The Big Business of Selling Software to Marketers

As businesses spend more on marketing technology, companies like Adobe, Google, IBM, Oracle,, and SAP are acquiring and developing new software and systems enabling them to offer more and increasingly sophisticated software to the marketing team. This new focus on technology and marketing has led to a series of significant acquisitions and changes made by some of the top software giants.


Adobe was originally founded in 1982 to develop the PostScript page description language, which helped make desktop publishing possible. Over the past decade, Adobe has increasingly moved to serve the entire marketing department, from the creative side to the technology side. The company has made many acquisitions – such as Aldus, the creator of PageMaker, in 1992, and Photoshop the following year – that targeted the creative portion of the marketing team.
In 2014, Adobe introduced an upgraded version of the Adobe Marketing Cloud, a product that integrates media optimization, social, web experience, content management, campaign management, and analytics. Adobe also announced a deal that made SAP, which has been less aggressive than its competitors in moving into marketing technology, a global reseller of the Adobe Marketing Cloud. As part of this deal, the Adobe Marketing Cloud is being integrated into SAP’s HANA platform and its Hybris Commerce Suite.

Among Adobe’s major marketing software acquisitions are:

  • 2009: Omniture, web analytics, $1.8 billion
  • 2011: Demdex, data management platform, $58 million
  • 2011: Auditude, video ad flatform, $120 million
  • 2011: Efficient Frontier, programmatic search marketing platform, $400 million
  • 2014: Neolane, marketing automation software, $600 million


Google, of course, got its start with search. The company is synonymous with search, but as a business it has moved far beyond that corner of digital advertising to embrace a large swath of digital marketing. Google has used the vast profits from its search engine advertising business to acquire more than 150 businesses that build its data-driven digital marketing offerings. Some of Google’s acquisitions are:

  • 2006: Youtube, online video platform, $1.65 billion
  • 2007: DoubleClick, ad server and advertising exchange, $3.1 billion
  • 2009: AdMob, mobile ad network, $750 million
  • 2009: Teracent, dynamic ad platform, ~$40 million
  • 2010: Invite Media, demand-side platform, ~$85 million
  • 2011: AdMeld, supply-side platform, $400 million
  • 2012: Motorola Mobility, mobile devices and software, $2.9 billion
  • 2014:, anti-ad fraud detection, undisclosed
  • 2014: Nest, smart thermostat maker, $3.2 billion


IBM has shown an enviable capability to change with the times. The one-time business machine company is now itself a business machine. In one of its iterations, IBM essentially invented the position of the CIO and sold American and international business on the value of computing. In the 1990s, Lou Gerstner took the helm of IBM and turned a struggling hardware company into a consulting business. Now IBM has turned its sights on selling the CMO and the marketing team on the power of technology. Much of IBM’s analytics business, which has been built primarily via acquisition with a war chest of billions, included deals like the following designed to build a product set attractive to marketers:

  • 2007: Cognos, business intelligence platform, $4.9 billion
  • 2009: SPSS, business analytics, $1.2 billion
  • 2010: Coremetrics, web analytics, $240 million
  • 2010: Unica, customer preference software, $480 million
  • 2010: Sterling Commerce, busienss-to-business (B2B) e-commerce, $1.6 billion


Microsoft has had an inconsistent relationship with the marketing department. On one hand, its MSN portal has been a mainstay of digital advertising for years. However, Microsoft’s $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive in 2007 has been judged a disaster. Additionally, it sold the Atlas advertising platform, a part of aQuantive, to Facebook. Microsoft does offer the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system, which is an offshoot of the Microsoft Dynamics ERP enterprise resource planning system, which was built via acquisition of software companies such as Great Plains. Microsoft eventually wrote off the lion’s share of the aQuantive deal.


While IBM first entered businesses through the CIO, Oracle came in through the CFO. Now both are going after the budgets of the increasingly deep-pocketed CMO. As befits its leader, Larry Ellison, Oracle has been an extremely aggressive acquirer of late of businesses aimed at serving the marketing department. Some key acquisitions for the Oracle Marketing Cloud:

  • 2012: Vitrue, social media management platform, $300 million
  • 2012: Involver, social media development platform, ~$20 million
  • 2012: Eloqua, marketing automation software, $810 million
  • 2013: Compendium, blogging platform, undisclosed
  • 2013: Responsys, marketing automation software, $1.5 billion
  • 2014: BlueKai, data management platform, $400 million

As its name suggests, is primarily aimed at the sales team with its core product, a software-as-a-service customer relationship management tool. But these days, integration of CRM systems with marketing automation software has brought the sales team and marketing closer together. is looking to leverage this trend by acquiring more technology it can sell to the marketing department. Among its highest-profile acquisitions are:

  • 2010: Jigsaw, crowdsourced business database, $142 million
  • 2011: Radian6, social media software, $326 million
  • 2012: Buddy Media, social media software, $689 million
  • 2013: ExactTarget, marketing automation software, $2.5 billion


Among the software giants, SAP has made the fewest moves to court the marketing team. SAP did acquire Hybris, an e-commerce platform – and e-commerce is increasingly being viewed as marketing’s responsibility. Additionally, SAP reached an agreement in 2014 to be a global reseller for the Adobe Marketing Cloud.


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