AOL Talks Up Cross-Device Tracking

With the relaunch of Atlas last week, Facebook opened the gates to ad targeting its 1.3 billion users beyond its own walls and across desktop and mobile devices by using what it calls “people targeting.” The new capability works across thousands of sites and apps where the social network has partnerships and will allow advertisers to track conversions across devices through the Facebook ID rather than the traditional browser cookie.

According to Facebook, Atlas would connect online campaigns to actual offline sales, helping marketers measure the true impact of their media spend in driving reach and sales.

“The new Atlas will shake up the online advertising industry because it combines the massive reach of Facebook with the platform’s wealth of data and unparalleled targeting capabilities, along with the ability to track performance across devices,” stated an analysis of the updated ad-serving platform by digital agency 360i.



That isn’t to say that other Internet players aren’t starting to focus on login data as a key to cross-platform ad targeting and measurement. During an Advertising Week panel, Chad Gallagher, global director of mobile for AOL and, highlighted the growing shift from targeting devices to targeting users as the move across devices.

To that end, AOL is combining login data from its own properties with CRM data from third-party publishers to be able to target ads more precisely across the Web as well as across desktop and mobile. “Our partners are willing to pass us that user ID information as well as using impression-level data to make it as accurate as possible. And that ties into everything we do on the platform side,” said Gallagher, in an interview this week.

He noted that AOL has connected 105 million people on multiple devices. The key for marketers is being able to track conversions from one device to another. Gallagher noted that one credit card company AOL works with was able to use its cross-platform capability to see that its mobile ads were helping to drive sign-ups on the desktop. “It completely changed the way they look at mobile marketing,” he said.

During AOL’s last earning conference call, CEO Tim Armstrong said the company is in a position to become one of the main players in “mass scale identity on the Web,” with online information on hundreds of millions of people. Even so, AOL can’t match Facebook’s massive reach, which is poised to expand Web-wide with the rollout of Atlas.

The social network’s overall aim is to eat into Google’s dominant share of the digital ad market, where the search giant claimed 32% of spending compared to Facebook’s 5.8% and only 1% for AOL last year, according to eMarketer. And things aren’t going to get any easier for AOL and the rest of the field in display advertising.

“While difficult to predict Atlas’ impact on these figures moving forward, advertisers should be prepared for Facebook’s potential to reclaim a growing share of direct response media dollars -- especially given Facebook’s mobile advantage,” noted the 360i report. 

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