Facebook Brings New Partners Into Its Ad Network of the Future

Publicis, Mediaocean and Merkle join Atlas

Facebook is opening its ad tech to more agencies and brands after making a round of new deals with big holding companies and advertising software firms.

Publicis and its tech arm, VivaKi, are now plugged into Facebook's Atlas ad network, which launched in the fall to compete with Google's DoubleClick and to help brands and agencies deliver ads across the Internet, desktop computers and mobile devices. Also, ad tech companies Mediaocean and Merkle are now tapped into the system.

These new Atlas partners reveal how Facebook is approaching the future of its ad business, said Erik Johnson, head of Atlas. The social site is bringing on strategic advisors and ad tech experts to help implement its vision for a digital advertising ecosystem.

"We have three holding companies on board, and the remaining three of the big six we're optimistic about getting," Johnson said.

Omnicom was a launch partner when Facebook unveiled Atlas in the fall. Facebook then explained it would shift from cookie-based digital measurements, which track users by the software placed on websites, to "people-based" metrics.

Since the launch, Facebook has brought Havas and Publicis into the fold.

The Mediaocean deal means that company's brand clients will be able to use Atlas and its unique measurements.

"We're now reporting at an audience level. Most other third-party ad servers all are cookie based," said Bill Wise, CEO of Mediaocean. "Instead of just reporting on unique users or unique devices, we're reporting on unique people."

Facebook and its partners say this people-based measurement means more efficient ad spending, because it removes some uncertainty when delivering ads based on user or device identifications that may or may not know exactly who is on the other end.

Facebook's 1.4 billion logged-in user base gives it a lot of intelligence about who views an ad on any device.

Measuring people more accurately means agencies and brands can take control of how frequently they send a person a promo, knowing if that person has seen it before. And if the person has seen it before, then the advertiser knows to switch up the message.

This is the ideal, and the next step is knowing when that consumer actually took an action or bought a product after viewing an ad. Facebook's Atlas, which serves ads all over the Internet, not just on the social network, is trying to deliver this full-circle reporting.

Even Facebook says Atlas is early in its development. Part of its effectiveness depends on the consumer insights that brands can bring to the table and the type of data Facebook makes available for them to act upon.

Still, Atlas is seen as one of the few platforms that could rival Google's, as advertising shifts to mobile devices.

"Google, through DoubleClick, owns such a huge portion of the digital ad infrastructure," Wise said. "The market loves the fact that there's a potential alternative."