Oracle's acquisition of BlueKai puts spotlight on Marketing Data Management Platforms

  • 27-Mar-2014

As our subscribers know, the digital marketing technology marketplace is rapidly changing and acquisitions are the order of the day.

Continuing its shopping spree of marketing technology vendors, last month Oracle announced the acquisition of BlueKai. BlueKai originally started off as a seller of aggregated consumer data but in recent years has also focused on developing the tools for centrally managing multiple marketing data sets. This toolset is popularly referred to as a Data Management Platform (DMP).

What DMPs Do

So, what exactly is a DMP and what does it do? The context is that disparate (online and offline) sources generate lots and lots of data about consumers. As an enterprise marketer you increasingly want to combine your in-house marketing data with external data sets, for consumer segmentation, targeting, and even measurement.

In many scenarios you’d like to increase the relevance and precision of your content targeting efforts by leveraging different types of data sets:

  • First party data: in-house consumer, prospect, interaction, and transaction data
  • Third party data: external data sets like lists and  profiles that you license
  • Second party data: e.g., data from a partner

A Data Management Platform lets you aggregate, integrate and manage these different data sets through a central interface. It theoretically helps identify different audience segments to optimize advertising, marketing, and ecommerce activities. From a functionality perspective, it lets you specify a taxonomy to organize data, normalize data (e.g. eliminate duplicates), tag data, apply business rules, manage rights, integrate with other tools and ensure privacy rules are not violated.

Marketers have always grappled with the challenge of cross-channel consumer interactions (e.g. web and in-store) but the ubiquity of mobile devices increases the complexity and urgency of cracking that puzzle more than ever. A consumer may start researching about a potential purchase on a home desktop and continue their research on a mobile device while finishing the transaction on yet another computer at work – all at different points of time. Ideally, a marketer would like to target the consumer across all these interactions but it’s not always easy to identify that it is the same user in all three scenarios.

That’s where a DMP tool like BlueKai (along with their audience data marketplace or a large consolidated list of millions of user profiles with detailed behavioral and demographic data) comes into picture – helping you comb through the user profiles and serve appropriate content, and doing this at scale.

Of course, the DMP marketplace is still maturing and in reality the experience does not always work “as advertised.” Enterprises increasingly need a central hub that orchestrates your online marketing and targeting efforts, but it remains unclear whether that hub should constitute a single physical system or platform.

In any case, marketing technologists should ask themselves if their enterprise architectures and systems allow them to work with large internal and external data sets, combining them as needed on a campaign-by-campaign basis.

Oracle and Its Competitors

Coming back to Oracle-BlueKai, Oracle plans to integrate BlueKai with the two previously acquired Responsys (B2C) and Eloqua (B2B) solutions, now part of the Oracle Marketing Cloud. With any acquisition, integration and customer benefits are generally come much further down the road -- especially when dealing with disparate SaaS-based systems. For now, think of Oracle as a large tent where different marketing solutions are available.

At RSG, we talked about the clash of the marketing clouds from Adobe, IBM, Oracle and Salesforce.com. Among these only Adobe has made a DMP play, acquiring a vendor called Demdex, now branded as Adobe Audience Manager. Like Oracle, Adobe too is really just a "tent" here, but the larger point is that major players in the digital marketing space don't want to be left out. Expect to see more DMP-related acquisitions and if you’re considering a DMP, factor that possibility in your evaluations.

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