Half of my calories that should be focused on customer management are focused on data and system management. We think our customers would like to see more tops and bottoms match. It’s so tempting to get vocal and opinionated about competitors. If there are a couple of fundamental things we think will differentiate us – if you don’t solve the data issue, everything else is a unicorn. You read about it, you hear about it, it’s a mythical beast. None of what we’ve talked about can happen if you don’t solve the consolidated, unified customer data issue. We frankly don’t believe you will get there with web analytics as a start or a sales force automation contact database as your core.

You’ve talked a lot about tools, but what about systems integration services?

All of the Oracle Marketing Cloud acquisitions we’ve made had some nice best-of-breed services that came along with them, so we have maintained and invested in those very specialized services. Do we fancy ourselves big data pipes folks between disparate systems where we haven’t made an integration? No. Do we fancy ourselves as management consultants that can replace McKinsey? No.

We believe we will maintain a very core, very specialized set of services that are very specific to the functions we do for our customers, but the opportunity we create from a strategy, data, systems and customer journeying around multichannel and content – and the opportunity we create for agencies that partner with the CMO and traditional system integrators that stitch all this together – is what we do. All the stuff around strategy and process and change management – the brain and agency services around it are growing as a result of these marketing clouds.

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