What Adobe's acquisition of Marketo means for PR

Adobe has bolstered its platform, but the company and its competitors have still not added significant comms capabilities.

Photo credit: Getty images
Photo credit: Getty images

When Adobe acquired Marketo last week, it filled missing holes in its marketing cloud, but it also highlighted a PR-shaped vacuum that needs to be plugged.

The addition of Marketo is setting up Adobe for a dominant position in B2B marketing, says Anurag Rana, senior analyst for IT services and software at Bloomberg, who calls Marketo the "de facto leader in that particular area."

"That’s where the biggest opportunity is for them," he says. "That is an area not so penetrated at this point [by other companies], and it gives them entry to dominate that market."

The size of that market is up for discussion, Rana adds. There are no concrete numbers for its size, but Rana expects Adobe to provide projections in its next earnings release, scheduled for December. However, the deal for Marketo, Adobe’s largest, gives it significant advantages in that it bolsters its Experience Cloud. It also complements Adobe’s deal for Magento for $1.6 billion this year, which gave Adobe another e-commerce platform.

"Now they have a commerce platform and a marketing platform, which could create a far better experience for buying products for their own business," Rana explains.

The Marketo deal could also strengthen the union between Microsoft and Adobe, a partnership launched last year to combine the former’s sales capabilities with the latter’s marketing chops, says Cision CEO Kevin Akeroyd.

"[This acquisition] makes their partnership stronger and more valuable to Microsoft," he says.

A Microsoft representative wasn’t available for comment.

Thanks to the acquisition, Adobe is also gaining access to the mid-market, from which most of Marketo’s business comes, notes Akeroyd. The deal also adds marketing automation to its capabilities, which Oracle and Salesforce had, but Adobe lacked, he adds.

However, Adobe lacks the firepower of its competitors in sales and services, writes Omar Akhtar, digital marketing consultant at Altimeter, in a LinkedIn post. While Adobe gained sales functionality with its Magento acquisition, integration is still underway, and it doesn’t have dedicated platforms for customer service or providing logistical information.

Brad Rencher, EVP and GM of digital experience at Adobe, says in a statement that the deal "widens Adobe’s lead in customer experience across B2C and B2B and puts Adobe Experience Cloud at the heart of all marketing."

"The imperative for marketers across all industries is a laser focus on providing relevant, personal, and engaging experiences," he says.

Adobe referred requests for comment to the statement.

What platform will fill the ‘PR hole?’
Industry experts note that while cloud services are enhancing their product offerings via acquisition, they’re yet to move on communications.

"If you look at it objectively, the next big missing hole in most of these clouds is some kind of communications measurement and software," says AirPR CEO Dan Beltramo. "The fundamental premise driving marketing clouds is they can provide a complete picture of marketing activity. To the extent anyone considers PR part of the marketing activity, it’d logically follow we need to be part of that."

He says that his company has had conversations with marketing clouds about integrating its software with theirs. This list includes Salesforce, a Series B investor in AirPR, and companies acquired by Oracle, Adobe, and Nielsen. However, AirPR has received no formal offers.

Consolidation in the marketing, sales, and customer service space is accelerating the need to integrate comms. It is also underpinning the need to understand which PR technology would best compliment a marketing platform -- a key goal for CMOs, says Akeroyd. He adds that talks to integrate his company within marketing clouds have been ongoing for a year, but declined to name the companies with which Cision is negotiating.

"Today, it’s a ‘nice-to-have,’" he says. "Within two years, it’s going to be a must-have."

Akeroyd adds that figuring out which marketing cloud would best pair with PR software depends on what the CMO wants to optimize. If it’s paid advertising, Akeroyd says he’d recommend an integration with Adobe, whose capabilities in that area are "far superior" to Oracle and Salesforce. If a marketer wants to know if a particular customer read a piece of content, such as an article or press release on web or mobile, Adobe again comes out on top.

However, it’s a wash when it comes to email marketing, he contends. "They’re all kind of the same," Akeroyd says. At the core layer, earned media integration would be strongest with Oracle, he adds.

"In summary, we’re going to play really well with all three of them, but [it depends] on the use case," Akeroyd adds.

Beltramo says his platform could be valuable to marketing vendors in that it could establish KPIs for marketing and communications. With PR measurements splinted among different metrics, bringing them together under a common language the CMO can understand is paramount. The company uses "power of voice," a metric based on the reputation of the outlet, the repetition of the article via social media, and the relevance of the article as it relates to the company’s objective. It also uses attribution, which connects exposure to outcomes.

"That’s how comms will get linked to the marketing clouds," Beltramo says. "Once we see that, it’s a very short hop."

However, Akhtar argues there is a major hurdle to a marketing cloud investing in a comms platform.

"We’ve been hearing periodic rumors about Adobe buying a PR platform, either (Cision or AirPR) to round out the entire marketing cloud, but they haven’t acted yet, and I believe the reason is they don’t believe PR tech on its own is going to provide enough value to the experience cloud on its own," he says, via email.

The silos dividing PR and marketing hinder this process because they don’t often collaborate, and, he argues, marketing uses "more sophisticated tools like social listening or content marketing software."

"For a PR tech platform to be acquired, it’s got to show value to more than PR folks and be more than a PR ‘CRM’ or contact directory," Akhtar says. "It’s got to show real content marketing features to analyze, optimize, and distribute the messages that are resonating on digital channels."

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