Oracle gears up to battle Salesforce.com, IBM with Eloqua update

New features arrive for Oracle's multichannel marketing platform

Oracle is rolling out a series of new features for its Eloqua marketing automation suite, hoping to get a leg up on rivals such as Salesforce.com and IBM in the red-hot software segment.

Now generally available is AdFocus, which provides marketers with tools for running multichannel advertising campaigns. A key feature is the ability to deliver targeted display ads to customers and prospects, while comparing their effectiveness to so-called "owned" and "earned" media, such as company websites and buzz on social networks, respectively.

Another update concerns Eloqua Profiler, which like its name suggests, is used to build out profiles of prospects based on their interactions with "assets" tracked in Eloqua, such as emails and web pages. Now Profiler can also include asset activity that's occurring on properties the marketer's organization doesn't own, such as video content hosted on a third-party website.

Finally it's now possible to tap Facebook's custom audience feature from AdFocus, giving marketers the ability to target discrete blocks of users based on their social profile.

There's perhaps no hotter area of enterprise software these days than marketing automation, following a rash of consolidation as platform vendors attempt to build out broad product suites.

Last week, Oracle bought Compendium in order to bolster the capabilities of Eloqua, which it acquired in December for US$871 million. Compendium provides software for creating different types of content that can be used to entice customers to visit a marketer's web site or other property, said John Stetic, vice president of products, Oracle Eloqua Marketing Cloud.

Among others, Salesforce.com has also invested heavily in marketing software, scooping up ExactTarget, Buddy Media and Radian6 for its own cloud-based suite.

Oracle gets an edge over the competition with Eloqua, as its always been "built by marketers, for marketers," Stetic said. "We allow for really advanced targeting throughout the entire buying process."

In addition, Oracle is taking a more open approach, offering a full suite but not forcing customers to use it all, he said. "Lots of vendors want to think they'll have this whole stack and own the world, but what I hear from customers is, I want choice."

Meanwhile, as online privacy concerns mount in the wake of revelations over surveillance programs by the U.S. National Security Agency, marketers need to be mindful of the boundaries between themselves and customers, Stetic said.

"Ultimately what it comes down to things like government surveillance, people can't vote with their wallets on that, whereas in the commercial world if someone feels they're being overly tracked and overly monitored and not getting value out of it, they vote with their wallets," he said.

"What marketers need to be aware of is, relevancy is key," he added. "If you're just bombarding us with junk, we're going to effectively tune that out."

Oracle is conducting its Eloqua Experience user conference this week in San Francisco. The speaker list, which includes "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan, underscores the fact that Eloqua's target audience lies well outside the data center or developer communities on which most of Oracle's product catalog focuses.

Some 2,000 people are attending this year's show, up from 1,400 last year, according to an Oracle representative.

Salesforce.com is set to kick off its own Dreamforce event next month in San Francisco, which is also expected to have a heavy focus on marketing automation. In fact, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff has said he believes marketing can become a $1 billion annual business for the company.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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