The social network relaunches its Atlas ad-serving and measurement platform, which it says lets advertisers better track a consumer’s path to purchase.

Facebook Inc. claims it has addressed the challenges marketers face when attempting to track the path to purchase for a consumer who shops via multiple devices and moves between mobile sites and apps.

The social network has relaunched its DoubleClick-like Atlas ad-serving and measurement platform, which it acquired last year from Microsoft Corp., with a “people-based marketing” focus. Like Google Inc.-owned DoubleClick, Atlas isn’t an ad network. It is an ad-serving platform that lets marketers create, buy and measure digital campaigns.

“People spend more time on more devices than ever before,” writes Erik Johnson, head of Atlas, in a blog post. “This shift in consumer behavior has had a profound impact on a consumer’s path to purchase, both online and in stores. And today’s technology for ad serving and measurement–cookies–are flawed when used alone.” That’s because a single cookie can’t track a consumer’s actions as he moves between his mobile browser and an app, nor can it follow a consumer as he moves between devices.

Atlas doesn’t rely solely on cookies. When a consumer logs into Facebook on his mobile device, that action registers an identifier with Atlas’ servers, which the platform can then use to track the shopper. That lets Atlas use information Facebook has gathered about the consumer to serve him targeted ads—for example, when he opens an app. Facebook combines that identifier with other tracking tools, including cookies, to follow the consumer as he navigates the web and moves between devices. Facebook also gather information about consumers’ offline actions via digital marketing vendors Datalogix, Alliance Data System Corp.’s Epsilon and Acxiom Corp., which track shoppers’ in-store purchases using retailers’ loyalty cards.

“Atlas delivers people-based marketing, helping marketers reach real people across devices, platforms and publishers,” Johnson writes. “By doing this, marketers can easily solve the cross-device problem through targeting, serving and measuring across devices. And, Atlas can now connect online campaigns to actual offline sales, ultimately proving the real impact that digital campaigns have in driving incremental reach and new sales.”

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Facebook says that it rebuilt the platform using a new code base to enhance the Atlas’ targeting and measurement capabilities.

Omnicom Media Group, the advertising conglomerate that owns firms such as BBDO and DDB Worldwide Communications Group Inc., is the first company to sign an agency-wide deal to use the Atlas platform. Facebook says that it is working with Omnicom to develop automated tools that the agency’s clients, which include PepsiCo and Intel Corp., can use. 

Atlas is also collaborating with a number of vendors to help marketers tie together their various campaigns to understand how different ads influence a shopper’s purchase decision. Among the vendors it is working with are paid search software vendors Kenshoo Ltd. and Marin Software Inc.; social advertising vendors Shift Labs Inc., Salesforce.com Inc.-owned Social.com and Social Moov SAS; and video and rich media vendors Jivox, Innovid, Celtra Inc.

In moving beyond cookies to track shoppers’ actions, Facebook is creating a set of tools with enormous potential, says Rebecca Lieb, an analyst at the business research and advisory firm Altimeter Group.

“Facebook is offering a very compelling combination of user data that should make advertising more targeted,” she says. “Facebook knows more about its users than a publisher site or ad network knows about consumers.”

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But, she adds, whether the relaunched Atlas leads to better advertising depends on marketers and ad buyers.

“Just because they have better tools doesn’t mean there will be better ads,” she says. “They have an opportunity to improve what they’re doing, but that means they can’t keep doing things the way they always have been doing them.”