Can Facebook Atlas Really Dominate Internet Advertising?

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

facebook-taking-over-the-worldFacebook is no stranger to controversy when it concerns its advertising programs. So it should come as little surprise that the company’s announcement of the relaunch of Facebook Atlas has started a buzz. But the factors that make Atlas so concerning to privacy advocates and some consumers also make the platform noteworthy for marketers. This article will analyze what is currently known about Facebook’s Atlas and what is means for internet advertising.

Facebook bought Atlas last year, and now they are ready to relaunch this advertising solution with a slew awesome new powers. Atlas will use the power of Facebook’s data to serve highly targeted ads to users on multiple devices.

“We are bringing all of the people-based marketing functions that marketers are used to doing on Facebook and allowing them to do that across the web,” David Jakubowski, the company’s head of advertising technology, said in an interview with the New York Times.

Facebook is in a unique position in that it has a treasure trove of information about users, so ads can be targeted more effectively. Traditional ad networks have to piece together a user’s demographic and interests based on their anonymous browsing data. This tactic is amazing accurate, but Facebook can better. Users tell Facebook what they’re interested in directly by declaring it on their pages or by clicking on posts that interest them. Ad networks have to guess their users age, race, gender, etc., whereas Facebook knows all of that information as well.

These factors could make Atlas a far more efficient, and thus cheaper, way to get ads to customers. First, it Atlas should serve fewer ads that are completely off the mark. To illustrate, sends working in SEO means I visit a wide variety of sites, I sometimes get ads shown to me though I’m nowhere near the target demographic for the product. Facebook’s Atlas shouldn’t have that problem. Similarly, people often visit different kinds of sites on their mobile than on the desktop, so the same person may have a different ad profile for each device. Facebook knows what the user likes and clicks on in Facebook, whether they’re on desktop browser, mobile device, or app. So Atlas can serve meaningful ads to a user across devices.

Most important, Atlas has the ability to extend the power of Facebook data far beyond Facebook and its apps. As was discussed in a recent article on this site, Facebook has expanded the reach of its ad network to include different websites, mobile apps, and games. It’s fair to say that Facebook and Atlas represent a significant challenge to the hegemony of Google Adwords.

Needless to say, all of this advertising power has caught the attention of consumer advocates and privacy watch dogs. The social site Ello, which promises no ads, has seen a bump in enrollment in the past week. AdBlock has started advertising its service as being able to circumvent Atlas, even before the service was active. There has even been some concern that the growing reach of advertising may make people avoid certain sites.

While all this news may be disconcerting to some, what Facebook is doing isn’t very different from what has been going on for years with the internet. Tim Bugger from the Motley Fool did a good job explaining the situation when writing about the news for investors.

He wrote, “On the surface, Atlas and new ad network tools, like those recently announced from Google, will make many of us uncomfortable. But really, not much will change when it’s all said and done. Facebook, Google, and even our government, has been collecting reams of data on all of us for years.”

Facebook Atlas seems very impressive at first glance, but in the end, it will be a matter of numbers that determines the value to marketers. If Facebook’s super-targeted ads become extremely popular, the bid rate may be so high it’s cheaper to stick with traditional methods. Or, more likely, Facebook Atlas won’t show results that are radically different from AdWords or other networks.

So time will tell if Atlas measures up, and as soon as the data comes in, you’ll find it here. And don’t forget, with Facebook’s recent acquisition of LiveRail, bigger things may be on the way.

In the meantime, read this article that shows, for now, YouTube is the best social network for ad conversions.

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