​​Ad tech companies vie to fill Oracle’s void after shutdown 

There are many puzzling aspects to Oracle’s choice to wind down its ads business, but the scramble by competitors to fill the gap isn’t one of them. 

The race kicked into high gear last week when it became clear there would be no life after Oracle for its ad divisions. 

Advertisers, publishers and ad tech vendors had to find alternatives fast as a result,  sparking a swift (albeit reluctant) response from plenty of companies. 

And who could blame them? Sure, it’s opportunistic, but Oracle’s ads business made $300 million in its last financial year. Few ad tech bosses would turn their noses up at even a slice of that, especially in today’s tough market.

“The volume of migration is pretty high,” said Mario Diez, CEO of contextual advertising business Peer39.  “There’s a lot of movement from advertisers who are looking for continuity – they need easy like for like transitions in the platforms of choice”

His counterparts over at GumGum share the same perspective. 

“We’ve been getting inbounds from advertisers in recent weeks,” said Adam Schenkel, evp of global platform strategy and operations at GumGum. “In the last couple of months, over 300 advertisers have started using our Verity solution for pre-bid contextual and brand suitability targeting, and over the last week that growth has continued.”

They’re talking about contextual targeting, but he might as well be talking about all the other parts of Oracle’s ads business. Grapeshot or Moat, data management or optimization, there’s a mad dash to replace these services without disrupting campaigns too much as Oracle’s ad empire crumbles away.

But no matter how frenetic the fallout gets, it’s likely to be short-lived – at least until the end of September.

That’s when Oracle will shut down all its ad products, leaving customers with weeks to make decisions that usually take months. 

Some will take the opportunity to pause and reflect on what they want from their partners moving forward, while others will switch to the fastest, easiest option – a split Oracle’s rivals seem to have already factored into their efforts to replace it. They’re either pitching themselves as facilitators of continuity or agents of change.

GumGum firmly places itself in the latter camp.

“A bunch of the messaging from vendors in the market today post Oracle’s announcement has focused on helping marketers migrate over whatever they were doing with Grapeshot and replicate it elsewhere – that’s been a consistent message we’ve seen in market,” said Pete Wallace, EMEA General Manager at GumGum. “We’re pushing for brands to use this migration as a chance to review, iterate and improve on what they might have been doing in the past.”

Whether desperate or discerning, these decisions are being made in a pressure cooker right now. Marketers must identify prospective partners, test them, put them through the procurement ringer and then onboard them against the clock. 

Plus, they’re doing all this without the help of their existing Oracle ad execs, most of whom will have been let go by the end of the month. These tensions are  especially high on the ad verification side, given the size of those deals, but switching contextual advertising providers is no walk in the park either.

“Eight years ago a search for a contextual advertising partner was probably a lot more relationship based,” said Schenkel. “Now, it’s deeper than that; more marketers are more discerning about what the tech can and can’t do and therefore whether it can help achieve their goals.”

If it’s deep enough to disrupt the status quo in this part of the market remains to be seen. Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify dominate for a reason, and, at least in the case of the latter, seem poised to be one of the biggest winners from Oracle’s collapse. They’re already reaching out to ad execs who might be in the market for a new vendor.

In an emailed statement, Nick Reid, managing director for DoubleVerify’s EMEA business said: “In light of recent market shifts, we recognize the opportunity to address the evolving needs of advertisers with a holistic solution for contextual, brand safety, suitability, fraud and viewability. We are actively engaging with advertisers and partners to ensure uninterrupted measurement, providing our clients with continuity, transparency and confidence in their digital investments. As an established global provider of comprehensive media quality and performance solutions, we are uniquely positioned to help our clients navigate market challenges and maximize return on ad spend.” 

It’s not just advertisers caught up in this whirlwind. 

Ad ops execs on the publisher side are pulling their hair out too. They used Oracle’s Grapeshot tech to curate private marketplaces of programmatic ad inventory and ensure their inventory was safe for advertisers. Replacing all that – and the tagging and backend chicanery that comes with it – is tough.

Knowing this, Oracle Advertising’s rivals have made a beeline for many of its former execs. Regarded as some of the best in the business, they know exactly how publishers and advertisers were using the tech and are well placed to help them fill the void.

“We’ve reached out to one hundred people or so just to see if we can help them with soft landings either here or somewhere else,” said Peer39’s Diez. 

Needless to say, the next few weeks will be full of twists and turns. Where will they end up? None of the ad execs Digiday spoke to had a clue.

Given the suddenness of Oracle’s decision, they just know to expect the unexpected. Which is to say they’re mired in catch-up mode – and have been since the start of this debacle. Oracle Advertising’s partners were blindsided by the plans to shutter its advertising unit; one exec even noted that Oracle Advertising executives held meetings to discuss onboarding existing clients the week before the June 11 closure announcement.

“Products like Moat, when they leave [a marketplace], that definitely leaves a big hole in the market because it’s hard to build a product of that scale,” said Rocky Moss, CEO of ad measurement company DeepSee.io. “You can launch a tag-based, tracking product that has way better capabilities compared to more established market players on the face of it, but it will probably suck comparatively if it doesn’t have the same volume or breadth of coverage.”      

All anyone can do now is speculate on how the reverberations from Oracle’s demise will shake the market.

Maybe, it intensifies competition, particularly when it comes to ad verification. 

“On the buy-side, I’m not sure that marketers and agencies are resolved around just having the two having all the competition – DoubleVerify and IAS,” said Scott Cunningham of Cunningham.Tech Consulting and chair of the Brand Safety Institute’s Publisher Council. “I have the feeling it is ripe for other market entrants.”

Time will tell if he’s right. In the meantime, expect a period of uncertainty and confusion as players jockey for position. 

https://digiday.com/?p=549112

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