Oracle announced last week that it is exiting the advertising business and sunsetting its adtech by September 30. While the announcement isn’t surprising given its massive layoffs in 2022 of teams supporting Oracle Advertising, the speed of Oracle Advertising’s demise is shocking. Oracle serves as a case study in how quickly and significantly the foundation of digital advertising has shifted.

What happened?

Oracle Advertising hit turbulent water in 2018 and never righted the ship. Oracle’s advertising business took multiple hits from the forces of data deprecation:

  • New privacy regulation. The GDPR instituted new requirements for capturing consent. In response, Oracle struggled to find a solution to make its social sharing add-on AddThis GDPR-compliant, eventually pulling it out of Europe. AddThis fed browsing and online behavior data to Oracle, helping Oracle build out its data broker segments and identity graph, but wasn’t geared for capturing consent before processing personal data. Oracle sunset AddThis globally last year.
  • Growing consumer privacy awareness. In Oracle’s case, consumer privacy awareness manifested as a class-action lawsuit alleging that Oracle built “digital dossiers” on millions of people without their consent. While a judge dismissed some of the claims in the original lawsuit, it is still proceeding through the legal system and remains unresolved.
  • Walled gardens clamping down. Big Tech companies like Meta, Apple, and Google became much more restrictive about their data and how marketers can use it. In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook sunset its Partner Categories program. The program let advertisers match Facebook user data with third-party data — some of which was provided by Oracle — to target ads. Ending the program cut off a revenue stream for Oracle.
  • The death of the third-party cookie. Since data management platforms (DMPs) rely on third-party cookies to build and reach audience segments, third-party cookie deprecation renders DMPs, including Oracle’s BlueKai, ineffective. Some DMPs are being retired, such as Salesforce’s decision to sunset Audience Studio, while others, like Adobe, are pushing existing DMP customers to adopt its customer data platform instead.

It would have taken Oracle significant investment to retool its acquisitions to function in a world where consent is increasingly required and data brokers face ongoing scrutiny and regulation. Given Oracle’s unproven record of trying to comply with privacy laws, it would have faced a steep uphill climb to not only innovate quickly but also convince the market that its solutions are viable.

What does this mean for the advertising ecosystem?

Oracle was never an adtech behemoth. The precipitous drop in advertising revenue from $2 billion in 2022 to $300 million in 2024 suggests a gross miscalculation on Oracle’s part. With neither demand- nor supply-side platforms (unlike Google, Microsoft, and Amazon) and no large audience to draw on (unlike Meta, Disney, and Netflix), the benefits of working with Oracle or being acquired by Oracle weren’t clear. The open question in Oracle’s case is whether its intellectual property will find new ownership and enjoy a second life.

What does this mean for the marketing ecosystem?

Not much. Prominent martech vendors like Adobe and Salesforce have already shifted their focus from DMPs to consumer data platforms (CDPs). Their transitions have been successful, with Adobe Real-Time CDP and Salesforce Data Cloud for Marketing gaining market share. Oracle hasn’t performed as strongly in the B2C martech space. Its decision to cut martech and adtech investments severely hampered its B2C go-to-market efforts with Responsys, which never had as robust of a following as Eloqua does in the B2B space. Oracle also announced that it will be sunsetting related B2C marketing products like Oracle Maxymiser over the next few months.

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