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Will Atlas Be Strong Enough for Facebook?

in Media Planning & Buying, Social Media with tags , , , Both comments and trackbacks are closed.

How does an upstart display advertising platform focused on disrupting the online advertising market compete against a well-funded and entrenched rival?  If you’re Facebook, the first step is to prove that your advertising platform works. And that takes some outside help.

Facebook recently announced the acquisition of Microsoft’s Atlas Advertiser Suite. The stated goal is to help Facebook Advertisers to better understand the effectiveness of their media spend not only on the platform, but also across other channels. Facebook’s likely objective: scale its advertising operation across the Web and capture a larger chunk of the U.S. display advertising market from Google.

The expected result will be an improved version of the Atlas measurement and ad serving toolbox we know today –  with the full weight (and deep pockets) of Facebook spurring it on. So, what does this mean for advertisers?

More effective measurement of paid advertising. Advertisers want to be confident that the information coming out of Facebook’s system is clean, actionable and easily integrated with other data sources. With less than 20 percent of fans seeing an average post, brands are increasingly integrating paid media into their content strategy. With Atlas, there is an opportunity to extend Facebook’s existing work with companies such as Nielsen and Datalogix and more deeply understand how paid media is driving business results at the individual user level.

More intuitive cross-platform attribution. A majority – 59 percent – of Facebook’s more than 1 billion users log in daily and mobile usage is growing at a rate of 57 percent YoY, with 680M+ current users. Effectively connecting with, engaging and influencing these consumers can only be possible if advertisers are able to make a clear connection between channels. The primary focus of the Atlas acquisition is to bridge the gap between Desktop and Mobile.

More opportunities to extend beyond Facebook’s “Walled Garden.” Facebook is the single best targeting engine on the internet because it has access to a wealth of first-party data from its user base.  Yet before now, Facebook never had an effective tracking or delivery system to target users efficiently and effectively at scale.

Atlas can help provide more robust measurement both on and off Facebook and help prove ROI in deeper ways. The ability to measure beyond the last click – layered with Facebook’s powerful targeting and the global footprint of Atlas – should allow for quick scaling and diversification in the space. More importantly, the purchase of an ad server gives Facebook access to a vast network of publishers and the ability to deliver and track these highly targeted display ads across the entire Web.

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Facebook is banking on the fact that the combination of improved measurement, more intuitive cross-platform attribution and more powerful ad serving will help to prove the value and efficacy of Facebook advertising – giving advertisers a reason to allocate more of their display budgets to Facebook.

This acquisition sends a clear signal to advertisers and investors that Facebook is serious about capturing a larger portion of the $15 billion US display advertising market and competing directly with Google, the number one player in the space.

As we learned back in 2007 when Google acquired DoubleClick, the Facebook-Atlas integration will take time – maybe a long time. Though this acquisition won’t have an immediate impact on advertisers,  the long term implications are promising.  Online advertising is akin to an arms race and this latest volley from Facebook will likely result in product improvements across the board, which will benefit advertisers.

Facebook’s success depends on advertisers’ trust in the efficacy of the platform – and with the acquisition of Atlas, its longer term aspirations are beginning to come into view.

Jiri Vala contributed to this report.

Cover photo via Advertising Age