SAN FRANCISCO — You’d think Adobe, Oracle, and executives would throw some subtle verbal punches at one another if they were forced to share a couch onstage before a live audience. But they played nice at VentureBeat’s 2014 GrowthBeat conference today, and they generally agreed that the market is only getting larger, so everyone can be happy.

“The opportunity is for all of us,” said Gordon Evans, vice president of product marketing at Salesforce. “That’s one of the reasons why you see these companies being acquisitive in this space.”

He’s right.

Salesforce has bought Buddy Media, ExactTarget, and Radian6. Oracle has bought Responsys, BlueKai, and Eloqua. Adobe bought Omniture, Scene7, and Neolane.

Kevin Akeroyd, general manager and senior vice president of the Oracle marketing cloud, defended the acquisition binges.

“The suite is a necessity,” he said. “We think it has to happen. Otherwise CMOs [chief marketing officers] will not be able to achieve any of their goals.”

But rather than continue focusing on adding to the marketing-software acquisition lists, Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce intend to pick up more and more customers — and, yes, solve a few lingering problems.

For Oracle, it’s about integrating data from multiple sources. At Adobe, connecting creative material with digital experiences is a focus. Salesforce is “thinking about one-to-one customer journeys … through the entire lifecycle.”

But when moderator Marc Parrish of Appboy asked his panelists to name the leader of the marketing cloud business, no one answered definitively.

“To be honest with you, I think it really depends,” Akeroyd said. “There’s so many different approaches [and] different channels. … Some people are coming at it from a specific CRM [customer-relationship management] point solution. So I’m not sure anybody could definitively claim … leadership and put their flag on it.”

In reality, though, all three companies — and IBM, and SAP — are competing hard for companies’ marketing business. Because serious money is at stake.

“It’s tens of billions [of dollars], marketing tech, and hundreds of billions in advertising,” Akeroyd said. “This is such a massive ocean, and even people who have done a lot of acquisitions and consolidation are already just touching pockets of it. I think the need we’re pointing out and investing against that need is probably going to fuel a lot of successful companies.”

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