Facebook confirms it’s buying digital advertising service Atlas from Microsoft

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Yep, Facebook is buying something else. While it’s not as sexy as the Instagram acquisition, this move may be of interest to brands looking to ensure their Facebook campaigns are really having an impact.

After weeks of rumours, the social network announced late yesterday that it would be buying advertising service Atlas from Microsoft. Atlas is a campaign management and measurement used by marketers and agencies to gauge the effectiveness of their digital campaigns — and Facebook says it will be ramping up that functionality in the months to come.

In an official blog post, director of product marketing for Facebook Ads, Brian Boland, stressed that the move will benefit both brands and consumers. He explained that marketing efforts are largely siloed and limited for each channel, leading to a bad and inconsistent experience for users. “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,” he said. “Ultimately, Atlas’s powerful platform, combined with Nielsen and Datalogix, will help advertisers close the loop and compare their Facebook campaigns to the rest of their ad spend across the web on desktop and mobile.”

Although Facebook has denied it’s creating an ad network, All Things D points out that the move is likely a way for Facebook to show that its ads have an impact on other websites, illustrating that ads on the social network can translate to conversions out of the site. It’s an important consideration for Facebook, as debates around the value of ‘likes’ continue and the company looks to push its advertising income on multiple platforms. After all, advertising counted for 84% of Facebook’s revenue at the end of 2012.

The move seems to have been a good move for Microsoft too — although neither side has disclosed how much Atlas was sold for (rumours suggest under US$100-million), Microsoft says the agreement was “mutually beneficial to both parties”. Senior director of communications for Microsoft Advertising, Tom Phillips, said that the company decided to sell Atlas because the development of the appified web and changes in the company’s direction meant it was no longer a priority for Microsoft.

“We needed to sharpen our focus and concentrate on identifying, building and executing on the things that are core to our vision for the future as our entire company transitions to a devices and services model,” said Phillips. “The continued investment in third party ad serving technology like Atlas, while important, is less of a strategic pillar for our business than it once was.”

Facebook and Microsoft have been working closely together for years: the Redmond giant is a Facebook investor, and has partnered with the social network to make Bing Maps and Search default options inside Facebook.

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