Is Google getting ready to buy Marketo?

That’s one of the possibilities raised by the recent announcement of a multilevel alliance between the two companies.

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Marketing platform Marketo announced yesterday a multiyear alliance with Google Cloud, which Marketo CEO Steve Lucas described in an email announcement as “a step forward in our collaboration to unite MarTech and AdTech.”

Beginning next year, Marketo will move its products from its independent data centers to the Google Cloud platform. The alliance also involves joint investments in such areas as artificial intelligence, plus integration of Marketo’s platform with Google Cloud analytics and with productivity-oriented G Suite applications.

Google said that Marketo users will “be able to leverage G Suite offerings like Gmail, Sheets and Hangout Chats for faster marketing content development and deeper engagement with customers and prospects.” It also mentioned that advanced analytical tools like Google BigQuery and Machine Learning APIs will bring unspecified “expanded functionality” to marketing activities on Marketo. Via email, Marketo’s Lucas told me that “our joint customers will see a deeper integration of Google’s machine learning tools into Marketo.”

Additionally, Google Cloud will expand its usage of Marketo’s Engagement Platform across its properties.

Although the announcement touts itself as helping the industry’s martech/ad tech merger move forward, analyst David Raab told me via email that the alliance seems “to be mostly about hosting, possibly with some advanced analytics.”

He suggested that moving to the Google Cloud would require Marketo to re-engineer their databases, which could be problematic at a time when the marketing platform has its technical hands full with its rollout of an advanced new Orion platform. Once the move is accomplished, however, he noted that Marketo will be able to scale more easily.

For its part, Marketo said in FAQs accompanying the announcement that it’s been “planning a move to a public cloud infrastructure for some time.” Until the migration is complete, it will continue to operate its own data centers.

But Technology Business Research Senior Analyst Seth Ulinski is more sanguine about the martech/ad tech angle. He emailed me:

“While some industry analysts have proclaimed that the ad tech-marketing tech marriage was off due to different business models, buyers, KPIs, etc. — this development indicates the courtship is indeed alive and well.

“This requires [data] to seamlessly flow between advertising and marketing platforms, serving as fuel for machine learning and improving CX [customer experience]. Alliances such as this help make this a reality.”

He added that it also “makes sense” that Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager and Google’s Analytics 360 marketing tech suite would eventually become tightly integrated with Marketo’s Ad Bridge. Lucas emailed me about a “deeper integration with Marketo Ad Bridge and Google AdWords.”

“Given Marketo is already viewed by many as the Lamborghini of marketing automation,” he wrote, “riding on Google’s Cloud adds more horsepower (e.g. machine learning) and speed (e.g. scale),” and means it could become more competitive with the larger players in this space, like Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle.

Ulinski also raises the possibility of an even closer bond:

I see the two tech vendors as having very complimentary [sic] portfolios. Marketo CEO Steve Lucas stated Google made incentives to Market to partner for cloud infrastructure services which ultimately strengthen each versus the aforementioned enterprise CX peers. With that in mind, this alliance could be a stepping stone [for] Google to acquire Marketo. The fact that Vista Partners took the marketing automation specialist private affords it a lot of flexibility and resources, including where to make investments — going “all in” with Google isn’t a bad bet.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Barry Levine
Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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