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Cookies ‘fundamentally flawed’, says Facebook as it rolls out Atlas ad serving platform

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 12.53.45 PMFacebook has claimed to have taken the next step in targeted digital advertising as it begins to roll out its Atlas platform in Australia.

The social media company acquired Atlas in 2013 but relaunched the technology – which allows marketers to track Facebook users when they visit other sites – last October.

It has already relaunched the product in the US and Europe and is now ready for a concerted awareness push locally.

Head of Atlas Erik Johnson said the technology is a superior and more sophisticated version of cookies which he said have “fundamental flaws” as they don’t track users across different devices.

Leigh Terry: 'Cookies have been a loyal servant of digital marketing'

Leigh Terry: ‘Cookies have been a loyal servant of digital marketing’

“If you’re a marketer and you want to reach somebody on Facebook you can do targeting based on demographics and find those people,” he said.

“But if one out of every three minutes is spent on Facebook in Australia there are still two out of three minutes where people are on other publisher’s sites. And if you’re a marketer, one third is not good enough. You need to reach everybody.”

That is where Atlas comes in, Johnson told media on a visit to Sydney, with brands able to “find those people” no matter what device they are using.

“Rather than just running ads all over the place and hope to reach them, I can actually meet those people where they are and target the ads. That’s our focus,” he said.

“We are trying to solve a couple of fundamental problems for marketers. If you look at the data and where people are spending their time, they are spending it on mobile devices. Roughly three hours a day, or 25% of their time is spent on their mobile device.

“But in a typical marketing plan, only 10 to 11 per cent of the marketing budget will be assigned there and there is a gap because of the cross devise problem. Cookies don’t work particularly well on mobile.”

Omnicom is among the agencies working with Facebook through Atlas, with chief executive Leigh Terry insisting it will create improved efficiencies for clients.

“The cookie world has been a noble servant to internet marketing, and while this (Atlas) is not the silver bullet, it is making it a lot closer to having targeting capabilities with less wastage,” he said.

“There are still challenges around viewability and bot traffic but the fact that Facebook is people, as opposed to bots, helps on that front.

“From an efficiency perspective it is providing better bang for your buck. It’s why we started to get involved.”

Asked whether Omnicom clients were receptive to increasing their digital marketing markets, Terry said the attitude was mixed.

“Some are massively over indexing and there are others we are still trying to convince to dip their toe in the water,” he said. “There are evangelists and conservatives and everything in between.”

Johnson stressed Atlas would focus on age, gender, location and device type and stressed it was”very sensitive to the question of protecting confidentiality and privacy”.

Steve Jones

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