Facebook Officially Announces Acquisition Of Atlas Solutions From Microsoft

Ending weeks of speculation, Facebook Thursday confirmed its acquisition of the Atlas Solutions ad-serving business from Microsoft.

Ad Age initially reported the deal earlier this month, and talk heated up again Wednesday, with Ad Age reporting — correctly, as it turns out — that the deal would be announced Thursday.

According to Ad Age, the social network saw Atlas as a means of allowing large advertisers and agencies to connect directly to Facebook and better measure the effectiveness of their campaigns, as well as a step toward a potential off-Facebook ad network.

Facebook said in announcing the deal that the Atlas team would remain based in Seattle, and the social network revealed more details on the acquisition:

We’re pleased to announce that we have agreed to acquire the Atlas Advertiser Suite from Microsoft. Atlas is a leader in campaign management and measurement for marketers and agencies. We believe this acquisition will benefit both marketers and users, and we’d like to explain why.

Today’s marketing environment is much more complex than it was just a few short years ago. Marketers and agencies struggle to understand how their efforts across different channels complement and strengthen each other. Consequently, they are forced to adopt siloed marketing strategies for each channel, leading to poor and inconsistent end-user experiences.

This challenge also provides an opportunity. If marketers and agencies can get a holistic view of campaign performance, they will be able to do a much better job of making sure the right messages get in front of the right people at the right time. Atlas has built capabilities that allow for this kind of measurement, and enhancing these systems will give marketers a deeper understanding of effectiveness and lead to better digital advertising experiences for consumers.

Many marketers that advertise on Facebook today use Atlas, and Atlas has been an approved partner for measurement since June. Today’s agreement brings us closer together in a way that benefits both Facebook and Atlas’ agency and marketer clients. Atlas clients should not see any change to the service they receive today, and we will continue to innovate and invest in the Atlas platform.

We plan to improve Atlas’ capabilities by investing in scaling its back-end measurement systems and enhancing its current suite of advertiser tools on desktop and mobile. We will also work to improve the user interface and functionality with the goal of making Atlas the most effective, intuitive, and powerful ad-serving, management, and measurement platform in the industry. Ultimately, Atlas’ powerful platform, combined with Nielsen and Datalogix, will help advertisers close the loop and compare their Facebook campaigns to the rest of their ad spend across the Web on desktop and mobile.

Our belief is that measuring various touch points in the marketing funnel will help advertisers to see a more complete view of the effectiveness of their campaigns. Acquiring Atlas will be an important step toward achieving this goal.

Atlas is based in Seattle, and the team will continue to operate from there. Our Seattle engineering office already drives important parts of our ad system, and we plan to substantially invest in and build out our Seattle engineering and product teams. We look forward to further building out the Atlas platform to help marketers better understand how well their campaigns perform, and to help them optimize their campaigns.

Reaction from the industry quickly began rolling in with Facebook’s confirmation of the long-awaited deal, with Abby Ross, vice president of product at social commerce provider Blueye, saying:

Attribution is the key here. Facebook hasn’t been at the forefront of return-on-investment-driven metrics (especially as compared to Google). But brands need to — and should be able to — understand how a user’s Facebook activity influences purchase decision. This allows Facebook to participate in the ROI conversation much better than before — now that it can track a paid click to a user purchase.

This also makes sense because Facebook promotes its advertising as being the best of the best. However, the arbitrary nature of a like has not been a strong enough indicator of purchase intent. (That’s why we built a solution to capture and share intent). Third-party data allow Facebook to get much closer to direct purchase intent in order to further refine targeting.

Brands need to select ads application-programming interface partners that can effectively guide them through the process of selecting an appropriate media mix that leverages Facebook ad products differently. An open graph sponsored story should not be tied to the same key performance indicators as a Facebook Exchange marketplace ad or custom audience targeting ad unit.

Given this announcement, I think we can expect a couple things from Facebook in the coming months:

  • Ad impression attribution (not just click).
  • Content (paid or organic) impression attribution, for example, if I like Lululemon on Facebook and see an organic or paid page post from it about a sale, then visit its website and buy something from that sale, this would identify what type of “value” Facebook should place on that.

Andrew Bloom, senior VP, strategic business development at TV and online advertising company DG, added:

The recent purchase by Facebook of Atlas from Microsoft is a long expected move that will help accelerate its efforts not only to boost its own advertising revenues, but also eventually become a bigger player overall in online advertising. Essentially it aims to offer marketers an alternative and/or supplement to Google-driven ad inventory. To counter Google’s inventory options powered by users’ search habits, Facebook will be able to offer inventory and tracking capabilities powered by the only other Internet activity that users engage with more than search: social. Targeting and retargeting ads based on users’ social habits and behaviors will indeed give marketers another valuable tool to add to their overall digital marketing mix.

Readers: How do you think Facebook’s acquisition of Atlas Solutions will benefit its advertisers?

Related Stories
Mediabistro Course

Marketing with Facebook Insights

Marketing with Facebook InsightsStarting October 2, learn how to use Facebook's analytics tool to track and optimize your marketing efforts! Taught by the group marketing manager of social media at Microsoft/BingAds, Geoffrey Colon will show you how insights works, how to measure key performance indicators, and make your data actionable. Register now!