It’s getting harder and harder to remember what marketing was like before it became part of the cloud. IBM, which has been offering a variety of cloud-based marketing, analytics and sales services, announced this week a potentially unifying Digital Marketing Network that integrates the services of more than 100 vendor partners. 

The Network is designed to help CMOs and their teams use, integrate and improve the effectiveness of marketing services for. To do that, the company is providing a ready-made integration between solutions that marketers have been using, without the need for on-the-spot custom integration.

Digital Marketing Partners

IBM has rounded up vendor partners in a variety of fields. Solutions integrated into the new Network include ad networks (in conjunction with Criteo, Google), data management platforms (BlueKai, x+1), demand-side platforms (The Trade Desk, Turn), gamification (Badgeville), privacy management (Evidon), search marketing (Doubleclick Search, Marin Software), social engagements/loyalty (Bazaarvoice, CrowdTwist), social media marketing (Shoutlet) and voice-of-the-customer feedback (OpinionLab).

Vendors’ services are integrated with IBM’s AdTarget, which employs user behavioral data for better ad targeting, with IBM LiveMail, which aligns email providers with marketing services, and with IBM’s Digital Data Exchange unified tag management solution. At the moment, the platform will not accommodate media buying itself, but is intended to direct data to software that does buy media.

The Network, based on IBM’s Digital Marketing Optimization Platform, can provide real-time analytics -- one of IBM’s core strengths -- for such services as the Google Display Network, Google's DoubleClick Search or gamification vendor Badgeville, so that campaigns can better understand how to tailor customer experience to buying behaviors.

Unifying Structure?

The company cites the experience of promotional business gift provider, which is using the Network to engage customers with display ads that are more relevant to their needs, and to allow dispersed clients to implement their own campaigns. Mark Pepin said in a statement that the Network "gives the ability to have our business community independently implement our digital marketing campaigns and has greatly empowered us to own the complete campaign experience from creation, implementation, monitoring and analysis."

This aggregation and integration of services builds on other IBM cloud- and marketing-oriented initiatives and acquisitions, such as its recent release of a social media analytics software-as-a-service for marketing and sales departments, the acquisition in June of cloud storage solutions provider SoftLayer, the purchases of marketing software provider Unica and Web analytics firm Coremetrics in 2010 and of customer experience analytics provider Tealeaf last year. This new Network could provide IBM with a unifying structure and brand for its many-faceted marketing- and sales-oriented services.

IBM may also begin to use its heft to help streamline the increasingly complex marketing services field, as it has done recently in, say, open source cloud technology. One effort, announced simultaneously with the Network, points in that direction. Big Blue announced that it is chairing the drive to establish a new digital marketing industry standard for “streamlined tag data management,” in conjunction with the World Wide Web Consortium. Tag management is key to many of these marketing services, and the W3C issued a draft spec in July to accelerate the provisioning of new services and improve performance.