Facebook Extends Reach With Ad Platform – WSJ.
Facebook Inc. next week will unveil a new advertising platform designed to improve how marketers target and measure the advertisements they buy across the Web, according to people familiar with the company’s plans.
The product, called Atlas, is a re-engineered version of the Atlas Advertiser Suite business Facebook purchased from Microsoft Corp. in 2013. It promises to help marketers understand which Facebook users have seen, interacted with or acted upon ads that appear both on Facebook’s services and on third-party websites and apps.
It will also provide an automated ad-buying tool known in the industry as a “demand-side platform” or “bidder,” which will offer marketers the ability to buy ads that target Facebook’s members as they move around the Web.
The move is aimed at helping Facebook challenge Google Inc. ‘s dominance of the online ad space. Some advertising executives say Facebook could provide marketers with better targeting capabilities and more detailed and accurate information about ad campaigns than they previously have had access to.
Google reported second-quarter ad revenue of $14.36 billion. Facebook said it generated $2.68 billion in the same period.
Marketers increasingly crave data to help inform and measure their ad campaigns. In addition to the demographic information it holds about its members, Facebook also collects valuable data about the sites users visit and the types of content they click on and post across its service.
“What Facebook is doing is potentially more powerful than what Google can currently do,” said Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategist of advertising holding company Publicis Groupe SA, in reference to the ad targeting and tracking potential of the companies.
Google declined to comment.
Currently, advertisers typically target and track the performance of online ads by dropping small pieces of code on Web users’ computers called “cookies.” The problem with cookies, advertising executives say, is they are often inaccurate, unreliable and they don’t work effectively on smartphones and tablets.
With Atlas, Facebook hopes to fix those problems by linking users’ ad interactions to their Facebook accounts, which can be used to track users across both desktop and mobile devices, albeit on an anonymous basis. For example, a marketer using Atlas might now be able to understand that a customer purchased a product on a desktop computer, but first saw an ad for it on their smartphone device. Facebook already tracks users this way across its own service, but Atlas will now extend the functionality to other sites and apps.
The website The Information earlier reported on some aspects of Facebook’s plans.
Facebook also plans to pitch marketers on the concept of using Atlas to tie consumers’ offline behaviors to their online ones. For instance, a consumer who purchases a pair of shoes in a store might volunteer her email address at the checkout. Facebook could then use that email address to inform the retailer if, when, and where the consumer saw its ads across the Web, if the email address is tied to a Facebook account.
“A Facebook ID is the marketer’s Holy Grail: a persistent, high-fidelity ID for a consumer,” said Antonio Garcia-Martinez, vice president of product at ad-tech company Nanigans, who worked on Facebook’s advertising technology products until April 2013.
Facebook will reveal the Atlas platform at next week’s Advertising Week conference in New York, people familiar with the matter said. Facebook will begin pitching marketers on the concept of “people-based marketing,” while arguing cookies are a dated and flawed method for targeting and tracking online ads, the people said.
Google also is working on a cookie alternative of its own, although it hasn’t been formally offered to marketers.
—Suzanne Vranica contributed to this article.