Did Oracle just shoot itself in the face at Ford?

It appears that someone at Oracle's Troy, MI office has sent Ford Motor Company a smear campaign against Salesforce.com. If true then it is a very bad idea with serious repercussions.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor
oracle trash

Just when some of us were starting to think that Oracle was mending its ways when it comes to trashing competition, Scott Monty, Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager at Ford Motor Company very publicly accuses Oracle of dirty tricks aimed at Salesforce.com. He does it on Facebook which is guaranteed to get a response:

 Hey Oracle, you think sending me an anonymous letter trashing your competition is the way to earn my business? Think again. Oh, and this is the 2nd time you've done it, which is why I'm sharing it. — with Michael Lazerow at Ford Motor Company World Headquarters.

Needless to say, commenters are roundly condemning the apparent smear campiagn which, by the address shown and postmark appears to have emanated from Oracle's Troy, MI office. Robert Scoble points out that such tactics are a sackable offence at his employer Rackspace. 

Jeremiah Owyang is quick to question the authenticity of what Monty is saying, suggesting that anyone could replicate an Oracle envelope. But given the particular content, it doesn't make sense for a competitor to pull this stunt. Who gains? On the other hand, it is an incredibly crude effort. 

However, Denise Broyer, a senior PR at Oracle appears to give credence to its authenticity and origin:

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. On behalf of Oracle's PR team, we do not condone these tactics and can assure you that we are investigating the source of this letter.

The documents that were allegedly sent are all based upon things that are in the public domain. To that extent, Oracle (if it is indeed Oracle) is providing information. It may be unpalatable and regarded as unethical in some circles but in one sense it is not as bad as Oracle poking at its competition, often with half baked, wrong or out of date facts. 

Even so, let's assume it has come from Oracle's Troy office. Can the person responsible truly be blamed? Is it not the case that when you consider the influence of 'tone at the top' it should be surprising that we've not previously seen something similar come into the public domain? 

But ultimately that's not the point. If it turns out to be something sent from Oracle's offices then at the very least, the company (because they are the ones truly responsible) appear to have done considerable damage to their relationship with Ford. Mud slinging directly between competitors is bad enough but to involve customers is venal in the extreme. 

Regardless of the outcome, Michael Lazerow of Buddy Media makes the best comment:

Thanks for calling this out, Scott. I'd like to say that I have never seen anything like this. But I'm starting to see some nasty tactics in the social software space. Everything from complete lies about what we're doing to help companies connect to customers in new ways to blatant ripping off of our marketing and product messaging. I prefer to ignore most of it but really appreciate you calling these actions out. In many ways, this comes with the leadership position we're in across sales, service and marketing. I learned from Marc Benioff early on that it's better to ignore and take the high road than be dragged into the mud (specially when your core values are trust and transparency). My friend Jeremiah Owyang makes an interesting point. If someone at the company didn't send this, I expect them to come out and say as much. Companies are much better off inspiring, entertaining, connecting with, educating and helping potential clients. The days of negative advertising and hostile stunts seem to be over for smart marketers as these tactics say more about the company using them than the intended target. Thanks for the evening laugh ... now back to work!

[My emphasis added.]

It is a similar opinion to one I have shared on numerous occasions with SAP but to little avail. They seem just as obsessed with the competition as anyone else in the firepit of enterprise application sales. 

In the meantime, I can't wait to see what Larry Ellison, CEO Oracle says in an upcoming address telegraphed by Bob Evans on Forbes:

Later this week, we’ll share some of Ellison’s specific insights about the cloud strategies and products offered by SAP and by Salesforce.com. For more details about Oracle’s approach, please check out the full story about “Oracle Cloud: Social. Mobile. Complete.”

[My emphasis added.]

More trash talk, more obfuscation of facts or more jam tomrrow as long as it's Oracle flavored? I await with baited (sic) breath. 

UPDATE: A senior person at Oracle has been in contact with me to say they are taking this extremely seriously and are investigating to determine the facts. This post will be updated as and when Oracle is able to make a definitive statement. 

Editorial standards