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Facebook Rumored to Release an Ad Network Called Atlas

James Parsons • Updated on September 2, 2023
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In the world of tech, Atlas is nothing new.  Facebook bought the ad platform from Microsoft in 2013, but said nothing about it for the next year.  Until now, that is; Erik Johnson, the head of Atlas, posted a blog about the new and rebuilt Atlas under Facebook’s leadership.  With Facebook’s audience network already making the site a goldmine for marketers, how will Atlas change the game?

A Technical Distinction

Atlas is very carefully referred to not as an ad network, but as an ad serving and measuring platform.  It allows businesses, through Facebook, to purchase and measure ads on websites that aren’t Facebook.  This links into Facebook’s existing ad platforms.  All together, marketers will be able to use Atlas to purchase ads via auction outside of Facebook itself.  This will make it easy to create Facebook-style ads and serve them on non-Facebook sites.

Essentially, Facebook will use Atlas to bridge the gap between desktop and mobile ads, and between static platforms like AdSense and the dynamic, people-focused Audience Network.  One of the biggest advantages Facebook has over other ad platforms is the deep, robust targeting options, and with Atlas, those will be extended to ads off Facebook as well.

A Framework and Excessive Data

The way Facebook has rebuilt Atlas to work with the platform will take advantage of the massive amounts of data Facebook has stored away.  With over a billion users, and basic information available for nearly every one of those users, this makes Atlas potentially incredibly powerful for targeting.

As it stands, before Atlas comes to the fore, Facebook is easily the second best advertising platform after Google.  With Atlas, Facebook can expand in a way that Google can’t.  Facebook can target both desktop and mobile users, and it can link those users by their accounts, their behaviors and the already existing Facebook tracking pixels that are prevalent and in use today.

Through it all, nothing will truly change in the Facebook backend.  All of the powerful audience targeting, including deep demographic information, lookalike audiences and custom audiences, will be available.  The only change is where those ads can be served, and that is a much broader audience.

A New Functionality


The way it stands now, a site can serve an ad, but that ad will be served to everyone who stops by.  In some cases, it can have some additional targeting, based on device, user agent or referring link.  With Atlas, so much more can be added.

With Atlas, the server makes a call to serve the ad, and Atlas takes a look at the visitor.  Is that visitor someone who has data in the Atlas and Facebook databases?  If so, how does that information affect the ad?  For a simple example, the server might serve one ad for someone with no information stored, a different ad for someone they know is under the age of 30, and yet a different ad for someone they know is over 30.  This can be applied for any variation of the data stored with Facebook audiences.

Facebook Tracking

The way Atlas is able to function will be through Facebook tracking users all around the web.  To some extent, this already happens.  Facebook is able to harvest data on users when those users visit sites with Facebook tracking pixels, Facebook widgets and Facebook like buttons.  More importantly for platform crossovers, Facebook can also track information about users using the Facebook app and browsing on their phones.

This sounds scary, and it is; few people realize how much information they give away during their standard web use.  The thing is, none of these tracking features are new.  Facebook has been gathering all of this information for some time, and marketers have been using it to great effect on Facebook for years.

The time for users to get up in arms about Facebook’s privacy settings and data tracking has long since passed.  That ship sailed years ago.  At this point, no amount of user uproar can change what Facebook has set in motion.  The only way to get away would be to reconsider having a Facebook account at all.

Mobile Ad Tracking


The most exciting feature for marketers will be deeper integration with mobile marketing.  As it stands now, marketers need to investigate their current audiences, identify apps they may be using, and advertise within those apps.  With Atlas, the dynamic changes.

When you have the Facebook app installed on your smartphone or other device, you’re giving Facebook access to a wealth of data.  Facebook will be able to see what other apps you’re using.

With this data, Facebook marketers can see what apps their customers are using and identify apps that use advertising in-app.  A marketer can then look at their Facebook audience tracking and determine that one of their existing ads, geared for young adult males, would work very well to reach those users within that app.  They can put their ad in that app, and target specifically those users.  No more blind-firing and split testing just to get the information Facebook’s audience network provides.

A Note on Data Collection

If you, as a consumer, are worried about the data harvesting going on by Facebook and its use in commercial ad targeting, take a step back.  Every ad provider, from Google to Doubleclick to the shady networks advertising on porn sites, is collecting data on you in any way it can.

They use this data to allow marketers to refine their ads.  More refined ads means higher conversion rates and, more importantly for consumers, more ads you may actually care about.  Facebook’s integration here just makes it that much easier for marketers to reach you with content you may be interested in, rather than content they’re simply guessing about.

The information Facebook collects is also freely disclosed and well within their rights to collect.  It’s the same as if a marketer monitored your Twitter feed for a mention of a location.  You post that information publicly, and it’s free for the public to use.  If anything, Facebook’s long history of data privacy and integration will make it more secure.


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