Hoping to capitalize on the need to simplify process, large software companies attempt build a fully-loaded marketing offering
In the second half of last year I began to notice the recurring use of the word “stack” in news articles and ad/marketing industry quotes:
“Adobe Adds Marketing Automation To Stack”
“Is the Integrated Ad Stack SSP Really Worth It?”
“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Agency Tech Stacks”
If you’re in the ad/marketing business, it’s almost impossible not to run into a mention of “stack” these days. Though stacks may not play in the same space as bright, shiny objects like social media platforms and mobile innovations that have capture attention lately, when a term spikes as high and as quickly as “stack” has, it gets to wear the mantle of “buzz word.”
The Buzz About Stacks
So what’s with all these stacks, and why is the word so frequently mentioned now?
Stack, in the context of advertising and marketing, is a pretty appropriate, self-explanatory term that requires less explanation than, say, “re-tweeting” or “checking-in.” A stack is comprised of layers of technology solutions that enable the marketer to be able to get more of what she needs done from one single source.
Companies – some never previously really thought of as “marketing providers” — like Adobe, IBM, Oracle and Salesforce.com vie to build ever more robust stacks to be able to offer marketers a more well-rounded one-stop shop option. In order to do so, these companies now race to acquire solutions providers to fill gaps in their stack. While the acquisitions war continues on the provider side, on the ad/marketing side, stacks can lead to efficiencies…or fewer choices.
The Future of the Stack
My friend and mentor Rebecca Lieb did a great job early on of laying out the pros and cons of the stack in a piece she did on Ad Age in April 2012. Since that time, there has been a real run on stack-building as large companies try to remain relevant to their enterprise clients and as margins continue to be squeezed by those providing ad/marketing services to the same clients. Do you see the potential conflict here, however? If the stack becomes so robust as to eliminate the need for much of what the agency did for its clients in the past, could the client just bring those services in-house (“insourcing“) and only retain its agency for creative and strategic consulting? Who will ultimately benefit from the increasing depth of the stack? And in the race to “build the best stack,” will stack providers muck-up a one-time gem of a stand-alone platform solution?
Stack building hasn’t yet reached its peak so the verdict is still out, but I think the smaller tech companies being acquired and the enterprise client looking to cut costs will ultimately gain more than the agencies.
5/1/14 Update: More “stack” sightings. “All of this suggests Facebook is doubling-down on its ad technology stack, of which Atlas is a part.”