Blog post

Mar-Tech and Ad-Tech: A Shotgun Wedding?

By Martin Kihn | January 23, 2015 | 3 Comments


Last week, I committed a piece in AdExchanger’s “Data-Driven Thinking” column about the inevitable and ongoing collision of ad tech and marketing tech.

[Aside for those in the back row: “Ad tech” refers to players in the advertising technology multiverse that hurl ads into the browsers and devices of prospects — high fliers like Rocket Fuel and Turn and behemoths like Google and so on. “Marketing tech” refers to multichannel campaign management systems and CRM platforms like Oracle’s Responsys and Eloqua or Marketo or Salesforce.]

So my piece in AdExchanger made this point: Ad tech and marketing tech are colliding. You see it in the seams, the data management platforms and tag management systems and data onboarding systems and attribution vendors that have been the object of so much recent investment banking ardor. And this thesis forms the spiritual core of Gartner’s recent Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs (subscription required), which places ad tech major domos like Turn and Rocket Fuel [x+1] alongside marketing tech cats like Marketo and comprehensive cloud stacks from Adobe and IBM and Oracle.

Yes, we say, marketers want a view across first- and third-party data; they want to be able to find audiences like their current customers in addressable ad channels; they want to retarget people who have shown an interest in their mojo. Notwithstanding considerable technical and even legal concerns, marketers want a world where ad tech and marketing tech are not two different things. They just do.

Everybody knows this? Right.

That’s what they say. Here at AdExchanger’s annual Industry Preview event at the Grand Hyatt in midtown Manhattan this week, LUMA Partners’ ubiquitous ad tech i-banker Brian Anderson flashed his various “LUMAscapes” and pointed to the intersection of ad and mar tech as “something we’ve been talking about for years.” Vigorous head nodding from Forrester’s Shar van Boskirk, who made the case for a customer-centric contextual relevance “engine” that can be custom-built or assembled from a satchel of vendors and looks a lot like what we could call a digital marketing hub.

So it’s official: What was — just one year ago — a radically odd idea, that CRM and advertising were in a deadeye trajectory, has become just-like-this common sense. Taken for granted. Benign.

And yet … there is a lot more talk than action here. I came away from Industry Preview thinking we analysts have jumped ahead of the market, and most of us are underestimating the scale of change we’re assuming. I think we’re a lot further away from convergence than we think.

To put a point on it: Big software companies are just not comfortable with the ad business. They don’t like it. They don’t want any part of it, and they aren’t sure they should . It’s not what they’re saying, of course. But it is how they’re acting.

This message came across vividly during a panel discussion on “The Changing Digital Marketing Technology Landscape,” moderated by ad tech doyenne Joanna O’Connell. On the panel were representatives from the leading marketing cloud solutions, namely, Adobe, IBM, Salesforce and Oracle. In case you were wondering, yes, they all start with the customer. They all focus on driving omni-channel engagement. They all think it’s important to measure and optimize.

They agreed on everything, in fact, except advertising. When the topic of ad tech came up, I.B.M.’s Kevin Bishop all but made the sign of the cross while he explained, “We do that through partners.” Meanwhile, Salesforce CSO Michael Lazerow, formerly of Buddy Media, explained how enabling targeted ad buys on a few social platforms was plenty. And even Oracle’s Alex Hooshmand, representing a cloud with a leading data management platform for advertisers, kept his ad ambitions firmly anchored in the data layer.

Only Adobe’s Suresh Vittal did not visibly bristle at the premise that marketers would like to manage and execute all marketing and advertising programs within the same group of technologies. On this panel, at least, Adobe seemed the most comfortable with the actual — as opposed to the merely hypothetical — marriage of mar tech and ad tech.

Think about Adobe as a company for a moment. It is, in fact, two different cultures. People who work there will admit this freely (off the record). There’s the Creative Cloud people, designers and web types. And there’s the Marketing Cloud, built on Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture among many others. Creative is a San Francisco animal. Marketing is a Salt Lake City child. They have separate events; their employees look different. Adobe is in many ways a highly functional dual personality.

I suspect this cultural artifact is the reason Adobe seems more viscerally comfortable with the shotgun wedding. Unlike many other big software companies, it’s made a working relationship out of two very different personalities. It is comfortable with creatives. It enters into this union with an open heart.

There is more to come, of course. Every marketing cloud has at least a handshake with ad partners, and these relationships will grow. But I don’t think ad techies are going to find enterprise-focused technology stacks as warm and loving as we’d like.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Jayden Carter says:

    Wow, great stuff here, thanks for this great article.Great job!

  • We agree that the scale of this change is enormous, but equally big is the opportunity that bringing together disparate parts of the marketing effort and creating a more accurate understanding of the whole customer life cycle – from unknown audience to well-known, loyal individual – presents. The category of “marketing middleware” that you and Scott Brinker have written about, and customer data platforms (CDPs) in particular, will facilitate this convergence by enabling a more seamless integration and sharing of customer profile and interaction data which is what fuels the ROI across the broader marketing tech stack. These new breed platforms could even provide for the connective tissue as brands face the awkward but not uncommon challenge of having multiple marketing ‘clouds’ partially implemented under one roof. Marketing middleware vendors/Customer Data Platforms, like BlueConic, are gaining traction and are proving their value. They will bring greater visibility and accountability to marketing and advertising and help drive the organizational changes required to take advantage. It’s going to be an incremental transition while we are in the early going, but we see this this trend to picking up steam every day as our customers are asking for it.

  • Marketing and advertising technologies are doing the same thing. Using data to make decisions. The advantage ad tech has is that it is being built to make more decisions. The advantage mar tech has is that it has better data to make decisions. Data is portable so I think ad tech has the upper hand in the race to the future.