Analysis & Opinion

Facebook Atlas Product Update

October 16, 2014 Mediahub

BACKGROUND

The advertising industry has a major problem. Year after year we hear our colleagues proclaim, “This is the year of mobile.” Yet while consumers spend upwards of 25 percent of their time on mobile devices, advertising spend remains at less than 10 percent. The reason the industry isn’t keeping pace is clear: Measurement of mobile campaigns has lagged far behind that of desktop, mainly due to the degradation of cookies on smartphones and tablets. Simply put, cookies just don’t work on mobile.

Facebook is jumping on the opportunity to leverage its significant scale and audience penetration to solve the mobile measurement problem. During the Adweek conference on September 29, Facebook formally announced an update to the Atlas ad serving platform. The Atlas relaunch is moving away from cookies toward “people-based marketing,” as Atlas will be linking advertising interactions and exposures to Facebook accounts in an effort to track and measure campaign performance across devices and platforms. The company’s position that “cookies aren’t the answer — people are” speaks directly to Atlas’s new people-based marketing approach.of their time on mobile devices, advertising spend remains at less than 10 percent. The reason the industry isn’t keeping pace is clear: Measurement of mobile campaigns has lagged far behind that of desktop, mainly due to the degradation of cookies on smartphones and tablets. Simply put, cookies just don’t work on mobile.

This is the first major update Facebook has made to Atlas since acquiring the ad server from Microsoft in 2013.

 atlas-facebook

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Rather than leverage cookies for tracking and measurement, Atlas will now tap into anonymized Facebook data to track users across devices, effectively tying online behaviors to Facebook’s 1.2 billion user profiles. This will enable Atlas to track, target and measure performance of advertising across desktops, smartphones and tablets with the accuracy and validity of Facebook data.

For the first time, brands will have a true understanding of cross-platform behavior. For example, if a customer purchases a product on a desktop computer but first saw an ad for it on their mobile device, the marketer will be able to understand that relationship. The marketer will also be able to see unduplicated reach and frequency across devices and the impact of such metrics on conversion.

Facebook is also taking Atlas capabilities beyond the digital ecosystem to give a holistic look at marketing impact. Through Atlas, there will be a powerful opportunity to tie offline sales to online advertising. For example, if a consumer makes a purchase offline but provides an email address at checkout, that data could be fed into Atlas and tied to a Facebook account with the same email address.

The Atlas relaunch is not without its challenges. Facebook may face resistance from brands, publishers and ultimately consumers related to data security and privacy. Facebook commonly faces criticism based on its use of data, and this change will likely not be an exception.

 

WHAT IS THE IMPACT?

The industry widely acknowledges that cookie-based targeting will be short-lived. With the announcement of Atlas’s cookieless approach to measurement, Facebook has effectively put pressure on the rest of the industry to develop similar cross-device tracking solutions.

As more companies develop their cross channel solutions and new technologies emerge for measurement and tracking, we should begin to see an increase in mobile ad spend. With greater performance accountability, advertisers will feel far more comfortable shifting ad spend toward mobile devices as analysts predict that by 2016 mobile spend will exceed desktop spend.

Finally, people-based marketing should result in an increase in contextually relevant messaging. Knowing exactly what messages consumers have already been exposed to, and on what devices, will allow for greater personalization in messaging, including enhanced sequential messaging across platforms. This is a huge opportunity for media and creative agencies to work hand in hand.

 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

The new Atlas capabilities will only be available with full adoption of the ad server. Those advertisers (at most 20% of brands) currently using the Atlas ad server will immediately be able to leverage the new interface and tracking capabilities.

At this time, most Mediahub clients are working with Atlas’s main rival in the ad serving space, DoubleClick’s DCM. While the DCM ad server currently relies on cookie data for mobile tracking, DoubleClick is well positioned to introduce a competing product given its ownership by Google.

With that in mind, Mediahub recommends staying the course with DCM for the following reasons:

  • DoubleClick has indicated that a product release to solve for cross-device tracking will come in the near future with an announcement planned towards the end of the year. Such a release would likely leverage Google login data, among other unique identifiers.
  • The transition from one ad server to another is an extremely involved process. Not only does a shift require substantial training, but such a transition would also require new tagging across all client and partner sites. By the time such a transition were completed, DoubleClick could very well have introduced a competitive solution for cross-device tracking.
  • DCM offers value beyond that of Atlas in a number of areas, including search integration, rich media capabilities and preferred IPG rates.

Mediahub recommends reevaluating ad servers in six to 12 months, should DoubleClick not develop a timely answer to cross-platform tracking and measurement.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Facebook FAQ: Why Atlas?

The Wall Street Journal: What Marketers Need to Know about Facebook Atlas

Digiday: What Advertisers Should Know about Facebook Relaunching Atlas