Adobe Marketing Cloud Pushes Into Programmatic

adobe cloud ad techSo-called marketing clouds have commonly focused on enabling outreach to known customers, which is why they lean heavily on email marketing, CRM and campaign management – while paid media remains an afterthought.

But Adobe, whose annual summit began Monday in Salt Lake City, is diving into ad tech with an upgrade to its Media Optimizer core solution.

“We built from the ground up a self-service user interface around programmatic ad buying,” said Justin Merickel, senior director of Adobe Media Optimizer. “The new experience is built to make it very acceptable to the end user, whether an agency or a direct customer.”

While Media Optimizer isn’t a new Adobe Marketing Cloud application, its strength has been in paid search. Updating Media Optimizer into what Merickel described as a “full-scale self-service DSP” marks Adobe’s “big foray into programmatic.”

As such, Adobe has increased Media Optimizer’s scale – Merickel said it can handle 1 million queries per second – and added DealID support, private exchange support and audience-buying capabilities. It also maintains connections with the traditional ad exchanges, like Rubicon Project, PubMatic and Google’s AdX.

Nevertheless, Adobe is entering a highly competitive space. A full-scale self-service DSP isn’t exactly a new technology and, as mentioned earlier, Media Optimizer used to be biased toward paid search.

“Certainly the display piece has been small for us,” Merickel acknowledged. He wouldn’t say how much display spend runs through the platform, nor would he specify the display-to-search ratio, but he claimed display spend more than tripled in 2014, and he expects another tripling by the end of 2015 due to the new self-service interface. About thirty-five Adobe clients use the DSP part of Media Optimizer, though the vendor is not at liberty to identify them. (Additional fun fact: Thirty percent of Media Optimizer’s display-related spend is mobile.)

But though Adobe is late in introducing its programmatic solution, company leaders say it can compete via integration with the Marketing Cloud. After all, most DSPs are standalones.

“The link between experience, buying, email and creative is a pretty unique value in the market that others can’t deliver,” Merickel said.

This connectivity comes from Adobe’s data-management platform (DMP), Audience Manager, which Adobe has turned into one of its core solutions.

As a part of Audience Manager, Adobe is offering a new capability called Audience Core Services. The feature lets marketers build audience segments and port them across different applications (email, DSP, etc.) within the Marketing Cloud.

Here’s Merickel’s use case: A marketer can use Adobe Analytics (née Omniture) to see what’s driving conversion rates and use the DMP to build segments around where those conversions are tailing off. The intrepid marketer can then port that same segment into an email marketing system to drive an offer, or into the programmatic ad buying DSP to message via online display.

Of course, marketers can’t build those segments in the first place without being able to connect different data assets, like third-party data with a CRM file. Which is why – in yet another Summit news item – Adobe has introduced a data marketplace within its Audience Manager DMP.

“We always had the capability to access third-party data, but the transaction process was less of a marketplace, more of a one-to-one transaction between a customer of the DMP and the data seller,” Merickel said. “Now that transaction is facilitated within the platform.” Naturally, the Audience Manager marketplace is called the Audience Marketplace.

Initially, marketers who wanted to buy data had to set up a contract and relationship directly with the data seller. Now all of that happens much more quickly within the Audience Manager system.

In a sense, Audience Marketplace is similar to data exchanges run by Oracle’s BlueKai or eXelate (soon to be owned by Nielsen). But Amit Ahuja, Adobe’s head of audience and planning, insisted the new marketplace is also very different.

“BlueKai and eXelate buy third-party data sources transparently – that’s the same,” he said. But unlike other data exchanges, Ahuja said, Adobe isn’t selling the data, just providing the forum where it can be bought and sold.

Another differentiator, as per Ahuja: Second-party data is available in Adobe’s marketplace. This is essentially data that brands share with each other. Hypothetically, could sell a list of people who searched its site for off-road vehicles to Jeep through Adobe’s data marketplace.

So to recap, Adobe hopes to be a big player in programmatic by adding new features and a self-service interface to its Media Optimizer solution, and connecting it all to other Marketing Cloud applications.

This ’N That

Obviously, there can’t be a vendor summit without multiple product announcements. Beyond Media Optimizer enhancements, Adobe aims to “extend the value of the cloud into the new areas of Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables,” said Merickel.

From a product standpoint, this extended value manifests in the form of an IoT SDK, designed to let brands measure and analyze activity as they push campaigns out into connected appliances, wearables and whatnot.

Also, Adobe is introducing a platform so marketers can build, manage and measure their mobile apps. The platform is powered by partnerships with various mobile point solution providers – like Vibes, Fiksu, Crittercism, Kochava and AppFigures.

And finally – remember how the Audience Manager DMP is now one of the Marketing Cloud’s core solutions? So is Adobe Primetime – the sell-side video platform analogous to Comcast’s FreeWheel and Facebook’s LiveRail. According to a release, this will let marketers import data assets more fluidly and improve targeting of video ads across devices.

For those keeping track, these two new additions bring the number of Marketing Cloud core solutions to eight. Here’s the current tally: Analytics (web analytics, natch), Experience Manager (content management system), Target (site personalization engine), Campaign (campaign management), Social (social media marketing), Media Optimizer (DSP), Audience Manager (DMP) and Primetime (video SSP/video ad server).

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  1. Adobe is eating the world. In all seriousness, I think that by bundeling everything into one monster of a techstack, prospective clients will have real problems seeing the value of any one particular part. Jack of all trades, master of none comes to mind.

  2. Medium to small business don’t buy Oracle and Adobe marketing cloud today, and they won’t in the future. So while the F1000 will buy… the larger part of the market – medium to small businesses – are going to grow their spend faster and they will spend with the more agile, effective, and adaptive solutions like Adgorithms and our peers.