The Enterprise Strikes Back: Oracle Corporation Acquires BlueKai

With more than 1 billion accounts, a movie documenting its founding mythology, the Winklevoss twins, Instagram, and now its acquisition of WhatsApp! for $19 billion, it’s hard to imagine another technology company (other than Google) that offers as much to industrial-scale marketers as Facebook.

That is, if you’ve never heard of Oracle Corporation, Larry Ellison’s enterprise database computing company.

As reported by Business Insider, Oracle (market cap $171 billion) is snapping up data management platform (DMP) (aka cookie targeting technology company) BlueKai for around $400 million.

Oracle’s acquisition of BlueKai is not a random event. In 2013, Oracle was one of the most active acquirers of marketing technology, first picking up B2B marketing automation provider Eloqua for $871 million in early 2013 and then following that up with a shareholder-contested acquisition of publicly held email service provider Responsys in December 2013 for $1.5 billion. Despite those two massive acquisitions, Salesforce.com still earned the gold for its $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget, the largest marketing technology (MarTech) mergers and acquisitions deal of 2013.

So why is a B2B database company buying up all of these marketing assets?

Because email is at the center of the consumer Internet experience and because chief marketing officers (CMOs) are the future of tech spending.

According Gartner, Forrester, and McKinsey, the chief marketing officer – not the chief information officer (CIO) – is going to control more tech spend than the CIO by 2017. Enterprise tech companies like Oracle are loading up for bear and buying the companies that already have the customer base – both in terms of consumer data and the companies that use it for their business.

According to Business Insider, “Marketing tech is shaping up to be the next big trend in enterprise tech spending and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison wants to dominate it. Companies spend nearly $4 trillion a year on technology, mostly through their IT departments. But market researchers predict that by 2017, the CMO will have tech budgets as big or bigger than the chief information officer.”

This makes tons of sense. It used to be that CIOs would spend millions on data centers and computers, but that spending is moving to Amazon, who also plays in the MarTech game by providing much of the infrastructure for much ad technology. Server technology has become commoditized and outsourced. There isn’t much to buy any more. And customer relationship management (CRM) programs are now customer-centric, and so the CMO runs them, too.

CMOs didn’t used to buy database technologies, so they were great clients for agencies, not for B2B technology companies. Pre-MarTech CMOs ran print and TV campaigns, and maybe the email marketing program. But new-era CMOs are increasingly driving the adoption and assessment of complex technologies like DMPs, supply-side platforms (SSPs), and demand-side platforms (DSPs) – along with marketing automation and CRM, both data- and database-heavy applications.

If you look for the pattern in all of these acquisitions, it comes down to business users and their data. As frenetic and fickle users divide their attention across multiple devices, it becomes more and more important to find ways to reach them. And what Facebook, Salesforce.com, and Oracle are buying are “addressable audience” technologies that will allow them to reach consumers whenever and wherever they are.

Facebook used to be mostly consumer-focused, and now they offer tools for agencies and advertisers. Salesforce.com used to be a B2B CRM company and now they are running a Buddy Media-driven marketing cloud. Adobe bought Neolane and is now a marketing tech company. Oracle used to sell database and financial applications tech to Fortune 500 CIOs and now they are offering a MarTech stack to the CMO. Look for retargeting technologies to be on their shopping list.

And what is the best retargeting and remarketing tech? Email.

As the tide shifts toward enterprise investment in marketing tech, you can expect email marketing – and the email addresses of every Internet user – to be the center of the conversation. Just wait until Oracle and the other tech companies discover the power of custom audience and the MD5 hash for reaching users, no matter what device, service, or site they are visiting.

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