5 Things Marketers Need to Know About Adobe Summit 2019

Adobe builds on its relationship with Microsoft amid mounting rivalry with Salesforce

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen speaking on stage earlier this week. Adobe
Headshot of Ronan Shields

Adobe hosted its annual flagship conference this week in Las Vegas, where it unfurled its vision of how marketing clouds can help brands bridge online and offline data to improve customer experience.

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen took to the conference stage to present details on a number of his company’s strategic relationships, among them are ties with Microsoft, Roku and SAP.

Adobe and Microsoft grow ever-closer

Originally announced in September 2018, Adobe outlined the progress of the Open Data Initiative–a project led by Adobe, Microsoft and SAP–namely the formation of a partnership council, with notable names including Accenture, plus advertising players InMobi and WPP, with the aim of helping brands integrate disparate data sources.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joined Narayen on stage to discuss mutual projects which are the basis for two of the major product announcements at this year’s Adobe Summit, with some attendees contrasting it with the rival Google/Salesforce stable.

In front of an assembled 16,000-strong audience, the two CEOs discussed their shared belief that such open data models will help drive “diversified experiences” where brands are able to harness their customer data and use it to enhance interactions, both online and offline.

This philosophy underpins Adobe Experience Platform, a new offering that helps advertisers collect and process data (using the ODI model), which in turn powers its customer data platform (more about that below).

“This has been a significant investment for us as it serves the underlying platform that is critical … it’s also the data that sits in silos that can be activated and integrated,” said Narayen, noting that Best Buy, Verizon Wireless and Home Depot were initial guinea pigs on the platform.

Speculation as to just how close Adobe and Microsoft—whose reputation is on an upward trajectory after years of headlines of it being eclipsed in the search engine and mobile OS sectors—will become has swirled in recent years and this week’s announcements will certainly do little to dampen said speculation.

Adobe and Salesforce’s rivalry grows and it’s heating up the CDP market

As noted, there is a growing rivalry between Adobe and Salesforce, with the latter choosing to announce its own customer data platform (CDP) a day ahead of the official opening of Adobe Summit, in an act that was reminiscent of the timing of Adobe’s own announcements ahead of Dreamforce 2018.

CDP, newish entrant into the alphabet soup of ad- and martech, is a hot buzzword, especially when it comes to data-driven marketing—albeit Adobe has claimed that some parties have been using the term as a misnomer, with Ali Bohra, director of strategy and product marketing at Adobe, labeling them as “point CDPs.”

Per Bohra, most point CDPs struggle to unify both online and offline data and he further cited a Forrester report which asserts that many such offerings “overpromise and underdeliver.”

“Adobe addresses the real-time customer data platform use case by allowing you to bring together known and unknown customer data to activate real-time customer profiles with continuous intelligent decisioning throughout the customer journey,” he wrote in a blog post.

B2B and B2C marketing are blurring

Among the slew of partnerships announced was an integration with Microsoft’s LinkedIn that will see the pair align how data can flow between Adobe Experience Cloud, including Marketo Engage–which it acquired for $4.75 billion last year–and Microsoft’s ecosystem to better facilitate “account-based experiences.”

The pair are dubbing this concept as “ABX” and claim it will better enable business-to-business marketers and sellers to more easily identify, understand and engage B2B customer prospects.

This means marketers will be able to leverage data from Marketo Engage and Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales to gain a real-time understanding of targeted LinkedIn accounts, including insights into individual roles, influence and preferences.

The relationship also lets marketers use Adobe Audience Manager, the company’s data management platform, to stitch together audience data which can then inform their ad targeting on LinkedIn plus other channels.

“The distinction between what’s a B2B company and a B2C company is fast blurring and [this gives us] the ability to provide a more unified offering,” said Narayen, noting how the company’s data-driven operating model (long-used by brands selling to consumers) is now influencing business marketing.

Advertisers are calling out for more programmatic audio

Early in the week, Adobe announced an integration with Roku that makes OTT inventory available via the advertising cloud provider’s demand-side platform in a move similar to its integration with Pandora.

This is after a recent Adobe study found that nearly half of all brands plan to increase their investment in digital audio ads by an average of 35 percent, with more than 40 percent of consumers expecting personalized content.

Additionally, around half of all marketing professionals surveyed in the study believe it is important to have digital audio as part of their media mix believing that it is “a strong conversion medium.”

A sneak peek at Adobe’s future plans

Away from the main conference stage, Adobe is often keen to talk up its engineering-led culture with the Summit Sneaks program often used to tease what’s on the horizon for its product offering.

In a briefing with Adweek, Adobe highlighted its efforts to improve digital asset management with a project geared towards helping marketers manage their ever-growing repository of digital content at their disposal as part of its AI-offering Adobe Sensei.

“Our goal is to show that if you use keyword search alone then you lose a lot of [search] power,” said Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing, Adobe. “There are a number of different teams that are interested in these technologies at Adobe.”

@ronan_shields ronan.shields@adweek.com Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.