Adobe Summit 2017 — Major Announcements and What They Mean

Adobe Launch — The Future of DTM

On main­stage, one of the first announce­ments was about Launch, a complete rethink of Adobe’s Acti­va­tion core service (known today as Dynamic Tag Manage­ment, or DTM). Over the past four years, DTM has grown at a stratos­pheric rate, and Launch is an impor­tant mile­stone for several reasons.

First, Launch shows Adobe’s commitment to tag management.

Not only is Adobe putting dollars behind Launch, they’re also enlist­ing blis­ter­ingly smart people with real empathy for today’s marketers—and it shows in the soft­ware you saw at Summit. Adobe is putting some of its best teams and resources behind an impor­tant commit­ment to being a more open plat­form. Open­ness is crit­i­cal to marketers, and Adobe is seeing and react­ing to this (more on that later).

DTM is a crit­i­cal piece of the market­ing archi­tec­ture for every busi­ness who uses it, and the tag manage­ment space has seen a lot of compe­ti­tion. The dust has settled and there are a few clear winners, meaning it’s vital for busi­nesses to know that their choice will see contin­ued improve­ments, evolu­tions, and support. People have felt confi­dent in Adobe’s commit­ment to DTM, and the money and talent they’re putting behind Launch proves we should continue to be confi­dent in Launch.

Second, Launch is about openness, scale and customization.

Launch is API-first, allow­ing anyone to develop on top of it. This allows launch to hit three birds with one API stone:

  1. For the first and only time in tag manage­ment, exten­sions and inte­gra­tions can be built by anyone. As prac­ti­tion­ers and consul­tants, we don’t have to rely on any single entity to build an inte­gra­tion for Doubleclick or Face­book, for Turn or Bluekai. Those compa­nies can build and main­tain their own, syncing with their own inter­nal devel­op­ment time­lines and new capabilities.The inte­gra­tions that have been built by tag manage­ment vendors in the past have always been limit­ing, and many clients avoid using them in lieu of writing their own custom versions or paying for one-off customiza­tions. But with Launch, anyone in the commu­nity can expand or write their own exten­sion if the vendor them­selves does not do a good job. If you have a partic­u­lar set of needs for track­ing embed­ded video content, for example, you have complete control.This allows for customiza­tion to be spread out over hundreds of people contribut­ing to the commu­nity, instead of relying on one TMS to try and keep with the hundreds of tech­nolo­gies they are designed to imple­ment.
  2. Launch’s API-first approach also allows us to enhance the capa­bil­i­ties of Launch by writing func­tion­al­ity to help manage wide networks of sites at scale, rather than working at the web prop­erty level. We can deploy tech­nolo­gies across hundreds or thou­sands of sites, ensure that site or group-level customiza­tions are still intact where they need to be, and account for idio­syn­crasies and unique­ness across indi­vid­ual sites and appli­ca­tions. For the many global brands that work with us and have anywhere between 10 and 2,500 web sites, this func­tion­al­ity will create massive effi­cien­cies and improve­ments to gover­nance.
  3. Third, devel­op­ers can now write sophis­ti­cated func­tion­al­ity to improve work­flow and manage­ment of Launch. For example, our own solu­tion, Sling­shot, allows marketers to use a single embed code across all of their DTM prop­er­ties, rather than having sepa­rate embeds for each web prop­erty, and staging and dev envi­ron­ments. For some of our clients, that means the differ­ence between manag­ing over 2,000 unique embeds and manag­ing 1 embed across thou­sands of sites.Similarly, we will be writing custom work­flows for approvals, alerts, status, and who needs to do what. After hundreds of engage­ments at Search Discovery, we’ve found these to be the best prac­tices for imple­men­ta­tion and main­te­nance. Launch will work exactly the way we and our clients need it to, allow­ing us to make the most of our engage­ments and focus on strate­gic work that moves KPIs.

Third, geekiness.

Now, this is the part that some people are excited about, and that others fear. While the devel­op­ers out there are doing back­flips over Launch, many busi­nesses are wonder­ing, “Does what I just saw mean that DTM just got too tech­ni­cal for us to handle?”

I have some pretty strong thoughts about this topic, which I’ll illus­trate through a story.

When Search Discovery CEO, Lee Blanken­ship, and I were first start­ing the Satel­lite busi­ness, before it was acquired by Adobe and became DTM, we had a meeting with one of the 25 biggest compa­nies in the United States. Their primary crite­ria for choos­ing a tag manage­ment system was that “even a completely non-tech­ni­cal person can use it.”

I’ll say now what I said then: “For me, no matter how easy a Boeing 747 ever becomes to fly, at no point will I ever be okay with a non-pilot flying it. And I think your busi­ness should have the same atti­tude about who’s pilot­ing your data collec­tion across 100% of your digital exis­tence.”

Yeah, that made me feel pretty tough. That’s about as close as it gets to Clint East­wood-style hard talk in digital market­ing.

Now, please note two things: 1) we fortu­nately won that busi­ness and had a massively success­ful deploy­ment, and 2) I am not in any way saying that these tools shouldn’t strive to smarter, safer and easier to use—that is always a good thing.

I’m simply and adamantly point­ing out that data is the lifeblood of busi­ness. In most busi­nesses, dozens of plat­forms, automa­tion systems, analy­ses and insights rely completely on good data, and at no point should anyone consider handing the controls over to someone without the requi­site skillset. You are not staffing that pilot’s chair for the sunny, calm days when every­thing goes exactly as planned. You’re staffing that chair for the storms, and every busi­ness has storms. Most have them almost daily.

Make sure you have the right people in these crit­i­cal roles, whether that is in-house, or through a proven partner. Please, do not make a mistake on who the pilots are.

 

But the question still remains: Is Launch now too technical?

The answer is “no.”

In reality, the parts of DTM that needed to be more tech­ni­cal to allow amazing people to do amazing things have opened up. The parts of DTM that were user-friendly have also gotten better at the same time. In a sense, DTM, as it evolves into Launch, is getting both more and less tech­ni­cal at the same time, and this is a great thing.

This allows groups like us to do things with greater effi­ciency and scale than ever before, while allow­ing less-expe­ri­enced teams to handle simpler use cases with greater ease of use, orga­ni­za­tion, find­abil­ity, safer and more nuanced approval work­flows, and more.

Getting into the nitty gritty of Launch is some­thing we don’t have the space for here, but believe me, the future is bright and we are looking forward to helping our clients make the most of the oppor­tu­nity. Stay tuned to our blog for much more infor­ma­tion as Launch gets closer to…umm….launching.

The Data Platform

The next thing the audi­ence was let in on was some insight into how Adobe is approach­ing their own tech­ni­cal archi­tec­ture, and where they are start­ing. This is a lot more excit­ing than it may first seem, for two reasons.

 

Let’s talk about what the Data Platform is/could be.

Adobe’s Expe­ri­ence Cloud (Market­ing Cloud) archi­tec­ture is made up of many acqui­si­tions, in addi­tion to home­grown tech­nol­ogy. Each of these pieces of product and func­tion­al­ity were at some point free­stand­ing busi­nesses, each with their own data collec­tion, user admin­is­tra­tion, data process­ing, algo­rithms, report­ing inter­faces, segmen­ta­tion tools, etc. And perhaps most impor­tantly to the way marketers work today, they each had differ­ent data storage systems and schemes.

The impact of this is easily illus­trated by this example. Compare the number of visits, clicks, page views, conver­sions, members of segments, etc. measured by each solu­tion (Analyt­ics, Target, Media Opti­mizer, Campaign…), and you’ll find that conver­sions, as well as just about every other metric, are going to be differ­ent.

This is the point at which people start to freak out a little bit. Let’s not go down that road. The team here at Search Discovery will certainly continue to create some diag­nos­tic content and offer services address­ing when it is and isn’t okay for numbers to be differ­ent, but I’d like to focus on some­thing much more strate­gic here.

Looking beyond the differ­ences in the numbers, the most impor­tant topic to modern marketers is the ability to manage their market­ing and behav­ioral data holis­ti­cally. What wins in digital today is not prod­ucts, but archi­tec­tures. It’s not about which email plat­form is best in a silo; it’s about which email plat­form works best in your overall tech­ni­cal and strate­gic ecosys­tem: being able to tap into any cross-channel audi­ence or set of trig­gers to inform the topic, timing, and desti­na­tion of those emails, for example (right message, right time, right person, right place).

The process of buying and imple­ment­ing tech­nolo­gies in silos is already dead at the most success­ful and advanced busi­nesses. The vital signs say the same for the broader adop­tion curve—“must play well with others” is the funda­men­tal require­ment of the future.

The data plat­form that Adobe is working toward provides a multi­tude of bene­fits. Here are a few that I think we can all start dream­ing about today:

  • Collec­tion: A single data plat­form paves the path for a single collec­tion pipeline for all behav­ioral data—one archi­tec­ture to main­tain, opti­mize for perfor­mance, and handle every customer touch point. One customer iden­ti­fi­ca­tion system (which we’re already seeing with the visitor ID service) tying all behav­ior together at collect time, meaning many data marriage exer­cises later in the process are easier or unnec­es­sary.
  • Storage: Want answers? Get all of them from one place, regard­less of the product mix you are using. This logi­cally leads to central­ized report­ing and analy­sis for all forms of data Adobe manages and imports, and one place for you to query on your own, as those tools hypo­thet­i­cally come avail­able. Also, if you want to export into your own data warehouse/lake/cloud/galaxy/ball of yarn (or what­ever you’re calling it in your busi­ness), this leads to the possi­bil­ity of getting the whole Adobe batch, all clean as a whistle across all web and app analyt­ics, search, display, social, person­al­iza­tion, email, video, etc. at once. That way, there’s no struc­tural work piece­meal on your side.
  • Inte­gra­tion: No need for solu­tion-to-solu­tion inte­gra­tion of events, trig­gers, rules, models, audi­ences or stored data. It all lives in the same home and gets along. Exter­nal inte­gra­tion is central­ized, so any 1st or 3rd party data sources or appli­ca­tions inter­face in one place.
  • I/O: A single schema for the import and export of all types of data, which could logi­cally also lead to a true stan­dard for these types of data (yes!).
  • Appli­ca­tions: Complex cross-channel + cross-device + multi(and stitched)-session analy­ses, predic­tive algo­rithms, rule sets and audi­ence manage­ment, attri­bu­tion, and the list goes on and on. Is there some­thing you’d like your data universe to reveal or trigger? That is going to be a whole lot easier.

This is just a sample of the outcomes. Are you start­ing to appre­ci­ate how big of a deal this is? Adobe has fully acknowl­edged that archi­tec­tures trump silos, and the data plat­form couldn’t be a clearer signal of the new era they are walking through the door. Most of the above is just me think­ing through (and hoping) what it will turn into, so it could take on much more as you use your own imag­i­na­tion.

And that brings us to the second reason this is inter­est­ing:

 

What this means, philo­soph­i­cally.

Let’s extrap­o­late this idea: if many acqui­si­tions brought over many data pipelines and storage approaches, it stands to reason that they also brought numer­ous client-side imple­men­ta­tions, edge services, scoring algo­rithms, report­ing inter­faces, chart­ing APIs, report automa­tion systems, alert­ing systems, activ­ity logging, user manage­ment, asset stores and managers, deci­sion­ing systems, rule builders, etc.

Start­ing to get the picture? It doesn’t take too huge of a mental leap to under­stand that this whole ecosys­tem is headed in a revo­lu­tion­ary direc­tion that will have more bene­fits than we can count. Abstracted, gener­al­ized compo­nents (includ­ing and beyond the Core Services offered today) allow a single archi­tec­ture to do many, many things, and do those things with more effi­ciency than mono­lithic, free­stand­ing appli­ca­tions can.

Adobe as an Expe­ri­ence Plat­form

 

The last piece of main­stage content wasn’t about product, but putting their brand­ing where their hopes are, and that is posi­tion­ing the Market­ing Cloud as the Expe­ri­ence Cloud. There was also talk about the Analyt­ics Cloud and the Adver­tis­ing Cloud.

We had many visi­tors to our booth ask why there were clouds of clouds on clouds, and the best reply I could come up with was that “Stacks on Stacks on Stacks” was already taken, and that’s what Adobe is trying to do for you: make you a whole bunch of green­backs.

What I believe is impor­tant here is not how this repre­sents the prod­ucts differ­ently, but how this repre­sents Adobe’s intent and the way they would like for us all to be think­ing: this isn’t about Market­ing, it’s about Expe­ri­ences. All of it. We are creat­ing, mone­tiz­ing, opti­miz­ing, person­al­iz­ing, and enrich­ing expe­ri­ences.

I believe and hope it’s a much more authen­tic repre­sen­ta­tion of what brands will be striv­ing for in this partic­u­lar era.

I, for one, want to be a consumer that brands care about enough to archi­tect great expe­ri­ences. They will get more of my money, for sure. But more on that in the last section of this overview, “How to commit to getting better at digital expe­ri­ences.”

Next: What we heard from over 400 conver­sa­tions with real analysts and marketers at Adobe Summit

 

Announcements and What They Mean

What We Heard From The Attendees

Conclusions and What You Should Do

What Adobe Experience Cloud questions can we answer for you?