If anyone had any doubts about the seriousness of Oracle’s intention to be leader in digital marketing solutions, its decision to buy Datalogix should erase all skepticism. (Announcement here.)
Most industry watchers predicted that Datalogix, a leader in tying offline consumer purchase data to online identity and behavior, was about to be acquired by Nielson or Adobe. Facebook, with whom Datalogix has partnered to tie ads to purchases, was also mentioned as a possibility. But Oracle, whose recent purchase of BlueKai thrust it into the unfamiliar world of ad tech (see Oracle Brings Ad Tech Into Its Marketing Cloud With BlueKai Acquisition), now doubles down on its data-driven consumer marketing bona fides.
It’s also now a major player in the demolition of the wall between marketing tech and ad tech, in line with Gartner’s recent assertions of convergence in the form of digital marketing hubs (see Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs – subscription required). Oracle’s announcement tellingly points out that Datalogix, which competes with media and marketing analytics companies such as comScore, Nielsen, IRI, Epsilon and Acxiom (especially since acquiring LiveRamp), works with 82 of the top 100 US advertisers – household brands like Ford and Kraft – as well as 7 of the top 8 digital media publishers, including Facebook and Twitter. In other words, it’s at the epicenter of the advertising analytics world.
This is still uncharted territory for a company like Oracle, and it comes with some risks. For one thing, it moves Oracle closer to the perennial privacy controversy surrounding behavioral advertising and tracking. The deal certainly marks how far we’ve come since 1999, when DoubleClick’s acquisition of Abacus, a catalog company, launched a privacy uproar and FTC investigation that resulted in DoubleClick changing course and selling Abacus to Epsilon at a loss. In contrast, concerns about tying offline purchase data – which Datalogix tracks chiefly through loyalty cards – to online targeting seem quaint today.
Still, big data privacy issues continue to play in the media, as evident from Wired’s choice of headline: “Oracle Buys the Company Facebook Uses to Track Your Offline Purchases”. Although marketing data providers like Acxiom, Neustar, and Oracle’s BlueKai use cryptographic techniques to ensure that personally identifiable data (PII) is unintelligible to third-parties, some activists take the position that anonymous tracking is still tracking and that “anonymized” profiles can be re-identified with enough data points (especially for a company like Facebook). Oracle now finds itself in the company of data brokers who are targets of the privacy activist movement.
Beyond this, bringing Datalogix into Oracle’s Marketing Cloud is bound to expose some culture gaps. In one sense, the emergence of data as a key currency for marketers – by some accounts exceeding the value of media, on which marketers spend more than half a trillion dollars a year – has brought the marketing tech buyer to Oracle’s front door. But as they arrive, Oracle might find its sales pitch needs some adjusting. When Oracle says, “the addition of Datalogix represents a further extension of Oracle’s Public Cloud strategy to combine IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and Data as a Service on a common cloud…” a lot of marketers will hear “IT IT blah blah blah” and wonder if they’re in the wrong place.