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How Facebook plans to control digital advertising

Matt Kapko | Oct. 3, 2014
Facebook is trying to take cross-platform advertising to uncharted territory with a complete revision and relaunch of its Atlas ad serving platform. It's the second ad network of sorts from the world's largest social network and some are already suggesting how it could unleash Facebook's vault of data in ways never seen before.

Facebook is trying to take cross-platform advertising to uncharted territory with a complete revision and relaunch of its Atlas ad serving platform. It's the second ad network of sorts from the world's largest social network and some are already suggesting how it could unleash Facebook's vault of data in ways never seen before.

The company and some of its initial partners are describing Atlas as a watershed moment for digital advertising because of its capability to track the effectiveness of ads as users jump from one screen to another. Facebook is also taking direct aim at Google's DoubleClick display ad business with an infrastructure designed to deliver ads outside Facebook based on an approach it calls "people-based marketing."

Atlas measures ad campaigns and tracks the path to purchase as consumers switch devices, was acquired by Facebook from Microsoft last year but has been running independently until now. With Facebook's trove of user data now integrated into Atlas, the company says it can provide more targeted ads to users when they visit sites outside of Facebook on their desktop, tablet or mobile devices.

Atlas claims it can also measure offline sales by tracking digital campaigns from first contact to the point of purchase. Marketers can target consumers based on their age and gender, but Facebook could eventually add more interest-based data to the mix similar to the way ads are already targeted on Facebook.

40 Percent of Ads Don't Reach the Right People

Speaking at the IAB MIXX Conference during Advertising Week in New York earlier this week, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said 40 percent of the ads that target age and gender are not reaching the right people. Today's other ad servers are underperforming because they "don't take advantage of the new world," she says.

"Today's technology for ad serving and measurement — cookies — are flawed when used alone. Cookies don't work on mobile, are becoming less accurate in demographic targeting and can't easily or accurately measure the customer purchase funnel across browsers and devices or into the offline world," Erik Johnson, head of Atlas, writes in a blog post announcing the relaunch.

Facebook is trying to solve a tremendous challenge for brands. Of course marketers want to put the right ads in front of the right eyeballs, but they also want to know when those ads lead to definitive results.

These things don't always happen right away. Maybe that consumer who first saw an ad on their smartphone (it could have been on a site or mobile app) later made a purchase from their laptop or in an actual store. The generally accepted truth among digital marketers is that there's no way to tell for sure.

 

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