Facebook Relaunches Atlas Ad Platform, Addresses Metrics Challenge

As was widely expected, Facebook relaunched its Atlas advertising platform on Monday. The move is part of a broader effort by Facebook to challenge Google and AOL on the ad-serving technology front.

The new Atlas is designed to allow advertisers to track impressions on Facebook, as well as third-party sites and apps. It also features a demand-side platform (DSP), which will enable marketers to target ads to Facebook users across the wider Web.

Facebook refreshed Atlas’s look and formed an insights team dedicated to understanding and addressing the challenges in measuring ad performance.

“We’ve rebuilt Atlas from the ground up to tackle today’s marketing challenges, like reaching people across devices and bridging the gap between online impressions and offline purchases,” Erik Johnson, head of Atlas, explained in a Monday blog post.

Johnson on Monday also took aim at existing ad-tracking practices, which, as most ad professionals know, can’t accurately keep up with users’ cross-platform consumption habits.

“Today’s technology for ad serving and measurement -- cookies -- are flawed when used alone,” according to Johnson. “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.”

In response, Atlas relies on what Johnson refers to as “people-based marketing” to help marketers reach audiences across devices, platforms and publishers, as well as connect online campaigns to offline sales.

The approach required Atlas to be rebuilt on a new code base, which includes new targeting and measurement capabilities.

Since buying the ad management and measurement unit from Microsoft last year, Facebook has been quietly nurturing Atlas through additional investment and partnerships.

Earlier this year, the Atlas team announced two partnerships -- one with rich media platform Flite, and another with video ad platform provider Innovid. The addition of Innovid's ad platform was expected to make static video ads more engaging, while making that engagement easier to measure in terms of awareness and time spent.

Per the pacts, billing was also integrated, which was expected to save brands some paperwork. At its essence, the partnership was expected to result in new efficiencies for clients, Johnson said at the time.

Also, Facebook recently acquired LiveRail -- a video advertising supply-side platform (SSP). LiveRail helps publishers serve better video ads, while ensuring that marketers find quality placement for their ads.

In May, LiveRail reached 37.2% of the U.S. population -- better than AOL (35%) and Google (34.1%), but still behind BrightRoll (51.3%) and Specific Media (44.4%), according to comScore. The LiveRail deal followed Facebook’s first foray into “audience-buying” with the launch of FAN, the Facebook Audience Network.

Industry insiders said the deal made sense for Facebook. “First with FAN and now with this move, Facebook is demonstrating that its user data can be a powerful key to expanding its business outside its own platform to help drive advertising dollars -- potentially from TV in this case -- to the digital market,” said Neal Modi, vice president of revenue and operations at brand advertising platform Kargo.

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