Facebook just announced that it's buying marketer-side adserver Atlas from Microsoft. I think it's a great move.
It's always been clear that for Facebook to realize its potential, the company would have to start powering advertising beyond its own site. Facebook has collected an incredible amount of data about people's affinities and preferences, but it lacks the brand ad units to help marketers effectively leverage that data. Although the statement announcing the deal focused on Atlas' measurement tools rather than its ad targeting technology, we expect that Atlas will soon be using Facebook's data to target sponsorships, in-stream ads, and other rich ad formats across the entire Web — and that's big news. The question now is how quickly and successfully Facebook can integrate its data with Atlas' tools, and whether they can avoid a privacy backlash as they do so. History suggests they'll struggle on both counts.
If you want to hear more about how Facebook can turn its affinity data into something that's useful for marketers, stop by my SXSW session, Affinity, Intent & The War For Marketing Dollars, at 5 p.m. on March 10 at the Four Seasons.