Technology

Facebook Aims Beyond Its Borders With New Ad Offering

The company's retooled ad targeting platform, Atlas Solutions, offers something that many ad providers want—more details on the people they're advertising to. The problem, though, is that users may not want it.

The company’s ad targeting platform, Atlas Solutions, offers something that many ad providers want: more data on the people they’re advertising to. The problem? The network’s users may not want to give it out.

With its massive social graph and user base, Facebook could subsist just fine on an internal ad network. It’s worked pretty well for the the social network already.

But this week, the company is making a bold move into the territory of Google, Sovrn, Outbrain, and numerous other online ad platforms. In other words, Facebook is opening up its walled garden of user information to outside publishers—and, lest we forget, advertisers—who want to take advantage of its massive data store to better target to audiences.

Facebook-owned Atlas Solutions puts the company on equal ground with Google’s AdSense, DoubleClick, and AdMob platforms, along with other paid-advertising solutions like Apple’s iAd. Focusing on search advertising and mobile apps, along with traditional web ads, Atlas Solutions hopes to make its offerings stand out by leveraging Facebook’s massive retargeting capabilities.

The most interesting part about Atlas is that it gets around one of the major sticking points of mobile advertising—the cookie problem. Cookies aren’t well supported on mobile devices, meaning that it has been harder for advertisers to target those users. But since you’re most likely logged into Facebook at all times on your phone, the network can pick up details on your browsing activity that previously had been off-limits to many marketers.

“Cookies alone limit advertising effectiveness—they’re ineffective on mobile and suffer from degradation over time,” the Atlas Solutions website states. “Atlas unlocks new potential by using people, not proxies, to help advertisers succeed.”

And since users change their Facebook profiles, marketing stays up to date as well. It stands to reason that associations looking to extend their marketing reach could benefit from this strategy.

Already, the ad firm Omnicom has hopped on board to partner with Alas, giving the new effort a good starting point. Instagram also is expected to support the platform.

Sound Creepy?

Of course, some users object to the way Facebook uses their data, and the Atlas program is likely to compound those concerns. Users can remove the tracking mechanism by following Facebook’s steps to change their ad preferences.

If you’d like to opt out of data-tracking, the Digital Advertising Alliance offers a free tool to turn it off. You’ll still see ads, though—just untargeted ones.

No matter your opinion of Facebook ads, remember this point: Ad tracking is a fact of online life these days.

“The social network isn’t the only company to monitor your activity to target ads to you. Its direct competitor is Google, which reads your Gmails to serve you relevant display ads,” PCWorld‘s Caitlin McGarry notes. “If you use the internet today, you’re giving up a measure of privacy for the use of free services.”

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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