Commentary

When SEM Platforms Rebrand As DMS

Russ-Mann

In an interesting rebranding move by some search engine marketing companies, I've been asked to refer to them as "digital marketing software" companies rather than "search engine marketing" platform providers. It's an offshoot from the partnerships and collaboration among tech platform providers across the industry.

Covario CEO Russ Mann and I have a long history in technology, so we took time to discuss one particular change that could alter the long-term course of search engine marketing (SEM). These new platforms don't just access one database, but many that interconnect. These apps process numbers in real-time and serve up ads within milliseconds.

Mobile does this through more processing power in the device and support from the cloud. Think about software as a service, which Salesforce made popular. Step outside the advertising industry to find the movement of platform providers that interconnect apps, creating systems. Look at enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems. Companies like IBM use an inventory management platform, distribution platform, ordering platform, customer relationship management system, and many more. Those platforms tie together. Each provides a specialty. The apps create a system, not a platform.

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Applications created for a specific process must interact with others, Mann says. He reminds me that prior to the Internet boom, software and data locked in mainframes and client-server database stacks behind corporate firewalls prohibited the type of collaborative tool licensing and sharing seen today. They were often coded in proprietary languages and required complex EDI (electronic data interchange) or APIs (app programming interfaces), along with significant investments in systems integration projects to make things work together.

Software developers that are thinking ahead to collaborative networks seem to have invaded the ad space, pushing relationships like Covario and Kenshoo. Mann said this is one reason why the company changed its name to Covario, meaning "covariance" -- a measurement of search, social and more.

This evolution, which also touches the search advertising industry, makes it possible to interconnect tools and create systems. He describes common programming languages, open-source tools, and industry XML standards and commonly shared metrics as Lego-like, snap-on tools between technologies and data. This trend specifically applies to ad technology for display, paid search, SEO and social media -- all platforms where data tends to reside in the cloud.

Search engine marketers took that step recently, thinking about systems rather than platforms. Expect to see many more platforms integrate to create systems -- maybe even acquisitions and mergers.

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