Why Facebook's Atlas is Set to Revolutionize Online Advertising
It's 18 months since Facebook paid Microsoft $100m for Atlas. Heads were scratched at the time - precisely what did Facebook want to do with an ad platform that was primarily used by brands for ad effectiveness tracking?No-one expected them to turn the world of online advertising on its head - but that's exactly what the relaunched Atlas is poised to do.Facebook has already built itself into the no.2 (to Google) digital advertising network in the world given the targeting power that the vast amount of data it has on its 1.3 billion users gives to advertisers. But Facebook ads have been restricted to Facebook - Atlas allows that targeting power to be taken to the rest of the internet.As long as users are logged in to Facebook, advertisers can target users across 1000s of websites and mobile apps. Imagine combining the power of the insight that Facebook can offer with an understanding of the context of the user. Fashion brands looking to target fashion forward 25-35 year old women living in London can deliver ads to them across their favourite fashion apps and sites, for example.But that's not the only revolution that Atlas offers. When it was bought by Facebook, it was primarily a measurement software, and measurement is at the heart of what's so exciting about the relaunched Atlas.The traditional measurement tools of the web, cookies, are ailing. Their fundamental flaw is that they don't work on mobile. And considering 41% of all purchases start on one device and move to another (typically moving smaller to larger - phone to tablet or laptop) that's a problem. Cookies typically only allow marketers to see one part of the journey - the thread is lost as consumers move from one device to another, which makes properly attributed ROI impossible to measure.Atlas solves this problem by using Facebook's persistent ID - it's tracking at a person level rather than at a device level. So you can track a consumer’s path to purchase no matter what their device.Imagine having all those targeting options at your disposal - demographic data, psychographic data and behavioural data - being able to target people on Facebook, across the web and in apps, and being able to track their behaviour no matter what device they were using? You can see why Atlas is so exciting.The one potential problem comes with privacy. The data advertisers are using is anonymised but it is genuinely personalised because a Facebook user, rather than a cookie planted on a device, is at the heart of Atlas tracking. If advertisers use this information wisely, and Facebook doesn't allow certain red lines to be crossed, we can't see users objecting to more relevant ads being served to them. Every survey on the subject suggests consumers are prepared to trade data for relevancy.Are there any losers with the launch of Atlas? Apple, Yahoo and most notably Google, who are all still trying to crack the mobile vs. desktop silo problem. Google rules the online advertising roost for the moment - but for how much longer?