Facebook Relaunches Atlas, Allowing Advertisers to Track Facebook Users

By Id Badrun (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Id Badrun (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Facebook recently announced the new Atlas, a cross platform ad network that is now focusing on people-based marketing. In an apparent bid to challenge Google’s dominance in the web advertising space, the world’s leading social media network aims to conquer true cross-device advertising. Facebook users, however, have something to be wary about in the new Atlas. As a Forbes article noted, Atlas will now enable marketers to serve targeted ads across different types of web-enabled devices.

Atlas Solutions

Atlas is a relatively recent Facebook acquisition, a subsidiary acquired from Microsoft back in the early part of 2013 in a rumored $100 million deal. It is a provider of online advertising  originally built by Razorfish. It comes with a host of tools for online marketers, including ad serving, management,  tracking, and performance measurement functions. Atlas uses the Atdmt tracking cookie and provides an API that enables client applications to programmatically develop and manage advertising campaigns, produce impression reports, show advertising campaign performance data, and provide access to account information.

The New Atlas – People-Based Marketing

So what makes Atlas different from the already existing advertising platform used by Facebook? The answer can be summed up in two words: cookies and people. Facebook’s old advertising model is based on the use of cookies to track the different websites or content browsed by Facebook users. With Atlas, however, the focus shifts on people, mainly on the activities and interactions of people who use Facebook.

As more people access Facebook through mobile devices, the usability of cookies becomes significantly reduced (since Facebook use through mobile apps does not involve cookies). Obviously, Facebook needs a better advertising model and here’s where Atlas comes into the picture. Atlas capitalizes in the different trackable activities of Facebook users such as the use of the Like button, posts, and statuses. It will be an advertising platform that is centered on Facebook users.

By Marcus Quigmire from Florida, USA (facebook  Uploaded by Princess Mérida) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Marcus Quigmire from Florida, USA (facebook Uploaded by Princess Mérida) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

What Marketers Need to Know

Facebook’s relaunching of Atlas mostly inures to the benefit of marketers. Facebook ad tech head David Jakubowski, in an interview with Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today, said that Atlas “isn’t an also-ran ad server.” He claims that Atlas as an “industry-leading product” that will change the way marketers measure and target their ad campaigns. The following are highlight features marketers need to know:

  • Atlas will improve online ad measurement across different devices that make use of the web. Being a “people-based” marketing platform, Atlas will try to link users’ ad interactions to their Facebook accounts whether ads appear on Facebook or on third party sites. It takes away the limitations and unreliability of using cookies in achieving precise ad targeting.
  • Atlas aims to make mobile advertising measurement a reality. As mentioned, cookies are ineffective in tracking advertising on mobile devices. Hence, there is a need for an advertising platform that can properly see mobile user activities to be able to serve the most suitable ads and improve the likelihood of converting ads to sales. According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the reason why there aren’t more dollars flowing to digital and mobile advertising is the inability to measure the mobile ad audience and serve the right ads.
  • Facebook’s Atlas is not limited to display advertising. It can track any form of online ads. According to David Jakubowski, in the same CMO Today interview, Atlas can also “support mobile, in-app, desktop, and all ad formats  including native, email, search, social, and video.”
  • Additionally, Atlas is expected to come with an ad buying tool. Facebook has plans to use the technology behind Atlas to help marketers in buying ad space across all types of online space, from desktop to mobile. Aside from acting as a tool for identifying and understanding Internet users  across all types of devices, Atlas is also meant to make it easy to deploy targeted advertising.
Image by Muhammad Muzzammil via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Muhammad Muzzammil via Wikimedia Commons

Technological Relevance

The ability of Atlas to track Facebook user activities to be able to serve suitable ads and to help marketers target audiences is a good advancement in marketing or advertising technology—in the marketing and business perspective. For the typical Internet Joes and Janes, though, it can be intrusive or privacy-invading. It can even be creepy as ads become “smarter,” appearing like they know all of your online activities that they are able to guess what you would probably be interested to buy.