Tear Down This Wall Between Ad Tech and Marketing Automation

Product and Industry


Twenty-seven years ago, President Ronald Reagan uttered the iconic phrase, “Tear down this wall.” It was a challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin wall and bring the people of Western and Eastern Europe together.

Yesterday, we announced a new strategic partnership between Marketo and Acxiom that will tear down the wall between ad tech and marketing automation.  We think this could be the beginning of a new chapter in marketing — a chapter which has a tectonic impact on how marketers initiate and build deep, enduring relationships with their customers.

But before we get to this partnership, we need to understand why these two worlds (of ad tech and of marketing automation) were separated in the first place.

The Ad Tech World

The ad tech world was born in 1994 when Wired.com launched the first web rudimentary banner ads — 468 pixels wide by 60 pixels deep — from advertisers including AT&T, MCI, Volvo, and Club Med.  Some 20 years later, the online display advertising industry is now a $22 billion business, with multiple formats, established exchanges, and real-time programmatic bidding capabilities. Google and Facebook are the dominant suppliers of ad inventory, and ad tech has spawned recent IPOs such as Criteo, Rocketfuel, Tremor, and YuMe.

Here are the four key elements of a marketer’s interaction with customers in the ad tech world:

  • Acquisition.  First, the marketer is trying to acquire new customers rather than engage existing customers.
  • Broad reach.  Second, the marketer is casting as wide a net as possible to reach potential customers. He or she is looking for large aggregations of audiences.
  • Anonymous cookies.  Third, ad tech is based on the third party cookies (TPCs) which build anonymous profiles based on browser history.  As Acxiom CEO Scott Howe  likes to say, “cookies don’t buy things”.  There are many challenges with TPCs.  TPCs expire, browsers can be configured to not accept TPCs, there are consumer privacy concerns with TPCs, and TPCs don’t work on mobile devices.
  • Paid channels.  Marketers pay to place their ads on someone else’s channel.  They are merely renting that audience’s attention, rather than earning it.

Now let’s take a similar tour through the marketing automation world.  It’s a little harder to find the distinct point in time for the birth of marketing automation, but there are clear distinctions in how a marketer interacts with customers in this world:

  • Engagement.  First, marketers are trying to engage customers who have already expressed some level of interest in their offering. Marketers are trying to deepen that engagement with relevant content and experiences.
  • Narrower reach.  As a result, marketers cast a narrower net.  For example, for every 100 people that visit a company’s website, typically about one person discloses their personal information.
  • Known, real people.  Third, the basis of marketing automation is building deep, enduring relationships through engaging experiences tied together across channels and time.  To do this, the marketers need a system of record with demographic data (who is this person?), contact info (how do I reach this person?) and behavioral data (how has this person engaged with us?).  So marketing automation is not relying on anonymous cookies, but real people who have disclosed their identity.
  • Owned and earned channels.  Marketers build these deep, enduring customer relationships through their owned channels (website, email) and earned channels (blog, community, social presence) where they have built their own audience, rather than rent someone else’s.

Because these two worlds are separate and disconnected, customers have disconnected experiences, bombarded by irrelevant advertising at every turn.

Enter the Marketo and Acxiom Partnership

Acxiom, with their industry leading Audience Operating System, brings the world’s best data and insights to marketers. To create a joint solution, the Marketo engagement platform now ingests the Acxiom data and insights in real-time to deliver deeply personalized experiences — from first ad impression to purchase and beyond.

This means that this omni-channel personalization joint solution can bring together the best elements of the ad tech and marketing automation worlds:

  • Acquisition and Engagement.  The solution addresses both acquiring new customers, as well and more deeply engaging with existing customers.
  • Paid, Owned and Earned channels.  The marketer can deliver personalized, consistent, engaging experiences across display, social, mobile, website and email channels.

We’re thrilled to be partnering with Acxiom as a fellow innovator in the marketing technology arena to start to chip away at this wall between ad tech and marketing automation.

You may remember that it took a further two years after President Reagan’s challenge for the Berlin wall to actually come down.  Who knows whether it will take the same amount of time to completely tear down the wall between ad tech and marketing automation, but today we have certainly started to swing the hammer.