With acquisition of Atlas complete, Facebook looks to improve ad measurement

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg shared today on the company’s first quarter earnings call that its acquisition of Atlas from Microsoft closed last week and that she welcomed the team to Facebook today.

Atlas Advertiser Suite is a platform that advertisers and agencies use to plan, manage, track and optimize their digital marketing. Facebook agreed to buy the platform and Seattle-based team from Microsoft at the end of February.

Sandberg said Atlas is important for its measurement capabilities, not its potential to power an ad network, which many have speculated about. She said Facebook has “no plans” to create an ad network to serve Facebook ads on third-party sites. Atlas will continue to be a tool for advertisers to measure the effect of their online ads on Facebook and other platforms.

Facebook continues to point to studies that suggest advertising impressions are more valuable than many businesses realize in a time when much of the focus is on clicks. Sandberg says clicks aren’t a good predictor of sales lift, but through multi-click attribution, which Atlas offers, advertisers can get a better picture of what’s working. Improving measurement will be key to making Facebook campaigns more effective and convincing more advertisers to spend on the platform.

However, first Facebook will need to improve Atlas and get more advertisers using it, since it has fallen behind Google’s Doubleclick in terms of innovation and usability in recent years. Atlas Senior Product Marketing Manager Lori Goode wrote in a blog post Friday that the team has been talking to customers about their needs and what they’re looking for in the product.

“We are so excited to roll up our sleeves and redefine the future of Atlas, not only by improving the user interface and marketer tools with the goal of making Atlas the most effective, intuitive, and powerful ad serving and measurement business in the industry, but also in uncovering unique differentiators under Facebook,” she wrote.

When asked about the potential for Atlas’ future monetization, Facebook CFO David Ebersman said that the social network “didn’t buy Atlas for run rate of its revenues.”

In October last year, Sandberg said Facebook was exploring opportunities to sell “premium services” for businesses. It’s likely she had something like Atlas in mind at the time. Facebook also recently announced that it would buy Parse, a cloud-based platform providing tools for mobile app developers. One strategy would be to eventually make these platforms — or components of them — free to most advertisers and developers to bring them deeper into Facebook’s ecosystem, ultimately driving ad revenue.

Google, for instance, bought companies and products that became the basis for Google Analytics, a robust free platform that helps people understand their web traffic. It sells a premium version, but for the most part benefits from the ad revenue it generates from users who decide they need to increase traffic or conversions and recognize search or display ads as the solution. Atlas could play a similar role for Facebook, though focused on digital and mobile advertising rather than web analytics.