Welcome to The Week in Martech, a new column in which we round up some of the most interesting developments from the world of marketing technology over the past week.

This week, cloud-based software platform Oracle wants its clients to know that its tech stack is not a 7-Eleven (but it’s happy to help them make a chocolate cake), and the blockchain hype in advertising is starting to lose momentum.

Meanwhile, augmented reality specialist Blippar is improving its accuracy, and earned media platform Cision can now track images as they’re shared around the web and target the users who shared them.

What will this mean for marketers? Let’s take a look.

Cision acquires ShareIQ, adds image tracking capabilities

Public relations and earned media software company Cision recently made a significant acquisition to boost the capabilities of its Cision Communications Cloud platform.

Thanks to their acquisition of ShareIQ, a Berlin-based visual content performance company, Cision now offers the first earned media platform that tracks visual as well as text content, according to Martech Today.

ShareIQ’s technology works by generating a perceptual hash (a unique code generated from a data file) from an image and tracking it across the web. Crucially, this type of hash still works even if there are small changes made to an image, like changes in size or optimisation of colour.

A screenshot from ShareIQ’s platform, showing which images are shared from certain URLs. Image: Martech Today

In 2017, ShareIQ also developed a new product that could generate and target segments based on the types of images they have engaged with. Now, Cision has added this capability to its platform.

“We’re sure Google and other tech titans have [similar] sophisticated image tracking/identification technologies,” Cision’s President of Data Solutions and Innovation Dave Barker told Martech Today, “but none that offer a platform for marketing or communication professionals to utilise.”

With an increasingly visual web, it was only a matter of time before marketers and advertisers developed the capability to somehow track images as they’re shared and changed by users across the web. Certainly, the idea has a lot of interesting potential for developing image-based campaigns.

However, the targeting part of this gives me pause. While it might seem like a natural evolution of targeting users who interact with certain types of textual content, it has the very real potential to become the next retargeting nightmare: share a single image of a barbecue grill, and have ads for barbecue grills following you around the web for the next month.

Marketers will need to be careful about how they deploy this to avoid consumer backlash.

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Blockchain’s hype among advertisers is fizzling out

Here a blockchain. There a blockchain. In the last year or so, you could be forgiven for thinking that blockchain was the universal cure for all ills, with the way that the media has banged on about it – it seemed there wasn’t an industry that blockchain couldn’t improve.

But advertisers are realising that blockchain might not be a magic wand for industry transparency woes. In a down-to-earth piece this week for Digiday, Seb Joseph writes that, “Not only are advertisers split on when blockchain will be widely adopted by the industry, they’re also unsure if a technology that logs transactions between buyers and sellers in a way that doesn’t need third-party authentication will ease their concerns over undisclosed fees, ad tech taxes, fraud and opaque trading agreements.”

Furthermore, writes Joseph, advertisers are beginning to realise that there are relatively few players in the market who have a genuine product to offer. While some advertisers, like Pernod Ricard, Procter & Gamble, and GameStop, are still finding ways to make blockchain work for them, it seems that the vast majority have realised they may have overestimated how quickly and easily they would be able to apply this very new technology to advertising.

Marketers and advertisers being taken in by over-hyped technology? Imagine that.

Further reading:

Blippar unveils improved visual positioning for its AR offering

Speaking of possibly over-hyped technologies: augmented reality has re-entered the conversation in a big way this month with the long-awaited release of Magic Leap’s first AR headset.

Whether the headset will live up to the years of expectations is yet to be seen, but in the meantime, another interesting piece of news came out of the AR space this week from augmented reality specialist Blippar.

If AR is to live up to its potential, it has to be believable, but AR technology has often been hobbled by glitchy, unresponsive visuals and imprecise positioning, which ruins the illusion and makes it frustrating to use – and not a proposition that brands are keen to buy into.

Now, Blippar is making significant strides towards solving the last of those issues: Martech Today reports that it has unveiled a vastly improved indoor visual positioning system that ranges in accuracy from a couple of metres to a couple of centimetres.

The indoor positioning system uses “distinctive visual elements” like posters, paintings or signs to anchor AR objects instead of GPS, which is what is typically used to position AR in outdoor spaces (think Ingress or Pokémon Go). Martech Today reports that the tech could make things like floating menus in front of restaurants, or product information hovering over items on shelves – which are highly anticipated by many brands (and consumers) as the ultimate potential of AR – a reality.

Blippar has released a demo that shows off the new positioning system, and while some of the visuals are clunky or a little off, it’s still impressive.

Blippar is touting the technology’s potential to make a range of environments interactive, from supermarkets to airports, stadiums to shopping centres. One of the “world’s largest retailers” is reportedly on board to bring 3D content, labels and recommendation engines to its stores, and the collaboration is set to launch by the end of this year or the beginning of 2019.

I’ll hold off on making any sweeping predictions about 2019 being the “year of AR”, but this is a big development that could make a lot of really exciting things possible, so watch this space.

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RevJet revs up with $30 million in funding and plans for AI

RevJet, a self-styled Ad Experience Platform, wants to unlock the “hidden potential in digital ad creative”, and it just received a big boost towards that goal. This week, it closed a $21 million Series A funding round, putting its total funding at $30 million.

RevJet has been around since 2005 as a mobile RTB (real-time bidding) platform housed within in-app advertising company LifeStreet Media, but it wasn’t until it was spun off into a separate company in late 2014 that things started to get interesting. Since then, it has focused on putting creative back into adtech, coining the term “Creative-Side Platform” to describe its solution, and working with Microsoft to optimise display ad creative in real-time and boost conversions.

The company has more than tripled its workforce since 2015, reports AdExchanger, and has earmarked this most recent round of funding for investments in product and engineering, with a focus on machine learning, personalisation and AI.

CEO and founder of RevJet Mitchell Weisman told AdExchanger that by rights, we should be in a “golden age of marketing” with all of the data and technology at our fingertips – but there’s almost too much of it.

While crafting and delivering meaningful ad experiences to the user across every touchpoint is no easy task, however, it’s one that RevJet is revving up to tackle. (Sorry).

Oracle: a martech stack is not a convenience store

Oracle Corporation is one of marketing technology’s big hitters. Over the past few years, it has made a number of significant acquisitions to strengthen its marketing cloud offering and add to its martech stack.

However, The Drum reports this week that Oracle is cautioning its clients against just picking a couple of technologies off its “shelf” without properly understanding how they work or fit together.

Instead, the company is stressing the need to focus on a desired outcome first and foremost, and then work backwards to find the tools that will get them there.

“Because we own more than 22,000 products, it makes more sense that we say to our customers, “Look. Stop. What exactly is it you’re trying to do?”” Oracle Marketing Cloud’s Vice President, Stephen Hamill, told The Drum.

“When we understand what their problem is, we say, “Look. We are not a 7-Eleven full of products that we can bring to bear.” [The] question is, what is it you really want? You want a chocolate cake. We will get the right amount of cocoa and sugar and milk, and we will bring the right amount of the right ingredients so that we will get you the chocolate cake that you want.”

chocolate cake

Pictured: your perfect marketing tech stack, apparently

Hamill’s comments hint at a wider tendency within the marketing industry for companies to buy marketing tools almost for the sake of buying them, without thinking hard enough about what it is they want to achieve.

While martech platforms have an immense amount of potential to help companies increase their efficiency and scale, they’re a huge investment to make if you’re not clear on exactly how they’ll help you achieve your aims. This approach can often lead to companies buying platforms and only using a fraction of their available functionality, or wasting time training employees on a tool that isn’t actually that useful.

So while Oracle is talking specifically about its own marketing tech stack and services, it’s advice worth taking to heart in general if you’re in the market for a new solution.

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