Adobe is Piecing Together Different Parts of Its Marketing Software Empire

 | Mar 22, 2017 | 11:19 PM EDT
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For those who mainly associate Adobe Systems (ADBE) with age-old content creation apps such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat and Premiere Pro, it's easy to forget the degree to which the modern-day Adobe, $7 billion revenue run rate and all, is the product of dozens of acquisitions -- or the extent to which the company's empire also extends to providing marketing software and services.

The company has experience in fusing certain widely-used solutions. For example, Adobe's mainstay Creative Cloud provides a common layer of cloud services, management software and developer tools for its content-creation apps, and the company has built integrated workflows for Creative Cloud apps and its Marketing Cloud platform.

However, this week's announcements, made in tandem with the hosting of Adobe's annual Digital Marketing Summit, point to a more ambitious effort to integrate its various offerings that are used by marketing and advertising pros, as well as to make it easier for third parties to integrate their products with Adobe's lineup.

Headlining these moves is the creation of a common platform, known as the Experience Cloud, for all of the products that to date had been grouped within Adobe's "Marketing Cloud." Going forward, Marketing Cloud will comprise one of three parts of Experience Cloud, and feature products such as Experience Manager (used to create and manage marketing content across platforms), Target (lets marketers personalize user experiences) and Social (used to run social media marketing campaigns).

Another part of Experience Cloud, known as Advertising Cloud, lets companies run and optimize search, display and video ad campaigns. It pairs Adobe's Media Optimizer search and display ad-buying tools with recently-acquired TubeMogul's video ad-buying platform. The third part, known as Analytics Cloud, combines the popular Adobe Analytics tool for uncovering insights from customer data with Audience Manager, a platform for creating customer/audience profiles.

Advertising Cloud has gotten a lot of attention, since it more firmly makes Adobe a player in an ad tech space where Alphabet/Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) loom large, and where independent players such as The Trade Desk (TTD)  and The Rubicon Project (RUBI) are also present. Adobe is pitching itself as an independent alternative to Google and Facebook, which of course are also giant sellers of ad inventory, while arguing that integrations between the three parts of Experience Cloud set it apart from both independent ad tech players and marketing software rivals such as (CRM)  and Oracle (ORCL) .

Adobe ad chief Brett Wilson notes advertisers using both Advertising and Analytics Cloud can "very easily retarget any of their audience segments with a couple of clicks and with very high match rates." The company also touts new integrations between Experience Cloud apps and other Adobe products, and the ability of Adobe's Sensei machine learning platform to analyze marketing content and customer data across Experience Cloud to do things like provide ad insights, suggest tags for content and build customer profiles.

Of the various partnership announcements Adobe has made this week, the biggest is easily the expansion of an alliance with Microsoft that was unveiled last year. Adobe Campaign, a solution for running e-mail marketing campaigns, will be integrated with sales apps in Microsoft's Dynamics 365 cloud business app suite, with goal of "creating a single view of the customer that can be used to personalize experiences across marketing touchpoints." And Adobe Analytics will be integrated with Microsoft's Power BI business intelligence software.

The moves follow a deal last fall through which Adobe agreed to make Microsoft's Azure public cloud platform the "preferred" platform for running Creative Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Document Cloud apps. Integrating Microsoft's sales apps with Campaign partly addresses a weakness relative to Salesforce and Oracle, which sell both sales and marketing apps, but it's worth noting Dynamics is more likely to be used by SMBs than major enterprises.

Perhaps more important than the Dynamics and Power BI integrations is Adobe and Microsoft's plan to create a common data model for defining sales, marketing and customer service data. This effort is said to have the support of MasterCard, marketing data provider Acxiom, app monitoring software firm AppDynamics (just acquired by Cisco), among others, and aims to make it easier for companies to derive insights from customer data. Given the breadth of its offerings, Adobe is among those with the most to gain.

Adobe also rolled out a revamp of its developer portal, and announced that several partners had launched new integrations for Experience Cloud apps that were available via Adobe Exchange, the company's platform for third-party app extensions and plug-ins. In addition, it unveiled Launch, a tool for managing data tags that lets Adobe and non-Adobe products play nice with each other. Facebook, Twitter and Dun & Bradstreet are among the first users.

With both TubeMogul and organic growth playing roles, Adobe's "Marketing Cloud" revenue rose 26% annually in the January quarter to $477 million. The company is clearly betting that investments in marketing and ad tech software will, along with Creative Cloud, allow it to keep posting healthy double-digit sales growth. Its latest moves to make the whole more than the sum of its parts certainly don't hurt.

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