In late May, I took a look at three of the most recent changes in the enterprise ESP space and how to view them from the perspective of their clients. Change is a constant in the world of email marketing. It’s only a matter of time before the next big change in the ESP vendor landscape. Before that happens let’s take another look at these three changes and see where things stand now.
1. IBM Marketing Cloud becomes Acoustic
In early April of this year, IBM agreed to sell its remaining marketing platform and commerce software assets to private equity firm Centerbridge for an undisclosed amount.
At the time of my first column, I wrote that the common assumption was that Centerbridge planned to create a new company from those assets, which included the email marketing platform from the acquisition of Silverpop. And that’s exactly what they did.
On July 15th Centerbridge Partners debuted Acoustic, which they describe as “A New Marketing Cloud Bringing Humanity to AI-Powered Marketing”. The new company offers services centered around AI and marketing cloud technology, and claims its ambition is to “bring back a personal approach to the art of marketing”. Everyone is talking about AI, and it’s still not clear if that means better, more expensive, or a bit of both.
In his blog, Mark Simpson, the CEO of the new Acoustic platform states what needs to be done first. Which is integration:
“Our first priority for our products is to improve their ability to connect with each other. While this exists to some extent today, we will now take the extra step of unifying our underlying data structure.”
What’s an email focussed client to do?
There’s a lot of talk about AI-powered marketing, and clearly Acoustic is staking out its claim in this space. And unlike IBM, it appears that Centerbridge is going to invest some serious money into the platform. I’ve seen reports that they will invest $10 to $20 million over the next few quarters to help Acoustic re-architect its platform. Is that enough? No way to know at this point.
What’s notable about the launch of Acoustic is the lack of emphasis around its email marketing capabilities. Companies that focus on their marketing cloud offer tend to ignore clients using them solely as an email point solution. Email marketers often do not benefit from falling under a marketing cloud, it remains to be seen if that will be the case for Acoustics’ email clients.
2. Epsilon and Publicis
On July 2nd Publicis closed on its deal to acquire Epsilon. I have no doubt that enormous integration issues remain, but Publicis is already busy introducing the Epsilon services offering to clients.
How the companies sort through the integration issues will determine how successful the acquisition will prove to be. Epsilon itself often struggled with its own acquisitions, with clients wondering who actually owned the relationship with them, and numerous Epsilon teams all pitching clients for business.
How Publicis’s advertising clients react to possible client conflicts created by the Epsilon acquisition will also be something to closely watch. In the world of marketing services from which Epsilon came, competing brands are often serviced by the same provider.
For example, Epsilon works with a number of financial services companies. In the world of advertising, however, competitors do not co-exist at a single agency. In fact, one of the reasons holding companies like Publicis were created was to allow the different agencies within a holding company to service clients that couldn’t be serviced by a single agency brand (competing car brands, for example).
What’s an email focused client to do?
Only time will tell if this acquisition turns out to benefit Epsilon’s email clients. I don’t see any reason at the moment for them to be overly concerned, but any acquisition of this type is at least a distraction to the Epsilon team. Email clients will want to closely monitor the situation on an ongoing basis for the next 12 months.
3. Yes Marketing and Adobe… and Avanada
On May 16th, Yes Marketing—the email marketing arm of Infogroup—announced a new partnership with Adobe that would pair Yes Marketing’s widely respected agency services team with the Adobe email platform. In other words, Yes Marketing is going to become just one of many agency partners of Adobe.
It’s easy to see how that benefits Adobe, as it will now get served up by Yes to take over platform duties for current clients of Yes. It remains hard to understand how Yes (or its clients) benefit from this arrangement.
Avanade partnership to launch an Adobe practice
Adobe’s promiscuity when it comes to official agency partners was reinforced when on July 15 it announced that it’s partnering with Avanade, the Microsoft and Accenture joint venture, to “help our mutual customers rapidly develop, implement and derive value from Adobe and Microsoft’s digital business solutions.”
As part of this partnership, Avanade will build an Adobe practice, connecting Adobe Experience Cloud with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Azure. As an aside, Avanade is Microsoft’s largest system integrator and operates in close alliance with Accenture Interactive. With partnerships like this, it’s hard to see Adobe spending a whole lot of effort on its Yes Marketing partnership.
What’s an email focused client to do?
As we have since learned, clients currently on the Yesmail platform are now in a situation where at some point over the next three years, they will be forced to move to Adobe Campaign. A migration is a migration, so current Yes clients should strongly consider looking at their options through the RFP process. Adobe Campaign might be a great fit, but you won’t know that unless you look at other vendors before the move.
How to handle the constant change in the world of email marketing.
As I said, it’s only a matter of time before the next big change in the ESP vendor landscape. Change is constant in the world of email marketing. If you’ve been with the same ESP for 3 or more years, you might be very surprised at how different your options look today.
So as you approach the end of your current ESP contract, you owe it to your company and yourself to explore your options. Particularly if you are one of the three we’ve been discussing.