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Facebook prioritizes user IDs over cookies to boost mobile budgets

With Facebook?s expected launch of a new ad network called Atlas, the social media giant may be looking to dethrone Google as the king of mobile advertising but it faces a potential coup from marketers who are having second thoughts about sharing user data. 

Facebook is reportedly readying the launch of a new cross-device ad network called Atlas, which could give Google a run for its money given the significant amount of data Facebook has at its disposal. Or not, if marketers become wary of Facebook having too much information about their online customers and decide to withhold this data, as is being reported by some. 

?Facebook?s biggest advantages are scale and the amount of data it has on its users,? said Dirk R. Rients, vice president of brand solutions at The Mobile Majority, Los Angeles. ?With the launch of Atlas, Facebook hopes to fix the unreliable cookie issue by linking ad interactions to a Facebook ID.  

?Atlas will make it easier to advertise with Facebook and provide marketers with more detailed information about their campaigns,? he said. 

?Marketers will continue to increase their mobile investments with Facebook because of pure scale and increased targeting capabilities.  There is a level of comfort advertising with Facebook compared to the mobile ad networks where viewability and transparency remain an issue.?

The attribution issue
The news points to how attribution continues to be both a hurdle and a potential competitive advantage as the use of mobile continues to grow. 

It also shows how Facebook continues to make cracking the formula on leveraging its user data to power mobile advertising a big focus. 

Facebook is expected to announce the new advertising network next week at Advertising Week. 

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the platform is designed to help marketers to target Facebook users through insights, such as which Facebook users have seen and engaged with ads on the social media site as well as on third-party apps and Web sites. 

The platform will also include an automatic ad-buying tool so that marketers can more easily target Facebook users as they move around the Web. 

Marketers grow wary
The biggest impact for the new ad network could be in mobile, where consumers are increasingly spending their time. However, marketers so far have not kept in terms of allocating budget at appropriate levels, in part because it is hard to track mobile users since cookies do not work. 

It sounds like the new Facebook ad network will place less of an emphasis on cookies and more on user data with the idea of being able to track users between desktop and mobile, something that is difficult to do right now. 

However, a separate report in the Wall Street Journal suggests that online retailers and publishers are not happy about the amount of data Facebook is collecting about their customers. In particular, if that information is being used for more detailed user profiles that are being shared with a brand?s competitors, this may not sit well with some. 

In fact, some marketers have already taken steps to prevent Facebook from being able to collect some information about users browsing habits while others are considering taking action to prevent data from being gathered by Facebook. 

Education is key
Getting retailers and publishers to play nice is one hurdle Facebook could face with Atlas.

Another is consumers will likely have to be on Facebook for it to work. 

Facebook has an enormous user base, with the site passing more than 1 billion mobile users earlier this year. However, several reports have suggested that Facebook?s influence is waning, particularly with younger consumers who are more interested in newer social media offerings. 

Facebook has attempted to address the need for relevance with younger users by acquiring first Instagram and then WhatsApp. 

Facebook also faces growing concerns from privacy advocates, a challenge that could get bigger with an ad network that is tracking users across the Web and building user profiles with this information. The tracking could also come across as too intrusive to consumers. 

?The biggest challenge Facebook will have with Atlas is educating marketers and agencies on the advantages of the platform,? Mr. Rients said. 

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York