Facebook's New Ad Network: Atlas
Facebook Expands Ad Reach Through Launch of Atlas
On September 29, 2014, Facebook launched its new ad network, Atlas. Atlas allows Facebook ads to show on other sites outside of Facebook.com, as well as follow users across their desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Knowing a user’s initial contact point with a digital campaign and flawlessly tracking them all the way to their final purchase is the holy grail for all digital marketers. Atlas provides more value to your Facebook media dollars by helping you reach users at a much larger scale and tracking their online journeys. This POV provides more information about the Atlas product and the benefits it offers Facebook advertisers.
HOW DOES ATLAS WORK?
In order to accurately track user behavior in multi-device campaigns, Atlas is dependent upon the user to remain logged into their personal web-based accounts (e.g., Facebook, Google+, email, etc.) with a universal email address. Atlas uses those login credentials to essentially “follow” the user around the Web and across devices. Atlas’ technology is certainly a step in the right direction for a common pain point among all digital advertisers: attribution modeling.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Atlas originated from a company called, which was purchased by Microsoft in 2007. Microsoft then sold Atlas to Facebook in February 2013 due to Microsoft’s focus on enriching their digital content for users rather than focusing on ad serving. Atlas’ technology mixed with Facebook’s specific targeting capabilities is a dangerous combination for digital media competitors and makes Facebook a “must” for digital advertisers, including healthcare companies.
IMPROVING DIGITAL TARGETING: PEOPLE-BASED VS. COOKIE-BASED
A big benefit of using Atlas is that it allows advertisers to utilize user information housed on Facebook profiles (e.g., age, gender, location, interests, etc.) to target relevant ads on other websites outside of Facebook.com. This allows Facebook advertisers to expand their ad reach and target more “people-based” marketing rather than “cookie-based” marketing. This is an emerging trend that most major players in the digital space (e.g., Google, Bing) are working toward to improve their ad targeting mechanisms.
While cookie-based targeting is still very effective, it can pose issues when it comes to multi-device tracking. There is a common misunderstanding that cookies do not work at all on mobile devices. It is important to note that cookies can still work on mobile devices; they just have very limited capabilities.
- Cookie tracking data can drop off when a user switches devices
- Most mobile browsers and apps can’t track third-party cookie data
- Mobile apps work independently and cannot share cookie data with other apps or browsers
These tracking limitations don’t allow advertisers to see the full picture of their multi-device campaigns, making it difficult to measure the relationship between desktop and mobile campaigns and optimize accordingly. Atlas’ technology now allows Facebook advertisers to consistently target across multiple devices by targeting people rather than targeting cookies.
DEFINING THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
We know that online users have many different choices of devices at their fingertips and typically use a combination of desktop, tablet and mobile devices when performing searches for one product. While the data for each individual device can be tracked, the struggle for most digital advertisers is bridging the gap between devices and seeing the full path of a user’s online journey.
Since Atlas’ technology utilizes a user’s universal login information, ad serving and tracking is consistent. Facebook is now able to accurately track user data from multiple devices and show advertisers how they all work together. This gets us one step closer to solving the digital puzzle of attribution modeling.
Facebook is ahead of the curve on using more audience-based marketing tools rather than relying solely on cookie data. Big digital competitors like Google are also starting to adjust their targeting capabilities to find a more audience-focused approach, which is the foundation on which Facebook’s marketing platform was built.
Facebook already has an advantage in the digital ad space with its specific demographic and psychographic targeting capabilities from a user’s profile information, whereas the data that search engines gather from users is more vague. Atlas unleashes even more targeting capabilities for Facebook to take advantage of, which could very well move them to the top of the food chain for digital marketing platforms.
USER PRIVACY CONCERNS
Facebook has a history of getting backlash from users about their privacy. The release of Atlas may increase user privacy concerns as they notice more ads “following” them around the Web and across devices. While Atlas will not release any personal user information, users may become more skeptical about their online privacy. Facebook has already taken measures to ensure that any user data collected from Atlas will not be available for use on other digital platforms. The data collected from Facebook and Atlas will be for Facebook’s eyes only, and advertisers will not be able to use that data to optimize other digital campaigns run through outside platforms or vendors.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR PHARMA?
In pharma marketing, “behavioral targeting” can be a scary phrase. Atlas represents a new breed of digital advertising, one that even pharma can take advantage of to reach patients and HCPs as they move around the Web. Atlas’ strategy of following the actual user rather than following the cookie makes the ads much more valuable.
Intouch Solutions understands the nuances of the pharma industry and is using Atlas carefully, monitoring the placements of our ads and ensuring they coincide with FDA regulations. We have also taken proactive measures to ensure that frequency caps are in place in order to prevent ad fatigue to users, thereby making the ads more effective.
Atlas’ targeting capabilities can positively impact existing Facebook campaigns for pharma companies by improving overall targeting. It allows us to expand our reach outside of Facebook.com and create more fan acquisition for our existing pharma Facebook pages. This would spread our Facebook marketing dollars much further and allow us to capture more web inventory through Facebook’s very cost-effective platform.
We can particularly benefit from Atlas’ technology when targeting physicians since, according to a study by Google and Manhattan Research, physicians often use multiple devices when researching information.
- 98 percent of physicians use desktops/laptops for general information
- 56 percent use smartphones to quickly look up information
- 63 percent use tablets to research and/or teaching purposes
Both physicians and patients use multiple devices when searching for information. Atlas will give us the insights we need to optimize our multi-device Facebook campaigns and make our targeting more consistent to each and every user — a dream come true for digital advertisers. While Atlas’ advanced tracking and ad serving is only available through the Facebook platform as of right now, its release may spark major players like Google and Bing to jump on board and improve their targeting capabilities. Atlas could very well be the beginning of a new era for digital marketing and cause a major shift in how digital campaigns are targeted.