Facebook’s New Platform Taps User Data for Ads Across Web

Facebook announced Monday that it would be relaunching the Atlas advertising tool it acquired from Microsoft last year. The platform will allow advertisers to buy ads through Facebook, and serve them on Web sites, videos and apps that Facebook does not own. Advertising holding company Omnicom has said it plans to buy ads from Atlas.

The world's largest social network is expected to rake in 7.8 percent of Internet advertising this year, a significant increase over the 5.8 percent it earned the year before, but still significantly behind Google, which claimed 32 percent of the market.

Tracking Users on Their Phones

Facebook is promising that Atlas will fundamentally change the way marketers measure and target ad campaigns. According to the company, Atlas will allow marketers to see exactly which ads users have seen. Normally, advertisers track user activity by downloading bits of code known as "cookies" onto a users' Web browser. The cookies can report on which Web sites and which ads a user has viewed.

However, cookies are known to be unreliable, and provide only an incomplete picture of a user's Web activity. They do not work well on smartphone or other mobile devices, making it difficult for advertisers to see what a user is browsing when not using a laptop or desktop.

Facebook says Atlas will be able to track users across the Web much more closely, by linking the ads directly to their Facebook accounts. That way, Facebook will be able to track a user's entire browsing history, regardless of the device they use. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said she hopes the technology will spur advertisers to spend more money on mobile and digital advertising.

A marketer such as PepsiCo could use Atlas to identify potential customers for a new product based on their Facebook accounts. It...

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