Adobe unveils its next-generation Marketing Cloud

The Adobe Marketing Cloud logo, rendered as 3D

The Adobe Marketing Cloud logo, rendered as 3D

Adobe is unleashing today what it describes as the next-gen version of its Marketing Cloud.

“Marketing is really the experience business,” director of product marketing Kevin Lindsay said a press briefing, adding that this newest release enlarges the Cloud’s customer experience capabilities.

There’s a truckload of additions, announced at the company’s Summit conference taking place in Las Vegas. They include a variety of new algorithmic-based features to enhance customer experience and marketers’ insights, a new Cross-Device Co-op, the new developer portal, and a deeper integration of Adobe’s online TV tools with the Marketing Cloud.

Taken together, they boost the Cloud’s population of intelligent assistants, bring over-the-top (OTT) TV deeper into this marketing platform’s ecosystem, and offer a major assist to the ongoing challenge of matching people to their many devices.

The basket of new algorithmic features contains:

  • Smart Tags in the Marketing Cloud’s website-focused Experience Manager automatically tag visual content in Adobe’s connected Creative Cloud, so that marketers can search by terms like “summer” or “children,” even though they haven’t tagged the material that way. Here’s Adobe’s visualization of Smart Tags:

Adobe Smart Tags

  • A Personalized TV Recommendation Engine in the new OTT version of Adobe Primetime. This feature bases viewing recommendations on more than 200 billion video consumption points among U.S. TV households that are streaming video, movies, or live TV content, as well as your viewing habits across devices. Adobe noted that this goes far beyond the closed pool of data Netflix draws on to serve up recommendations.
  • Segment IQ for Adobe Analytics automatically compares behavioral differences between segmented audiences, so that marketers can better use those differences to sharpen their targeting.
  • Virtual Analyst, also for Adobe Analytics, is an intelligent personal assistant that watches usage patterns to detect your priorities and then keeps an eye out for changes in data that could impact those priorities. Adobe gives the use case of the Analyst noticing that revenue is an important metric for you — as if that required much insight — but then the Analyst tracks metrics that impact revenue, like orders, units, and social media mentions. It also sends alerts when the relevant metrics begin to slip. Here’s Adobe’s imagining of an alert from Virtual Analyst:

Adobe's Virtual Analyst

  • Lifetime Value Decision in Adobe Target employs behavioral data to figure out the kinds and sequencing of product offers that could generate the highest spend from a customer. As an example, Adobe said, this feature might recommend that a discount for a computer, followed by discounts for a monitor and a printer, will result in more sales to a given customer than, say, offering the whole discount package at once.
  • Automated Insight for Advertisers for Adobe Media Optimizer creates performance analyses of advertising, and then generates PowerPoint presentations.
  • Predictive Subject Lines for Adobe Campaign analyzes the open rates on previous email subject lines in a brand’s campaigns, in order to suggest the most effective ones. Spoiler alert: “brand new” often generates more opens than just plain ol’ “new.”

Cross-Device Co-op

When Adobe launched its Audience Marketplace last November, it took a major step toward allowing brands to more easily share their first-party data. In this new announcement, Adobe is venturing deeper into data cooperation, with the launch of its Cross-Device Co-op in the second half of this year.

“Devices don’t buy products,” Principal Product Manager Asa Whillock pointed out in the press briefing. “People do.”

But those people often spend their days hopping between devices. Determining that a user — often not logged in — is the same person on this smartphone in the morning, this laptop during the day, and this tablet at night, is what engineers call “a non-trivial task.”

To track users across devices, Whillock noted, marketers often depend on utilizing “walled gardens” — a reference to Facebook and Google’s environments — or on matching schemes built on probable but not definite matches between devices.

The latter is a large set of devices, he noted, but less accurate than logged-in users on, say, Facebook. While there are some substantial user pools built around logged-in users (such as the newly merged Viant/Time Inc.), Facebook and Google are the kings of logged-ins.

But this new Co-op could begin to change that scenario.

Adobe will use contributed logged-in data from any single brand to determine groups of devices owned by an individual or household, with a higher degree of accuracy than could otherwise be inferred probabilistically.

If the smartphone in a group of devices had visited, say, the web site of another brand as an unlogged-in visitor, the second brand will now know that the smartphone belongs to a group of linked devices, used by one individual or household.

Adobe promises that users can opt-out of this tracking, and that all users are anonymized. Additionally, the company says that site visits or similar behavioral histories will not be shared. So, the second brand in the above example would be able to maintain an anonymized profile on the user across several definitively identified devices, but, while device groups will be shared, profiles will not.

Primetime OTT

The company estimates that the co-op could link up to 1.2 billion devices worldwide, which would match the scale of a Facebook or a Google.

If it works without violating privacy or without prompting a deluge of tracking ads following a user, the Co-op could benefit both the user and advertiser. Adobe gives the example of a person who is booking a trip. She searches for hotel rooms on her tablet via a travel agency’s app, but she doesn’t book any. Later, she books a room on the website of the same travel agency, on her laptop.

If the travel agency didn’t know she was the same (though anonymous) person on the laptop and on the smartphone, they might send hotel room ads to her phone, because they knew she had searched for rooms on that device. But, because of the Co-op, they know it’s the same person, so they can focus on, say, sending to her phone restaurant discounts in the town she’s visiting.

Because site visits and personal history will not be shared, one question is whether the Co-op will have the power of Facebook’s or Google’s environments.

Scott Denne, an analyst at research firm 451 Research, contends this arrangement has different advantages.

“By connecting the [Cross-Device Co-op] data to Audience Manager and other products,” he told me via email, “marketers can leverage this data in other marketing and advertising applications, something that can’t be done with Google and Facebook’s device matches.”

“The challenge for Adobe,” he added, “will be to gain a level of participation among marketers that will give it the scale to make a meaningful number of matches to compete with Google, Facebook and the emerging set of third-party device ID services.”

“If the exchange included more than device ID info,” he said, “it would be more challenging to gain participation.”

Aside from the new intelligent assistants and the Cross-Device Co-op, the third big part of today’s announcement is the expansion of Adobe Primetime into a more fully integrated-with-Marketing-Cloud OTT (over-the-top) TV marketing tool.

This allows, say, TV networks to deliver targeted ad campaigns, A/B testing, content optimization, email campaigns, notifications, and other such marketing efforts with the Cloud’s tools. This applies to users watching TV, video, or movies on mobile devices and computers, or on TVs delivered through Apple TV, Sony PlayStation, Roku, and Microsoft Xbox. Launched in 2013, Primetime had been primarily oriented toward delivering video and ads to various screens, with some tie-ins to Adobe Analytics and Adobe Manager.

“By integrating Adobe’s advertising, analytics, data management, ad campaign and personalization engines [in the Marketing Cloud] with the video playback, ad insertion and DRM [digital rights management] capabilities of Adobe Primetime,” Adobe Primetime Vice President Jeremy Helfand said in a statement accompanying today’s announcement, “media companies are transforming their businesses with more personalized and engaging viewing experiences across screens.”

comScore,, new Partner Program

A typical use case of the new Marketing Cloud-integrated Primetime OTT, Director of Product Marketing Campbell Foster told me, is a smaller cable network that “wouldn’t have the resources to stand up” an OTT version of itself.

The newly combined platforms can now allow OTT marketers to build paying audiences, Adobe said, by segmenting viewers according to their viewing habits via the Cloud’s Analytics and Audience Manager. Media Optimizer and Target can be used to grow audiences through targeted ad buys across screens, and Target also enables optimization through A/B testing. And Adobe Campaign can conduct email marketing efforts that draw on the new TV Recommendations in Primetime to support consumers’ viewing preferences.

“The integration of Primetime with the various components of AdobeMarketing Cloud,” IDC Program Vice President Melissa Webster emailed me, “gives Adobe a significant competitive advantage selling Primetime to broadcasters and MVPDs [Multichannel Video Programming Distributors].”

“Today,” she added, “content providers are sourcing most of these modules individually, and build the integrations themselves or with the help of vendors or systems integrators. The opportunity for Adobe lies in the integration.”

Also announced: a new partnership with cross-platform measurement firm comScore, which Adobe says will offer “consistent, cross-device measurement of video and ad content” for media companies and publishers who want to measure across platforms.

comScore audience data will be integrated into the Marketing Cloud to help track across devices, and comScore will integrate the newly announced Adobe Analytics-powered Certified Metrics that provides standardized census data.

“Massive, census-level data is critical to providing actionable and granular measurement across screens,” comScore CEO Serge Matta told news media.

The new announcements also include a new developer portal with tools for extending functionality of all the Adobe Clouds, a new Partner Program for Adobe Exchange that supports such business activities for Exchange app providers as marketing and sales enablement, and an updated user interface for the Cloud.

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