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Facebook’s Atlas (Re)Launch and 6 Key Points to Consider

5 MINUTE READ | October 7, 2014

Facebook’s Atlas (Re)Launch and 6 Key Points to Consider

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Dustin Engel

Dustin Engel has written this article. More details coming soon.

You may have seen yesterday that Facebook brought Atlas out of the skunk works to reemerge as a revamped competitor in the digital ad delivery space.  As this conveniently surfaced during Adweek, there will no doubt be momentum on this for a couple of reasons.

  • We digital marketing dinosaurs remember fondly Atlas’ heyday as a best-in-class ad server. It will be great to see another major player in the ad delivery market (hopefully). Press announcements evoking fond nostalgia never hurt anybody.

  • The tracking methodology being used by Atlas will hopefully usher in a new period of coexistence between the privacy-focused consumer and the data-hungry advertiser.

For now, let’s focus on point #2. The tracking methodology serving as the primary mechanism (based on news reports) is geared towards Facebook’s omnipresent view of an online user’s “Sign-In State.”  This Sign-In State Tracking (SST) standard is exciting because not only does it move marketers from an antiquated cookie-standard of tracking, but it hopefully allows greater control to the consumer in what they want to share and if they will share any information at all about themselves.

Marketers now have a more reliable source of cross-device tracking of their customers and prospects as it is extremely rare for a consumer to A) not be on Facebook (Facebook reaches 83% of all online users per comScore) and B) not be actively logged in either via phone or desktop or both. As there are very few entities that have this kind of SST tracking scale and the ability to execute ad delivery (Google and Facebook) and those who may be hunting for an ad server to match to SST scale (Apple, Twitter and potentially Adobe), this simplifies the game…to a point.

Unless any future SST players want to band together to create a standardized data exchange, there will be new market for data “last milers” who want to bridge these data sets. Potentially a growth opportunity for DMP’s and the evolving tag management companies who are chasing the illustrious “unified customer ID” for advertisers and then porting that ID to data players. Nevertheless, this market will come together and create greater transparency from the existing 3rd party (and perhaps 1st party) cookies.

For consumers, trying to opt-out of tracking is either a web browser setting activity (not fun for the less tech-inclined) or directly with data brokers (less fun than a route canal). This opens up the game for privacy control by simplifying the primary holders of your data.  As consumers are already training themselves on privacy control in social media and across the Google ecosystem, this blends well into their current privacy protection behavior.

route canal). This opens up the game for privacy control by simplifying the primary holders of your data.  As consumers are already training themselves on privacy control in social media and across the Google ecosystem, this blends well into their current privacy protection behavior.

This should play well into the soothing of tensions in the great privacy debate. So long as the SST players adhere to the mantra “With great power comes great responsibility.” Here’s your chance to be benevolent and just overlords of my data.

Facebook is already looking like they see the bigger opportunity with announcements of partnership with optimization platforms like Kenshoo and Marin and with agency partnerships. From the views of the user interface in the press, it also looks like there was a major overhaul in the UI that hopefully means that we may see some new ad server innovation outside of just look and feel.

For advertisers, there is a lot to consider here. But there is also much more to hear before you start your ad server shopping, such as:

  • While the privacy changes in iOS 8 are not as strong as predicted, does SST methodology outweigh the planned focus to make mobile users anonymous at the hardware level and provide true cross-channel attribution?

  • What are the plans of the other potential SST players such as Google?

  • What are the plans for those on the SST fringe (SST scale but no ad delivery of substance) such as Adobe and Twitter?

  • Will Apple get into the game or is Tim Cook’s stance in the press lately a sign that Apple will bow out of this data arms race?

  • Beyond the tracking methodology innovation, how does Atlas stack up to other ad servers considering the many years of being relatively dormant from a roadmap perspective?

  • How will existing analytics leverage SST and how long will it take for the information to bubble into analytics packages such as Adobe and IBM or with attribution platforms such as VisualIQ, Convertro, and Adometry by Google? I have a feeling that the last one may be covered here if Google enters the game as expected.

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Long story short, advertisers should get excited about the wave of innovation to soon come…but you probably want your procurement folks to stay on Alert 5 for the near term until some of these key questions have solid answers.

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