As long expected, Facebook today said that it has agreed to acquire Seattle-based Atlas Advertising from Microsoft for an undisclosed amount, in a move that demonstrates how serious the social media giant is getting about digital advertising.
In a statement, Facebook said that the purchase of Atlas, whose software enables marketers and agencies to place and manage digital advertising campaigns, will help companies better measure the ROI of their digital media spend. It said that using the Atlas platform in conjunction with Facebook partners Nielsen and Datalogix will help advertisers compare their Facebook campaigns to the rest of their ad spend across the web on desktop and mobile.
"If marketers and agencies can get a holistic view of campaign performance, they will be able to do a much better job of making sure the right messages get in front of the right people at the right time," said Brian Boland, Facebook director of product marketing, in the statement.
Facebook also said it would invest in scaling Atlas' back-end measurement system and enhancing advertiser tools for the desktop and mobile, as well as working to improve the user interface.
Microsoft has been looking to sell the Atlas advertising unit for some time, as a non-core part of its business. In a statement today, the company said that the deal would allow it to dedicate more of its resources to creating "beautiful and relevant" in-app ad experiences on Windows 8, Skype, Xbox/Kinect, Windows Phone, Bing, and MSN.
Andrew Bloom, SVP, strategic business development at DG, which offers an end-to-end advertising delivery network, said that the news is good for both the market and Facebook.
"We're excited about any company being in a position to show the efficacy of advertising outside of the Google stack ad world," he said. "Facebook is clearly a very important player but they still have a lot to prove in terms of showing the value and relevance of likes, shares and other forms of engagement."
Although Facebook has said that the Atlas software will enable companies to measure the success of campaigns across all media, rather than just on Facebook, Bloom wondered if current Atlas customers might be concerned over Facebook's objectivity as a third party in enabling them to measure ads across the entire Internet. "There still could be a need for a truly independent global entity to serve and measure ads," he said. Facebook has said that Atlas clients should not see any change to the service they currently receive.
Calvin Lui, president and chief strategy officer at Unified, a cloud-based social operating platform, was also positive about the deal. He said that the combination of Atlas' data, which is already used on thousands of third-party websites, with Facebook's own data on users would help bring clarity to the digital advertising industry. "This is going to enable marketers to tie the dots more closely together," he said.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
March 19, 2014