Facebook on Friday announced that it will be “winding down” its Atlas ad server because the company believes advertisers are more interested in metrics and insights. No specific timeline for the closure has been revealed, but it’s expected to take a few months to help existing customers transition away from the service.
Things at Atlas weren’t exactly perfect, as there were reports that suggested the ad service had failed to live up to its promise, frustrating marketers. It wasn’t able to provide service to mobile devices or even power video ads, resulting in brands having to deploy multiple advertising technologies which adds friction and compounds costs.
However, according to the program’s lead Erik Johnson, “a top request we hear from advertisers when it comes to measurement is ‘more’ — more capabilities, more features and more actionable insights.” Facebook has opted to put a more positive spin on this, saying shutting down is the right thing to do … but is it?
Damian Burns, the global head of sales for Atlas, told Business Insider, “Throughout its lifespan, the focus of Atlas has been very loud around its measurement capabilities, and ad serving was the thinner end of the wedge, if you will. It’s a very logical progression. The measurement capabilities are powerful, increasingly so, and we are seeing a lot of traction there … all the measurement capabilities that are integral to the ad server are also available outside the ad server. You can do everything you are looking to do without it. You have pixels on pages and ads that enable us to do the same counting but also apply people-based measurement to all the ads that run.”
Atlas relaunched in 2014 after the social networking company purchased it from aQuantive and Microsoft. It was intended to be a challenger to Google’s DoubleClick but with a different take on ad serving. The focus was more on what Facebook called “people-based marketing” where people, not cookies, were at the center of marketing decisions. Over the past 18 months, it’s said that more than 300 of the top advertisers used Atlas, including Airbnb and State Farm.
The move into measurement isn’t without some controversy, as Facebook has recently had a couple mea culpas in providing accurate data back to advertisers, including around video and ad views. But the company has since promised more transparency into its metrics, even amid critics who argue there needs to be third-party validation.