Last week, Facebook announced the relaunch of its Atlas advertising platform. Facebook described it as a tool that delivers “people-based marketing.” So, what’s the big deal?
We already know that both Facebook and Google use our data to target ads – when you search for a washing machine on Google, you will notice that advertisements on appliances will follow you for a few days/weeks on sites within the Google ad network. It is important to understand the tipping point we are potentially experiencing.
The first part of the announcement states the fact that the platform will not be based on cookies. This will give Atlas an advantage in cross-device compatibility and the edge on mobile. (More details on how they did it further below.)
Second, we know that all online ad platforms collect data on us and our behavior. The new situation is that Facebook knows who we are and has an absurdly vast amount of data on us.
Google and other platforms know that an anonymous individual is looking for a specific product and will direct relevant ads to that user. They can also sell the information to marketers, but our personal identities are still protected.
Facebook, on the other hand, identifies you specifically and aggregates all the data in your profile. This enables the company to sell the data in the context of your personal information.
To simplify the difference, here are two examples:
- Someone was looking for a washing machine on Google. Google doesn’t have much to do with it except list target ads.
- You were looking for a washing machine. You also posted on your Facebook profile that your old one just died and that you just bought a new house. These facts—along with your personal information, shopping history and contact information—may perhaps be passed to any interested party that is willing to pay for it.
How Facebook did it: The not-so-innocent like
Facebook is achieving a “cookie-less” solution by using its current scripts that exist on almost all websites in the world. Every time a website developer adds a ‘like’ button, a ‘share this’ icon or any other Facebook widget, a script allows Facebook to identify the visitors to the site. The only condition is that they are logged on to Facebook … and this behavior can now be collected and stored by Facebook under your profile.
This access to your activity gives it an advantage over Google in supporting identity across multiple devices. Furthermore, it provides supremacy in mobile and potentially an appealing dataset for marketers: A package of personal/behavioral information.
Even though Facebook, Google and other major sites have been collecting information on us for years, the thought that every advertiser can buy our information is not what we signed up for. At this moment, Facebook is collecting and storing accumulative data and trends, but promises it will not be sharing our personal information with advertisers.
I wonder how this will develop: Will we see the migration of advertisers from Google’s DoubleClick to Atlas? What will Google do in response?
For more details, check out the WSJ’s “What Marketers Need to Know About Facebook’s Atlas.”