- Oracle says it wants to help big marketers prove that their ads work.
- The company is betting that its acquisition of Moat gives it a leg up on competitors.
- Oracle says it can tie real-world actions like sales with time spent with ads.
Chief marketing officers are under increasing pressure to do two things.
They’re being asked to take an industry that was known for being all art and infuse it with big data. Second, they’re being asked to use that data to prove that all the billions they spend on advertising actually works.
Oracle says it can deliver on both fronts.
The enterprise tech giant was once a company associated with CIOs and IT managers. But increasingly Oracle is emerging as the most intriguing, potentially integral company in the marketing industry, say insiders.
Earlier this year, Oracle spent more than $850 million to acquire Moat, an analytics company that specializes in helping marketers make sure their digital ads are able to be seen by real people for a reasonable amount of time.
Besides the hefty price tag, the deal turned heads in the ad world, as many might have expected Moat to sell to a research company like Nielsen or a dominant ad seller like Google.
The question that many still have regarding Oracle’s somewhat mysterious role in the ad ecosystem is: What’s the plan?
Like Adobe, Salesforce, and IBM, Oracle is one of a handful of enterprise-software giants looking to play a key role in the “marketing cloud” arena. While their offerings and services vary, these companies essentially provide marketers with software and tools to help them store and analyze data to make better decisions on whom to market to, and how.
Each has been acquisitive in the “ad tech-martech” space. For example, last year, Adobe purchased the web-video ad-buying tech firm TubeMogul. Salesforce purchased Krux, a data-management platform favored by many digital advertisers and publishers.
But Oracle, given its clout and deep pockets, might be most intriguing at the moment. While many of these companies can claim to help marketers keep track of all their ad spending, Oracle may have the most influence when it comes to steering where those ad budgets are spent and not spent.
“They are building the complete third-party identity system,” says Eric Franchi, an ad-tech investor. “Every marketer wants this. And they want that outside of Google and Facebook’s systems. Plus, everybody is already an Oracle customer. Even if all the ad money goes to Google and Facebook, brands will all pay Oracle to target and measure it.”
Business Insider spoke with Eric Roza, senior vice president and general manager of the Oracle Data Cloud, and Jonah Goodhart, cofounder of Moat, about what Oracle does and doesn’t want to do.
“We’re very much playing our own game here,” Roza says. “Our focus is on being the data and analytics infrastructure for the industry. One that’s independent and trusted.”
Given that independence pledge, don’t expect Oracle to get into the ad-transactions business. That means despite some speculation to the contrary, Oracle is not likely to buy an ad-tech company focused on buying or selling ads anytime soon.
“We are not in the media-activation business,” Roza says. “You don’t have to worry about us. We will not do that. You can be very confident that we don’t have an agenda here. We’re not gonna sell you media.”
Like many marketing-cloud companies, Oracle can help a big marketer make sense of all its data, so an airline can keep databases of frequent flyers and a retailer can track which customers get its email offers and which ones buy the most frequently.
Over the past few years, Oracle has added pieces to make its marketing cloud more vibrant. For example, in 2014 it acquired BlueKai, a company that helps marketers crunch data for digital-ad targeting. Last year it acquired AddThis, a firm that compiles data on where people go when they surf the web.
“They have a very clear vision,” says John Dempsey, a former Oracle data-cloud executive. “Oracle is great at closing large, recurring enterprise deals with the Fortune 500. With the Data Cloud, Oracle can be the center of a brand’s entire data strategy, from activation of their own first-party data to gaining a full picture of what consumers are buying in the real world.”
Indeed, the game changer for Oracle a few years ago was its $1.2 billion acquisition of Datalogix. That Colorado-based firm collects vast reams of consumer-purchase data from stores, credit cards, loyalty cards, and the like. Datalogix, now called the Oracle Data Cloud, is used by Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and many marketers to try to connect whether digital ads leads to real-world purchases.
“That’s the piece that no one else has,” says one insider.
Still, even as Oracle teams up with more digital platforms, getting giant marketers to commit to putting all their data eggs in Oracle’s basket will be challenging. That’s because so many big marketers operate different divisions with different needs, goals, and budgets. So flexibility in who they partner with on data is crucial, says Bryan Wiener, the executive chairman at ad agency 360i.
“To commit to a single platform, you’re making a very large and complex bet,” he says. “So many organizations are organized with fragmented goals. That’s gonna be a slow slog.”
Key for Oracle will be proving that its tools provide clear advantages that other cloud companies don’t offer, Wiener adds.
Moat theoretically fits that bill. But given Roza’s point about being the marketing industry’s default data and analytics infrastructure, it’s fair to ask, why buy Moat? The startup is perhaps best known as being one of the vendors many web publishers have turned to over the past several years to track “viewability,” that is, whether or not the ads they sell can actually be seen on people’s screens.
So what does Oracle want with Moat, which ostensibly helps advertisers make sure they aren’t getting ripped off in ad buys, if Oracle doesn’t want to be involved in ad buys?
Well, if the future of digital marketing requires proving not just that ads get seen but gauging how much time or exposure people need with ads to be influenced (and ideally run out and buy things), the kind of data Moat collects should prove vital.
“If you’re a marketer trying to figure out how to win in new world, which may be 75% mobile in a few years, you need to understand attention and measurement,” says Goodhart. “Did I reach the right audience, and what happened?”
“The blind spot we’ve had is attention,” adds Roza. “We knew we can get the right ad to the right person. Now, marketers can make way better decisions than they [have historically been able to] do about whether their ads worked.”
Ideally, that won’t just apply to web ads down the road. Moat has already been signing deals with TV networks like Fox to help track their ads. And the hope is to play a bigger role in the TV industry as it becomes less analog.
Might there be more acquisitions? Roza didn’t rule it out. Tracking attention and marketing effect only gets “more and more challenging over time,” he says.
“Anywhere you can measure digital, we will be there,” Goodhart adds.