Advertisers' fascination with cookies has long past. Every advertiser knows deep down that a cookie is a blunt instrument and its limitations are woefully apparent when dealing with cross-channel campaigns. Unfortunately, cookies are the best way to track the effectiveness of online campaigns. That is, until Facebook announced the relaunch of their cross-network ad platform, Atlas.
With Atlas, Facebook are attempting to take on Google on its home turf — display advertising. How? Aside from dispensing with cookies, Atlas purports to bridge the gap between the offline and online advertising worlds by linking the real-world interactions of customers to their Facebook profiles.
Here’s how it works. When a user logs in to Facebook or uses their Facebook credentials to log in to other websites, the network installs cookies to track their activities on the website. But cookies alone are not effective enough, and they don't work on mobile, which is becoming the preferred online shopping platform for consumers. To navigate the problem, Atlas combines cookies with demographic information to help advertiser’s better target their audience.
Atlas delivers what Facebook calls "people-based marketing," which is the act of relying on cookies and demographic information to serve up targeted ads. Using this method, advertisers can overcome the cross-device problem through targeting, serving and measuring across devices.
Last year, Facebook added a new feature that allows advertisers to make the connection between who sees their ads on Facebook and who buys from their physical stores after seeing those ads. This feature, called Custom Audiences, involves advertisers uploading hashed data about their buyers, such as email addresses, physical addresses and phone numbers, and Facebook will compare this information with its own hashed data in its databases and provide data on the purchase behavior of users who saw the ads.
Advertisers can monitor campaign performance using Atlas on Facebook’s photo social network Instagram as well.
Initially, Atlas will only be used for ad-serving and tracking. Facebook has plans to set up Atlas as an ad purchasing platform in the future. Facebook said that its “people-based marketing” tools will anonymously track individuals across their devices so your identity is protected.
As advertisers understand the importance of Facebook and the exposure it gives their product, Facebook hopes they will ramp up their investment. If Atlas can do what it claims, it could be the most attractive and accurate metric for advertisers trying to target their ads yet and Google may have a serious fight on its hands in the advertising space.