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Facebook's Atlas Charts a New Path, Away from Ad Tech

Alex Spencer

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Facebook has re-positioned its Atlas ad platform, moving it out of its ad tech division and into the 'marketing sciences' measurement business.

Facebook acquired Atlas in 2013, for a reported sum of somewhere in excess of $50m, from previous owner Microsoft – which had itself bought Atlas along with parent company aQuantive in 2007.

Atlas was composed of two parts: an ad server and a measurement platform. Plans to build on the former with the addition of a DSP (Demand-Side Platform) were abandoned in March, so the move – officially solidifying the focus on the latter half – probably comes as no surprise. Indeed, Facebook's interest in the company has always seemed to lie with measurement.

When it originally announced the acquisition, ad tech VP Brian Boland said of the decision: "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. Atlas has built capabilities that allow for this kind of measurement, and enhancing these systems will give marketers a deeper understanding of effectiveness and lead to better digital advertising experiences for consumers."

According to Business Insider, while the ad server element does still exist, it is now used mostly for 'data fidelity', backing up the measurement capabilities, and Atlas' primary use is as a measurement tag for cross-device user tracking.

The change won't affect the Atlas brand, or lead to any lay-offs within the department – but it may signal the beginning of the end for Facebook's 'ad tech' division as a whole. Boland told Business Insider the company was moving away from that name, in order to distance itself from 'pre-conceived notions' – like 'cookies and desktop' – that are too tied to the digital marketing landscape of 2009.