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October 23, 2015, Article

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AdExchanger: IBM Rolls Out A ‘Behavior Exchange,’ Brings On Ad Tech Partners

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IBM is pushing deeper into the cloud and paid media.

Big Blue on Thursday launched the IBM Universal Behavior Exchange (UBX), a platform that unifies marketing tech acquisitions including Unica campaign management, Silverpop marketing automation, Coremetrics analytics and Xtify mobile personalization.

It also named 25 UBX partners, including a handful of ad tech players like MediaMath, Turn, Rocket Fuel and The Trade Desk.

“As we were combining these IBM assets together, we discovered marketers were using many different applications,” said Kevin Dunn, head of technology ecosystem and strategic alliances for IBM. “We realized we couldn’t have 30 different applications within IBM’s own portfolio because the innovation in the market sort of outpaces the ability to solve every single problem yourself.”

While IBM had its Digital Marketing Network, it was mostly a way for partners to integrate with IBM’s analytics and pull web data into their broader campaigns.

UBX, however, taps some of the Digital Marketing Network’s API connections and adds some of Silverpop’s more powerful assets like data capturing and profile building. 

“The Universal Behavior Exchange is this open environment where you can connect many different systems and end points and have the information and data from one system affect engagement in another,” Dunn said. “We’ve enabled ID syncing, where we’d [match] pixels and cookies back to known information,” such as when someone provides their email address or authenticates through Facebook.

When IBM hooked into Facebook’s Custom Audiences API last spring, that move came well after competitors like Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle. But that connection let IBM test bigger third-party connections to allow data to flow both into and out of the IBM system.

“We hope to expand [UBX] to 125 partners by the end of 2016 to allow bidirectional communication between all these systems,” Dunn said. “Think of it as a publisher-subscriber model where customers who use our service [or partners’ services] can log into a marketer-friendly UI and select the information they need to flow from one channel to another.”

Although UBX’s partner slate is not limited to ad tech vendors (it includes social identity and marketing platforms like Gigya and Spredfast), connecting CRM to paid media was a key factor in the development of the platform.

Dunn said many customers who used IBM’s segmentation tools and analytics wanted a tighter connection to their respective demand-side platforms.

More of these integrations are inevitable. MediaMath, for instance, just synced up with Oracle Marketing Cloud so customers could target based on known information (such as an email sent with Oracle’s Eloqua) within the MediaMath TerminalOne workflow.

The reason these connections are only now being forged is because of the complexities around integration and historical separation between end users. Database and CRM records were not the purview of the media team, whose work centered more on cookie syncing through data-management platforms.

But “more customers want to know what channels and media types influenced a conversion – not just top-of-the-funnel brand awareness,” Dunn said. “We’re very much seeing the merger of ad tech and mar tech. When you view a display ad, it’s very likely the audience is susceptible to other messaging, be it email or Facebook, and we want all of these to inform each other.”

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