Does Facebook’s Atlas Solve the “Cookie Problem”?

Facebook’s revamped Atlas advertising platform, revealed on the first day of Advertising Week, will now leverage login data to allow marketers to track Facebook users as they move around the Web. It will also let advertisers purchase ads on properties Facebook doesn’t own.

While the social media giant didn’t disclose many details about how exactly Atlas works, it did indicate that this new ad platform uses a “people-based” marketing approach, which can help marketers and advertisers tackle the challenges presented by cookies.

“Cookies don’t work on mobile, are becoming less accurate in demographic targeting, and can’t easily or accurately measure the customer purchase funnel across browsers and devices or into the offline world,” Erik Johnson, head of Atlas at Facebook, writes in a blog post. “People-based marketing solves these problems.”

Speaking at the IAB MIXX Conference this morning, Facebook chief operating officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg added, “Forty percent of ads do not reach the right people. Atlas is designed to change that and is all about making ads relevant to the right people.”

However, Matt Voda, chief marketing officer (CMO) of cross-channel measurement platform OptiMine, thinks that Atlas, like other tracking solutions, will leave gaps in insight for advertisers looking to measure and understand the value of their entire marketing mix.

“Assuming that the Facebook tracking will only track users who are logged into Facebook on all of their devices as they travel across the Web, this means that likely they will not be able to track all people all the time, and therefore measurement of ad value will be incomplete for an advertiser looking to understand the true, complete, value of their media mix,” Voda says.

Atlas will reportedly be able to tie consumers’ offline behaviors to their online ones. For example, if a user volunteers their email address at a retail checkout and the retailer partners with Facebook, the social network will connect the user’s email address to its Facebook account. This way, Facebook could inform the retailer if, when, and where the consumer saw its ads across the Web.

“But how much of the time do you think this will actually happen?” Voda asks. “Unless it’s 100 percent of the time, this data will only be representative of the segment of users willing to fill in their email address, and thus not a true representation of what is happening.”

Even if this new “cookie-less” solution proves to be a breakthrough in tracking individuals for the purposes of relevant audience targeting and personalization, Atlas’ increased tracking capabilities may arouse privacy concerns, which has already been an issue for Facebook.

But the platform assures users that their identities will remain anonymous to advertisers and publishers. According to Sandberg, “Atlas will not tell marketers who the users are. It will rely on technology to deliver relevance to secure users’ privacy. Trust is the cornerstone of Facebook’s business, as it wants people to keep sharing.”

What do you think of Facebook’s newly revamped Atlas? Will it solve the “cookie” problem?

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