Salesforce to pull plug on Audience Studio DMP

Salesforce Audience Studio DMP is no longer being sold, Salesforce confirms. It could signal the beginning of the end of programmatic digital ad sales.

Salesforce has apparently pulled the plug on its Audience Studio data management platform.

"Salesforce can confirm that Audience Studio is no longer available for purchase," a Salesforce spokesperson said in an email.

Salesforce built its DMP from the $700 million cash-and-stock acquisition of Krux in 2016. The company hasn't yet updated its Audience Studio pages to reflect the change, and didn't divulge what current users can expect for support moving forward. In a statement, Salesforce put new emphasis on its customer data platform (CDP), which traffics in first-party data that users collect themselves.

DMPs are a crucial piece of the adtech ecosystem. They enable users to buy digital ads that get served to people in particular demographics or market segments using anonymized, third-party data collected from browser cookies.

Analysts say the coming end of the Salesforce DMP could possibly signal a long-tail end for programmatic advertising, the automated bidding and purchasing of web ads. More likely, programmatic will continue in some form as tech vendors determine new ways to segment users without personally identifiable information.

Programmatic advertising is built on monitoring browser behavior, and for now, third-party cookies. The model offers buyers the ability to analyze an ad's effectiveness targeting particular audiences, yet ad sellers can keep their data anonymized.

In light of privacy regulations, Google likely deprecating third-party cookies in the world's most-used browser and Apple's roadblocks to cross-app tracking, the value of third-party data is sinking fast; when consumers opt out of tracking, third-party data is diluted.

"Salesforce's decision to sunset Audience Studio is a significant change of course, and a signal that the company sees more opportunity on the sell-side and will play a diminished role in the future of addressable advertising," said Gartner analyst Andrew Frank. "Most consumer brands ... will apparently have to look elsewhere for post-cookie solutions to [find] efficient digital media targeting and measurement on the open web."

Salesforce Audience Studio DMP
The Salesforce DMP segmented anonymized groups of people who saw ads and analyzed their attributes -- such as what devices they used -- for programmatic ad buys.

Salesforce DMP arose from Krux

While Salesforce decided to pull the plug on its DMP, other DMP vendors will likely repurpose features and capabilities into larger customer-identity platforms, said Constellation Research analyst Liz Miller. There is value to DMP tools, as their algorithms, workflow, analytics and data crunching tools sort and segment groups of people and companies into cohorts with common attributes.

That said, the fall of the Salesforce DMP probably doesn't portend the demise of other well-established DMPs such as Adobe Audience Manager, Lotame and Oracle Data Marketplace, Miller speculated.

I don't think this is the start of an extinction event. More like a slow-rolling evolution.
Liz MillerAnalyst, Constellation Research

"I don't think this is the start of an extinction event," Miller said. "More like a slow-rolling evolution."

When Salesforce bought Krux, new digital privacy laws hadn't been passed, and DMPs looked to be powerful tools to help users maximize their ad budgets that would only grow in effectiveness as analytics and AI technology matured. In fact, the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, which loomed on the horizon back in 2016, seemed to justify the need for DMPs to manage cookie preferences as consumers were given more control over how they'd be used.

Since then, Miller said, the demise of third-party cookies and other tech trends that enable more stringent privacy controls have changed how the Krux deal looks to outsiders, and led Salesforce to take Audience Studio off the market. Back then, programmatic advertising was still a greenfield. Now, while programmatic ads may live on in the future, brands are moving past ads based on third-party cookies, regardless of when -- or if -- Google eventually decides to cancel them.

"You can say it was a bad bet, but the reality is, five years ago we didn't see the cookie ending," Miller said. "We didn't have the skepticism that we have now."

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