Adobe IBMs Silverpop Deal Could Trigger Nightmare

IBM’s acquisition of Silverpop will create “headaches” for marketers using Big Blue platforms because of “silo problems” that will lead to a potentially expensive “integration nightmare,” according to a top official at Adobe, a leading competitor.

Suresh Vittal, vice president of marketing strategy for Adobe’s Digital Marketing business, told CMSWire that IBM, which typically sells to CIOs, is trying to hand marketing to IT.

“This acquisition feels like an attempt to fix the failings in the Unica acquisition: namely email and cross-channel execution,” Vittal said. “We think Silverpop is a partial answer that creates significant overlap problems for both Unica and Silverpop clients.”

Integration Challenge?

After the acquisition was announced last Thursday, CMSWire asked IBM about its integration plans for Silverpop, which came with a price tag of $270 million, according to an IBM blog.

Geoff Galat, vice president of marketing for IBM Smarter Commerce, told CMSWire that “until the deal closes, Silverpop will continue to operate as an independent company, so it is premature to discuss specifics around integration roadmaps. We expect the deal to close in the second quarter.”

However, Galat added, IBM has done its due diligence as it usually would for any acquisition.

“We feel confident that Silverpop's underlying cloud-based marketing automation technology will integrate quite well with our open platforms and be infused throughout our marketing solutions," he said. "We have a long history of successful integrations of acquisitions in the marketing space such as Tealeaf, Coremetrics, Unica and others, and we expect no less with Silverpop.”

Down-The-Road Problems?

Vittal saw the acquisition as IBM’s realization that while it spent significant dollars on acquiring marketing technology, it missed digital execution.

“Eventually they had to settle for an email provider in Silverpop and a mobile provider in Xtify,” Vittal said. “This creates another set of headaches for marketers: solving the silo problems across the various IBM products. We predict this is where IBM Global services comes in with lots of expensive integration to solve this problem.”

customer experience, Adobe: IBM's Silverpop Acquisition Could Be 'Integration Nightmare'

IBM, Vittal (pictured at left) said, made early bets in the marketing technology space with the Unica and Coremetrics acquisitions.

However, he added, its Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) group lacked in its offering and was forced to acquire another solution, Silverpop, which focuses heavily on the email market.

“Again, like many other recent acquisitions this could turn into an integration nightmare for customers as IBM can only offer a suite that is simply a disparate set of capabilities,” Vittal said.

“IBM’s cloud story remains weak, and we anticipate marketer’s total cost of ownership to remain high.”

Asked by CMSWire about integrating new technology, Paige O'Neill, chief marketing officer for 2,000-plus-employee SDL, acknowledged it can be “extremely difficult.” 

From her own experience with WCM, marketing and email technology integration, it can often be a “multiyear timeframe.” However, she added: “It can be very powerful integration once you get there."

IBM Confident

In its interview with CMSWire, IBM gloated over being the only provider that offers a platform of integrated and natively-owned technologies that span all four customer engagement disciplines of marketing, analytics, commerce and content.

“Now with Silverpop,” Galat told CMSWire, “we will add even more breadth and depth to our offerings by infusing an even higher degree of personalization for marketers in B2B and B2C organizations of all sizes.”

The acquisition “strengthens our established leadership position in the market, which we have been heavily investing in since 2008,” Galat added.

Further, IBM’s Blair Reeves blogged last week that “Oracle, Adobe and Salesforce may be building strong businesses, but not necessarily near-term profitability.”

“Their acquisition strategies seem to be one part business case, one part (big surprise!) marketing, which is pushing a valuation bubble for enterprise marketing technology firms that bulges or wanes depending on the suitor,” added Reeves, product manager for IBM Digital Analytics and SaaS marketing tools.

customer experience, Adobe: IBM's Silverpop Acquisition Could Be 'Integration Nightmare'

Adobe Response

Oracle and Salesforce did not answer requests from CMSWire seeking comment over Reeves’ blog or Galat’s contention that IBM stands alone in the space. Adobe’s Vittal responded, saying Adobe is the “only company that truly understands marketers.”

“Adobe has an unparalleled 30-year history providing the tools for marketers and advertisers to create compelling content,” Vittal said. “With the Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe brings a holistic view of the marketer’s needs to effectively target and engage customers. We are proud to say that the Adobe Marketing Cloud is still the most integrated, comprehensive set of marketing solutions in the industry.” 

With Adobe Campaign, Vittal added, marketers can power cross-channel execution from a single place.

Adobe has had its own integration challenges with email. Adobe acquired Campaign, an email management tool, from Neolane last year for $600 million and is only now preparing to release versions that are fully integrated with the rest of its marketing suite. A major update is planned for late summer, with additional changes expected in following months.

“Adobe Marketing Cloud core services help Adobe clients benefit,” Vittal said, “by sharing cross-solution capabilities to simplify integration challenges.”

Title image by weerapat kiatdumrong (Shutterstock).