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Home » Amid Oracle fallout, advertisers are weighing up challengers against established vendors

Amid Oracle fallout, advertisers are weighing up challengers against established vendors

The impending closure of Oracle’s ads business has left advertisers with a tricky choice: opt for established alternatives for a faster, smoother transition, or take a chance on a challenger that might take longer to integrate but could offer unique benefits beyond what Oracle provided.

Whatever they decide, marketers are on the clock. Oracle’s entire ads business, including Grapeshot, Moat, Bluekai and Datalogix, shuts down at the end of September. That leaves just over two months to make decisions that usually take much longer, especially for ad verification companies.

Oracle’s most established rivals, DoubleVerify and IAS are expected to gain the most from this scramble.

“They’ll probably be licking their lips at the moment in terms of picking up that business,” said Jonathan D’Souza-Rauto, biddable product lead at media agency Kepler.

For their part, both DoubleVerify and IAS are keeping their cards close to their chest. 

“We can’t really talk about the inbound demand we’ve had,” said Nick Reid, EMEA managing director of DoubleVerify. “But I would say I don’t know a brand that doesn’t care about brand equity and the protection of that. I don’t know a brand that doesn’t care about removing media wastage. And I don’t know a brand that doesn’t want to drive return on investment.”

Reid might be coy about how many of Oracle’s soon-to-be free clients DoubleVerify expects to attract (are they talking to Oracle’s reported largest client, Procter & Gamble? “No comment”), but he said the verification company was set to provide stability for those shopping around. It’s a point that’s come through in some of the marketing that has gone out to clients of Oracle Advertising in recent weeks.

“Maintaining continuity is probably the most important thing for a brand,” he said. “We are making ourselves available to our agency partners and our clients and brands, to make sure that they have the faith and trust in that maintenance of continuity.”

A spokesperson for IAS, which declined interview requests for this story, told Digiday that “we look forward to working with Oracle Advertising’s customers, employees, and partners on a seamless transition during this period of change.”

Still, they’re not the only providers in the mix.

What are advertisers looking for?

Some marketers are trying to turn the crisis into an opportunity. They’re using the limited time to wean themselves off Oracle’s ads business and test out some of the lesser-known alternatives.

Sure, it might mean working with more providers and potentially higher costs, but it could be a price worth paying. Chiefly, the risks of relying on a single supplier — amply demonstrated by the collapse of Oracle itself.

“There are existing and new players in the market that are providing really cool solutions in that space,” said Paul Wood, IPG Magna’s director of media standards & investment products in EMEA. “We’re advising our clients to really get under the skin of what the brief is, what the KPIs are of the campaign, and then seek a partner that is going to help you deliver that.”

It’s a lot for any marketer to handle at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a crisis like this. They have to weigh the costs, quality, and scalability of a vendor’s service, as well as consider intangible factors like software UI and ease of use. And the window to do all this, especially for Oracle’s Bluekai and Datalogix services, might be even smaller than previously thought.

According to an email seen by Digiday, Oracle began terminating its contracts with audience data suppliers starting this Monday (July 1). Oracle did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

This could be a big problem for some advertisers. Given that they typically treat audience data older than a month with suspicion, Oracle’s contextual targeting service Grapeshot could be useful only as far as August. No wonder some observers fear the looming deadline will provoke clients to choose the easiest, most straightforward replacements for Grapeshot.

It certainly has given marketers a lot to think about. 

One of those at a CPG advertiser and Oracle client, who spoke to Digiday on condition of anonymity, said their colleagues were “definitely a little bit nervous, given the timeline.” But, they added, to not consider alternative options would be a “disservice to the opportunity”. 

“There’s more than just those two [DoubleVerify and IAS]… I think people are defaulting to the market leaders. But I don’t know if they’re really asking the right questions,” they said. 

The unnamed CPG brand had begun its review process, the exec said, and was set to meet with Zefr, Pixability, DeepSee and Adalytics, as well as DoubleVerify and IAS.

“We’re going to meet with the traditional ones. We’re also going to meet with some of the new age verification partners and see if the appropriate mix is just one or a combination and really determine if we are solving the business issues that we want to solve, that we need to solve,” they said.

While nothing is set in stone, this ad exec hints at an unbundling of ad verification. It doesn’t mean Doubleverify and IAS are being cast aside, but rather that some marketers are carving out more defined roles for different companies to curate and verify their advertising, instead of relying on a single provider to do it all.

That’s come through in some of the conversations contextual ads business GumGum has had with advertisers in recent weeks, said Pete Wallace, the firm’s EMEA general manager. In fact, he and his colleagues have met with four advertisers considering new contextual partners just this week. 

“We are seeing a lot of brands actively come to us and, and talk about brand safety and contextual targeting,” Wallace said. “We’re going hard at it.”

It’s the same story at Comscore programmatic targeting business Proximic. 

The company has heard from “dozens” of advertisers looking for a replacement for Oracle, said its managing director, Rachel Gantz. From these exchanges, she concluded that more advertisers are considering a blend of providers. Instead of relying solely on DoubleVerify or IAS, they’re using these companies for basic protection and augmenting with alternatives like Ad Fontes, Adloox, DeepSee, Human, Jounce Media, and Zefr.

‘Disservice to the opportunity’

All this is happening at a time when advertisers’ frustrations with ad verification companies are reaching a boiling point.

Advertisers’ faith in established verification partners was shaken earlier this year, after DoubleVerify and IAS were caught flat-footed by the Forbes MFA debacle. 

Doubleverify has acknowledged the concerns, but said its recently launched AI-based solutions mean it’s well positioned to answer them.

However this all shakes out, marketers won’t make their decisions lightly. In fact, the anonymous CPG marketer told Digiday that his company was considering a “bridge” solution that would meet its basic needs while buying time to make a proper decision. How feasible this really is remains unclear for now. 

“Continuity is absolutely crucial,” said Ben Norville, senior programmatic director at media agency RocketMill. “It could be pretty detrimental and potentially harmful to clients’ campaigns if they don’t find a new solution quickly.”

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