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Set Up Marketing Areas for SAP Marketing Cloud

17 min read

Set up Marketing Areas for SAP Marketing Cloud

With most marketing implementation projects, you will likely run into the requirement that business users should only have access to marketing data which belongs to their respective area of responsibility. This area of responsibility can be any organizational entity, for example, a geographical region, a brand or a product line, depending on the structure of the company's marketing organization. The need for such authorization control by area of responsibility can occur for multiple reasons, most prominently operational governance or legal compliance requirements.

Within SAP Marketing Cloud, Marketing Areas are essential elements for structuring access to marketing data and activities according to organizational entities. Therefore, the design and implementation of the Marketing Area concept have a considerable impact on fundamental topics like operational efficiency, campaign execution, data separation and legal compliance.

In this article, we explain the purpose and usage of Marketing Areas, which areas of the system are affected by it and what to consider during the implementation of Marketing Areas. 

Table of Contents

The Purpose of Marketing Areas


Please be advised that nothing in this article constitutes a legal advice. We strongly recommend that you involve your legal deputies to check and approve the concepts you want to implement.

Marketing Areas represent a flexible concept to help you structure your marketing data and activities. Whether Marketing Areas reflect organizational units, product lines, brands, geographical regions, or any other organizational entity, depends on how you employ Marketing Areas throughout SAP Marketing Cloud. Marketing Areas can also be used to tie certain data and activities to marketing area authorizations.

The Marketing Area concept defines on which organizational entities and with which granularity level the Marketing Areas must be set up. This concept is directly related to the company's marketing organization structure. As you can imagine, each company has specifics regarding their marketing organization structure. These are influenced by various factors like corporate culture, span of control, customer markets, distribution channels, and the degree of centralization versus decentralization.

In case you want to find out more about the structure and impact of marketing organizations, please look at the deep dive that is cross-referenced in the Conclusion section below.

To further explain the purpose and implementation of Marketing Areas, we will concentrate in this article on two typical examples of marketing organizations, a structure by region and a structure by brand.  

Example A: Organization by Region

Example B: Organization by Brand

So, what is the benefit of using Marketing Areas in SAP Marketing Cloud for companies with distinct marketing units? To answer this question, we can differentiate four aspects in which Marketing Areas become effective:

  1. Organizational Affiliation of Marketing Data
    When loading marketing data (like contact master data and their interactions) into the system, the process of including Marketing Areas, as an attribute in the data load, allows for clear identification between the data and its related organizational entity.
    Example: In the case of Company B, we can easily distinguish whether a consumer belongs to Luxury Sports or Urban Fashion or has been in touch with multiple brands. The information to which brand the consumer data belongs to needs to be provided by the source systems through the Marketing Area attribute.

  2. Data Separation and Access Control
    Depending on your data protection policy, your customers' consent to store their data might be bound to a specific brand or legal entity (Data Processor). This requires you to ensure that only the legitimate Data Processor has access to the data and can use it for the purpose the customers gave their consent for. The restriction of business roles to specific Marketing Areas allows you to control who can access data in a specific area. Besides fulfilling legal requirements, this data separation and access control can also help in displaying only relevant data to business users and therefore increase usability.
    Example: With the correct setup of Marketing Areas and respective authorizations, business users in Company A belonging to Region A are only allowed to see contacts in Americas, whereas business users in Region B only see contacts in EMEA.

  3. Structuring of Marketing Activities
    In a global company with several different brands, most likely you have many marketing activities and campaigns running in parallel. To not confuse the marketers with initiatives of their peers from different organizational units, we recommend to filter out those campaigns and only show the ones which are relevant to their daily business. This is the same as with data access control. This authorization on Marketing Area specific campaigns and processes is also achieved through a business role definition including Marketing Area restrictions.

  4. Permission Handling
    Depending on your terms and conditions, the customer's consent to be contacted with marketing messages might be associated to a specific legal entity only. This means, in case a customer gave his consent for the one division's legal entity only, you will not be allowed to send him messages regarding the other division. Loading permission and subscription data, including a Marketing Area assignment, allows you to run campaign executions including a check on the Marketing Area specific permission. 

After describing the purpose of using Marketing Areas, in the next section, we will look at the different application areas in SAP Marketing Cloud which are affected by them.

Application Areas Affected by Marketing Areas

Since the Marketing Area is such a widely used concept within the SAP Marketing Cloud, we can identify various application areas for which it is relevant.

Objects with Marketing Areas

Let's first get an overview on which objects in the system allow an assignment of Marketing Areas. These objects are:

Marketing Area Assignment on Interaction Contacts

In general, entities of the objects mentioned above can be assigned to exactly one Marketing Area. The only object for which this is not the case is the Interaction Contact as it can also be assigned to multiple Marketing Areas. The reason for this is that interaction contacts may contain master data from various sources (facets). Each contact facet can have up to one Marketing Area assigned to it. Since an Interaction Contact can be related to multiple facets with different Marketing Areas, it can be assigned to multiple Marketing Areas. 

Illustrating this with the example Company B, a consumer might have registered on the Luxury Sports web shop and additionally signed up for a mobile app which belongs to the Urban Fashion brand. Both these sources, the web shop and the mobile app, now send consumer information containing their respective Marketing Area information. In case the consumer data from the two sources can be matched to the same Interaction Contact, this contact is then assigned to both the Luxury Sports and the Urban Fashion Marketing Area.

To learn more about the implications this assignment of contacts to multiple Marketing Areas has on access control, please read the following section in the SAP Help documentation.

Access Control with Segmentation Profiles

Besides the controlled access to the contact profile through Marketing Area authorization, a second important access control concept exists when it comes to segmentation. For the segmentation application, the Segmentation Profiles serve as authorization objects which can be assigned to business roles. By restricting the Segmentation Profile to specific Marketing Areas, you can define that only contacts belonging to those Marketing Areas are shown in segmentation. This allows you to ensure that business users are only segmenting on contacts which they are allowed to based on their authorization.

Structuring Marketing Activities with Marketing Areas

As seen in the list of objects above, all the objects involved in marketing activities are assigned to a Marketing Area. Therefore, all business user activities (like marketing planning, target group definition, content build and campaign design) can be authorized through Marketing Areas. Business users are only allowed to access these objects in case they have the authorization for the respective Marketing Area. This is especially beneficial for companies with several independent marketing units. The business users can concentrate on their marketing activities and do not interfere with marketing objects which are not in their responsibility. On a side note, this does not take away the need to consider a solid traffic management concept, controlling the amount and frequency of communication sent from various marketing units to the recipients.

In case you want to learn more about the control of marketing activities with Marketing Areas, please read the corresponding SAP Help documentation about Campaign and Marketing Planning

Permission Marketing with Marketing Areas

Besides the previously described control of data access and marketing activities, Marketing Areas also play an important role in Permission Marketing. In case marketing permissions or subscriptions are bound to a specific marketing area, the system can check on their existence during campaign execution. This prevents the send out of marketing communication related to Marketing Areas for which the contacts did not give their explicit or implicit permission.

How to Implement your Marketing Area Concept

As you now have learned about the fundamentals of Marketing Areas and how they are represented in SAP Marketing Cloud, it is time to show you how to translate your specific context and requirements into a solution design and implement it within the system.

Prerequisite: There is a Marketing Area concept, explaining which and how many Marketing Areas should be created. In case you want to learn more about that, please look at the deep dive which is cross-referenced in the Conclusion section below.

1. Create Marketing Areas

At first, you need to create the Marketing Areas in SAP Marketing Cloud. Without this initial step, you would not be able to use Marketing Areas or load data with your assigned Marketing Area. You can create Marketing Areas through a configuration UI in the Manage your Solution app. 

Following the example B from above, you would create three Marketing Areas:

  • Luxury Sports Wear
  • Discount Sports Wear
  • Urban Fashion Wear

For more details, refer to the following documentation on SAP Help: Marketing Areas - Configuration Settings

Please note that there is no support for marketing hierarchies. In case your requirement is having more than one hierarchy level, you need to create a Marketing Area for all the possible permutations.

2. Import Data

Now that you have defined the Marketing Areas, you can assign them to your entities while importing to SAP Marketing Cloud. This means you either must adapt your source systems or middleware to populate the Marketing Area. As the default way of importing data is through the OData APIs, we are now focusing on this one. 

For the following entities you need to provide a Marketing Area:

  1. Contacts
    Use the entity set MarketingAreas for assigning a Marketing Area per Contact. For more information see the SAP Help documentation Structure of OData Service API_MKT_CONTACTS_SRV.

  2. Interactions
    Interactions are loaded through the OData API API_MKT_INTERACTION_SRV. For the Interaction entity POST operation, you need to provide the field MarketingArea.

  3. Optional: Marketing Permissions:
    In case your Marketing Permissions are defined on a global level and valid for all organizational units and entities, you do not have to provide a Marketing Area per Marketing Permission. If your permissions are bound to a certain legal entity and may not be used by other units, then you need to provide a Marketing Area when importing Marketing Permissions. The recommended way of importing Marketing Permissions is to use the OData API API_MKT_CONTACTS_SRV. For the MarketingPermission entity, there is a POST operation where you can provide the field MarketingArea.

3. Filter Segmentation Profiles

If you want to allow your marketers to only segment customers from their area of responsibility, you need to adapt your Segmentation Profiles and add a filter criterion for the Marketing Area. This means, per area of responsibility, you will create one Segmentation Profile.

As a result of a pre-filtering on the Segmentation Profile, you will reduce your Contact universe to Contacts with the corresponding Marketing Area assigned. This implies, in the segmentation application the count of contacts in the root node will be less than the actual total count of contacts.

For more details, refer to the following documentation on SAP Help: Filter Segmentation Profiles by Marketing Area.

4. Create and Restrict Business Roles

Now that you have defined the Marketing Areas and loaded the data into the system, you need to adapt your business roles to restrict the access based on the Marketing Areas. 

In the following example, we want to create a role for marketing experts from the LUXURY organization, that should only be able to see their contacts. This can be achieved by creating a new business role with restrictions for the Marketing Areas:

Detailed documentation on how to control access to data, based on Marketing Areas can be found here: SAP Help - Users and Authorizations. In addition to the restriction on Marketing Areas, you also need to assign the Segmentation Profile you have created in the last step.

For more details on how to create an authorization concept in SAP Marketing Cloud, refer to the following article: Creating and Implementing an Authorization Concept for SAP Marketing Cloud.

5. Optional: Activate Marketing Area Check During Campaign Execution

This step only applies in case your Marketing Permissions are bound to a certain Marketing Area. As a preparation, two steps before, you have assigned Marketing Areas to your permissions. Now, you want to consider Marketing Areas also for the campaign execution and the marketing permission check. 

Following our example, you want to avoid that contacts with a Marketing Permission for the Marketing Area LUXURY only are being contacted from a campaign of Marketing Area URBAN. Therefore, you have the option to activate a Marketing Area check during the campaign execution.

This Marketing Area check for the campaign execution can be activated through a configuration UI within the Manage your Solution app. For more details on the activation and their implications, please refer to the corresponding SAP Help documentation.

Using a Related Marketing Area

In case you have modeled a Marketing Area hierarchy and your permissions are not tied to the lowest hierarchy level, there is also the option to use a related Marketing Area during the campaign execution permission check. This can be achieved by implementing the enhancement option Marketing Area Separation for Campaign Execution. For more details on the general concept of implementing custom logic, please refer to the corresponding article: Overview for Implementing Custom Logic in SAP Marketing Cloud.

Additional Recommended Practices

When to Introduce Marketing Areas?

As we have seen in this article, the introduction of Marketing Areas has many implications on both data and processes. You might now ask yourself, whether to introduce Marketing Areas at the very beginning or include them at a later point in time. Especially, if you have read our Best Practice Project Approach article, you should know that your first project phase should have a limited scope only. 

We recommend to start with a given set of Marketing Areas at the beginning since later activation will require extra effort. In any case, you should at least create a thoughtful concept from the start.

Start with One Global Marketing Area in the Following Case:

  • From a legal point of view, there is no need for data separation.
  • For the first 1-2 phases, you will only have users from one organization working in the system.

Start with Many Marketing Areas in the Following Case:

  • A strong requirement of separating data, for example, having multiple legal entities in place.
  • Marketing Permissions are bound to certain areas of responsibilities.

Introduce Marketing Areas at a Later Point in Time

If you want to introduce Marketing Areas at a later point in time, you need to enrich your existing data with Marketing Areas. There is an application job available for Enriching Contacts with Marketing Areas. In addition to the Contact entity, you also need to enrich Marketing Areas for Interactions and if applicable Marketing Permissions. A mass-update/enrichment with the Marketing Area can also be achieved through API services.

Besides the customer data you have imported, you should also consider the SAP Marketing Cloud own objects, for example, Campaigns, Target Groups, and Create Content. If you have started with one Marketing Area Global, those objects will all have that one Marketing Area assigned. If later you add more Marketing Areas and restrict the access based on them, your business user might not be able to see existing objects anymore.

Cross Marketing Area Campaigns

When creating your own Marketing Area concept, you should also clarify whether there is a need to run campaigns across Marketing Areas. If this is relevant, the following things are required:

  • Create a Global or Cross Marketing Area.
  • Create a Segmentation Profile without a filter on Marketing Areas.
  • Create a Business Roles without restrictions on Marketing Areas.
  • Marketing Permissions: Depending on whether you have activated the Marketing Area check during campaign execution. If yes and your Marketing Permissions are not defined on a global Marketing Area level, you might have to implement a custom logic which is checking for permissions with related Marketing Areas (see the above chapter Using a related Marketing Area).


This article introduced you to the concept of Marketing Areas in SAP Marketing Cloud. You have learned that Marketing Areas impact many different application areas. Therefore, it is very important to create a thoughtful concept at the very beginning of your project. As the topic also has an impact on Marketing Permissions and Data separation, we recommend that you involve legal deputies for a concept review.