Oracle's BlueKai bid moves marketing cloud closer to ad tech

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan March 2, 2014
In another marketing cloud offensive, Oracle last week announced plans to buy big data marketing platform BlueKai and its flagship Data Activation System.

In another marketing cloud offensive, Oracle last week announced plans to buy big data marketing platform BlueKai and its flagship Data Activation System, which allows marketers to track consumers across mobile and desktop platforms by combining data from multiple sources.

Oracle also gets what is pitched as the world's largest third-party data marketplace, which holds more than 700 million customer profiles and makes them available to marketing organizations. That’s pretty valuable data at a time of increased competition on the marketing cloud front line.

BlueKai takes proprietary data and augments it with external information from more than 200 third-party providers, which is then held within a single repository, creating a richer data set for use in personalized cross-channel campaigns and customer interactions.

Oracle executive vice president of Applications Development Steve Miranda said:

"Modern marketers require new ways of acquiring, centralising, interpreting, and activating customer data across marketing channels so that they can enhance the customer experience and maximise the return on their marketing spend.

"The addition of BlueKai to the Oracle Marketing Cloud enables marketers to act on data across both known customers and new audiences and precisely target customers with a personalised message across all channels."

Some official BlueKai stats to illustrate what Oracle's picking up here:

  •  200 billion activities on the BlueKai Data Marketing Platform generating more than 7.5 trillion outputs per month.
  • Customers include  3 of the top US Wireless Telcos,  3 of the top US Retailers and 3 of the top US Banks.
  • A data marketplace with more than 30,000 data attributes including intent, B2B, past purchases, geo/demo, interest/lifestyle, branded and qualified demographics.
  •  Over 700 million global profiles.
  • More than 200 participating data providers.

BlueKai's services will obviously be integrated into Oracle's B2C marketing platform Responsys and the B2B Eloqua.

Beyond that, Oracle’s plans are thin on public detail at the moment as Sylvia Jensen, Director of EMEA Marketing at Oracle Eloqua told me at the Technology for Marketing show in London last week 24 hours after the deal was announced.

Jensen did restate Oracle’s basic marketing philosophy:

“How modern marketing works is you have consumers going online so that by the time they talk to sales, they’re much further along the line than before. Marketing is responsible for educating buyers deeper into the sales funnel. It is able to enable sales with information about how buyers are integrating with marketing. We give that digital body language to give them visibility of what they’re doing.”

She added that there are five tenets of modern marketing based on some research among 250 B2B organisations in the US and 250 in the UK. Those are:

  • Targeting and what it means in a digital world
  • Engagement through content and the channel.
  • Conversion once customers have been targeted and engaged with.
  • Analytics and how you measure the ROI through digital technologies.
  • Marketing technology and the need to have a platform that not only works today but tomorrow.

Where to for BlueKai?

While we wait for more detail on the plans for BlueKai, Angela Eager at research firm Techmarketview notes:

BlueKai is one of an emerging breed of applications based on data sets. The value derives from the data not the functions embodied in the software and these applications have the potential to open up new business areas and revenue streams for providers.

We have seen this in the consumer world (Amazon, Google, LinkedIn and Facebook are all data driven applications, while Tesco has capitalised on customer data from its loyalty cards to move into video on-demand and financial services).

The style of execution varies but data driven applications are moving into the enterprise space too (Tableau, QlikTech, Tibco Spotfire are examples - see the Visual Data Discovery report from the ESASViews research stream) as is credit reference site Experian. BlueKai is another enterprise example. It marks Oracle’s move into the space, so competitors will be sure to follow.

Susan Bidel at Forrester raises some interesting questions, specifically:

  • How effective will Oracle be in truly integrating BlueKai into its systems, or will BlueKai simply be tacked on?
  • What will be Oracle’s position with regard to first-party data protection?
  • Does the BlueKai acquisition do anything to enhance Oracle’s mobile capabilities?
  • More broadly, this acquisition has the potential to reshape the future of the DMPs space and also puts customer data managemen
    t squarely at the top of any marketer’s priority list.

Meanwhile I like the reasoning from  Gartner’s Andrew Frank who sees wider ‘ad tech’ implications, noting that the marketing cloud shopping spree that the likes of and Oracle has been on has essentially steered clear of the ad tech space.

But that could be about to change, he reckons:

Somewhere along the line, the ad tech vendors made an important discovery. In solving the problem of how to best target and trade display ads in real-time, they’d actually solved a much bigger problem that’s bedevilled marketers for some time: how to effectively apply data to optimize their marketing operations in real-time.

They realized the algorithms that could optimize display ads sold on real-time exchanges could also optimize email, the web site, mobile communications, even the call center and direct mail. They also realized that, although they’d focused initially mostly on third-party data collected in cookies, by combining this with their customers’ first party data they could produce even better results. They added better analytics and started to acquire complementary technologies like attribution and tag management (which were also making the same discoveries).

This made the software megavendors see them in a new light. They began to realize that ad tech – DMPs in particular – would be a key integration point in the comprehensive marketing solutions they were constructing.

Franks postulates that the BlueKai deal might trigger a wave of ad tech consolidation into megavendor marketing suites.

But he adds:

Ad tech is still retains its “Wild West” image, struggling with issues like privacy and fraud. Perhaps as the megavendors bring them on board, they’ll also bring resources and experience to tame these issues and reassure the public more successfully than Google and Facebook. Still, I doubt they’ll ever be comfortable with the idea that a “data management platform” is an ad tech product. Some things are a matter of principle.


An interesting acquisition that plays clearly to Oracle's data management heart and soul and should provide an obvious B2C  boost to its marketing cloud ambitions.

In the 'tit for tat' acquisition spree that's been underway around marketing tech, the next question I imagine must be whether will pitch a like-for-like response to bolster its own data targeting capabilities?


Disclosure: at time of writing Oracle and are premium partners of diginomica.