Oracle Our Marketing Cloud Is the Biggest Interact14

Oracle kicked off its Interact 2014 conference today by noting it has added 350 marketing applications and data partners in the past year. That's resulted in "the industry's largest marketing technology ecosystem."

As part of that, Oracle said its AppCloud now includes 235 fully integrated apps. Its BlueKai program has about 300 partners in data, media, privacy and technology that leverage BlueKai data for solutions that extend beyond ad targeting.

The announcements, issued hours before the conference opened, said the growth means clients can more easily build a personal dialogue with customers across channels, a goal that has evolved into something of a Holy Grail for digital marketers. Perhaps more significantly, the conference is also providing some clarity on Oracle's roadmap for integrating its costly acquisitions, including $871 million for Eloqua, $1.5 billion for Responsys and an estimated $350 million-plus for BlueKai.

A Bigger AppCloud

Oracle is integrating by expanding its ecosystem instead of  only building a complete suite of solutions based on its acquisitions. Kevin Akeroyd, general manager of the Oracle Marketing Cloud. elaborated on the company's commitment to integration in an hour-long conversation with reporters later in the day.

"Unlike the past, when it's been enough to go out and buy best-of-breed, I believe the winners are going to be the ones who are very committed to integration. Integration is going to become as important, if not more important, as buying best-of-breed assets," he said.

Akeroyd said Oracle had already proven it's "very, very good at integration" by fully integrating Eloqua into its suite within six months of purchase. Compendium was integrated into Eloqua in four months, he said, and the company plans to integrate BlueKai and Responsys "just as aggressively."

Shakeout Ahead

Later, he predicted there would be "a shakeout" in the fast-growing digital marketing space, hinting that smaller players could fall by the wayside.

"I do think there's going to be a shakeout in the marketplace where the pretenders are going to shake out and the real players that have investments, have best-of-breed, have real solutions instead of pretty PowerPoints [will succeed]," he said. "I can tell you we absolutely see that coming." 

That said, he declined to speculate when Oracle would recover its own huge investment in marketing technology. Instead, he gave hints that the company would continue deepen its already bullish commitment to the space.

Can't Keep Up

"I think what Oracle realizes is it can't acquire fast enough and can't innovate fast enough. There's just no way. Marketing is changing much too  fast. So that's where the whole AppCloud comes in," said Scott Vaughan, CMO at Integrate, an Oracle partner that offers a cloud-based platform for moving outside data into marketing platforms.

"By making a more definitive statement around the cloud, now Oracle can go and get partners like Integrate to put the pieces together, whether it's the Oracle-owned pieces or in the greater ecosystem."

The idea of integrating apps from a central store contrasts with efforts of Adobe to build a suite based on its own acquisitions. A major update to the Adobe Marketing Cloud is expected this fall and is likely to show deeper integration of Campaign, the email software it acquired from Neolane in 2013 for $600 million.

Open Ecosystem

Vaughan, a 20-year IT veteran who directed the marketing effort at UBM Tech before joining Integrate 10 months ago, said the Adobe approach was focused on bringing creative and marketing efforts together.  "Whereas if you look at Oracle or Salesforce, they're building ecosystems -- AppCloud and App Exchange," he said. "Both have their merits, but to me, a more open ecosystem is just the reality."

"There's no way one platform is going to solve everything. It just isn't reality," said Vaughan. "For one, the technology isn't there today, and two, you have too many legacy systems and processes that you have to work with."

Investors, still recovering from a disappointing earnings report from Oracle in late June, shrugged off the latest news. The company's shares were off 0.5 percent at mid-day while the tech-heavy NASDAQ index was up about 0.5 percent. Oracle shares were trading at $40.35  compared to a 52-week high of $43.19 set before last month's financial news.

New Directions

Tomorrow, Integrate, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., will announce an expanded partnership with Oracle that addresses what it called a "pain point" for marketers. Eloqua allows marketers to add data on prospects, but "requires tedious, manual processing," according to Integrate. The new partnership is intended to automate the process.

Oracle also announced new LinkedIn support for its Social Cloud today, saying its customers will now be able to publish, engage, automate and analyze LinkedIn activities within the Oracle Social Relationship Management platform.

The LinkedIn agreement enhances Oracles ability to work with the 3 million B2B companies that maintain company pages on LinkedIn. The analytics involved allow a review of "likes" and  "comments" on either the page or post levels.