Gone are the days of sitting on the floor at the Little America hotel, waiting for the slides to cue, as you talked eVars and sProps with the guy from Chevrolet’s campaign measurement team . . . the feverish speculation about the m-box’s compatibility with your server-side tag management system . . . the general geek squad ambience of Salt Lake City in the first sigh of spring.
Ah, Adobe Summit. The first Summit was held in 2004 at the Snowbird Ski Resort, stoked into being by Omniture founder Josh James. To say James and most of the Omniture team were avid snow sporters is just to say they lived in Utah, where the only real question is, “Ski or board?” Acquired by Adobe in 2009, the web traffic measurement tool called Omniture SiteCatalyst became Adobe Analytics, the heart of the Marketing Cloud.
Now 7,000 or so strong and fast outgrowing the Salt Palace Convention Center and adjacent venues, Adobe Summit is an annual show business phenomenon, with a slick events team, seamless presentations, precision crowd handling, well-timed snack arrivals, actual celebrities (Michael Keaton! Steve Young! Michael Lewis! Lauren Lauren!), production-ready animations . . . and product announcements.
I asked Brad Rencher, Adobe’s Digital Marketing business leader, what the “big announcement” was this year. He paused a page load and said, “Well, actually, we had at least eight.” The Cloud has expanded in the way digital marketing has expanded, to encompass “customer experience” more broadly, and as the product suite expands and the team and features grow, announcements amass.
There were big announcements this year. But there were enough that each person attending could (and did) build their own short list. I’ll get to mine in a moment.
For fun, I looked back at some notes for Omniture Summit 2009. (An earlier release of myself was there, as an Omniture user.) Some highlights:
- 2,000 people attended and it was held in two hotels
- Maroon 5 rocked the industrial carpeting at the Grand America
- James’ keynote stressed the importance of “online marketing”
- The big announcement was the “Online Marketing Suite” (note that word “online” again)
- This “suite” consisted mainly of Omniture and something called “Recommendations,” which was the Test & Target A/B testing tool (formerly known as Offermatica)
- Search pundit Danny Sullivan gave a stirring speech encouraging marketers to think “beyond search”
In truth, most of the attendees were hardcore Omniture users and the real announcements were the small tweaks and builds made to the analytics platform itself. We were not marketing visionaries.
Back to 2015. Adobe Analytics remains a focal point for a subset of the crowd, but the theme itself is at a much higher elevation. It’s not an Adobe Analytics event anymore. In fact, as the marketing hub business grows, analytics becomes a service and the real juice of the hub lies in the elements that execute: the content and campaign management systems. The first day keynote has morphed from a check-list of feature updates (each cheered by the squad) to a kind of vision statement and pitch for the integrated hub.
So what does a “hub” look like? In a word: big. It encompasses not just all digital channels, including connected TV, but offline spaces such as stores and — in a particularly vivid demonstration of Adobe Experience Manager (a content management system) — a Coca-Cola billboard in Times Square. It combines advanced analytics with marketing operations. And it’s encompassing more of the customer experience “on the glass” each year. (“On the glass” is Adobe’s latest synonym for that old, old “online.”)
Of course, most Adobe customers don’t use all — or even most — of the marketing hub. And not all of its potential applications unspool as smoothly as they do on stage. But a corporate Summit is an inspirational event. I have no doubt that six years from now, someone will look back on their notes from this Adobe Summit and find the use of the word “digital” every bit as quaint as 2009’s “online.” Digital marketing will be marketing — until marketing itself disappears and becomes, simply, business.
For what it’s worth, the Big Four announcements I heard at this year’s Summit were:
1. Audience Portability – An audience is a group of prospects or customers that can be addressed using digital channels: they’re the subsets of the total audience for the brand. In the past, we could define an “audience” in Adobe Analytics for analytical purposes, but to recreate that same segment to, say, send an email from Adobe Campaign (formerly Neolane) or to personalize content on the website or mobile app, required manual step-by-step recreation. Adobe has made strides to automate this process and integrate it with the master marketing profile core service.
2. Campaign Joins the Hub – Adobe Campaign, the multichannel campaign management (MCCM) component of the hub, has taken some time to integrate with its siblings. Indeed, one of the constant off-the-record themes this year was just how difficult codebase meshing can be (“blood, sweat and tears,” in the words of one product manager). Since Adobe’s hub has been assembled via acquisitions, there’s a lot of that difficult work going on. The MCCM has been notoriously, um, distinct, since the Neolane acquisition two years ago. It’s now a member of the family.
3. Advertising Arrives – For the first time that I noticed, advertising was mentioned with respect from the keynote stage: specifically, the explicit recognition during both CEO Shantanu Narayen’s and Brad Rencher’s presos that advertising technology and marketing technology were part of the same mind space for marketers. Adobe Audience Manager, formerly Demdex, is a data management platform that can take the aforementioned audiences and extend them into advertising channels, layering on third-party data to improve targeting. Adobe Media Optimizer, formerly Efficient Frontier, started with search but is becoming a true demand side platform. DMP/DSP’s are not unique to Adobe, of course, but it’s rare to hear a big player strategically (and technically) commit to a soft landing for ad tech and marketing tech.
4. Here Comes Creative Cloud – Adobe’s Creative Cloud is a big business — bigger than marketing — but it has always functioned separately. The division has been both strategic and organizational: Creative has its own event, its own vibe, its own offices. It’s the Salt Lake City Adobe vs the San Francisco Adobe. This year, for the first time, the Creative Cloud was woven into the narrative with some precision. Narayen spent more than a few processing cycles honoring the 25th anniversary of Photoshop, and the Marketing Cloud now officially includes Adobe Prime Time, which is a video player and video supply-side platform used by big media and entertainment companies. None of this constitutes a merger of Creative and Marketing within the Adobe universe, but it could be read as a very big hint that such a combination is well underway.
Until next year, peace.