Bloomberg News

Facebook Buys Microsoft’s Atlas Ad-Campaign Service

March 01, 2013

Facebook Inc. (FB:US) said it will acquire Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US)’s Atlas Advertiser Suite business, adding campaign-measurement tools that help it step up competition with Google Inc. (GOOG:US) for online-display advertisements.

The team from Atlas will remain in Seattle, where the business is based, Menlo Park, California-based Facebook said in a blog posting yesterday. Atlas tools help companies choose and place ads on websites and monitor their effectiveness.

Facebook, owner of the world’s largest social-networking service, is seeking to accelerate revenue, which is projected by analysts to slow for a fourth straight year in 2013. Atlas will help in challenging Google, which gained ad-serving technology in its $3.24 billion purchase of DoubleClick in 2008. Google will have 18 percent of the U.S. display-ad market in 2013, compared with Facebook’s 15 percent, according to EMarketer Inc.

“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,” Facebook said in the posting.

With Atlas, Facebook will be able to gauge how an ad campaign is performing on its own service and on other sites around the Web, Brian Boland, director of monetization product marketing, said in an interview. Using that data, the company can help advertisers craft better marketing campaigns, including on its own service.

‘Better Tools’

“One of the key things that we’ve heard loud and clear is around measurement and how important measurement is to them,” Boland said. “This is a step toward building better tools in the market.”

Facebook plans to improve the service for advertisers, and that includes building out capabilities to measure promotions on mobile devices, he said. While Atlas gives Facebook access to advertising across the Web, the deal doesn’t signal that the company is looking to start offering ads that widely.

“It is not any step toward an ad network,” Boland said.

The deal is part of Microsoft’s effort to unwind the unsuccessful $6.3 billion 2007 purchase of AQuantive Inc., which developed Atlas. Microsoft wrote down almost the entire value of the deal last year.

Microsoft has focused more attention on building search- based advertising, at the expense of the graphical-display ad business that includes Atlas and the AQuantive assets. Still, Microsoft wants to ensure that Mountain View, California-based Google has competition. That made Facebook, a Google rival and Microsoft partner, an attractive choice for a buyer.

As part of the deal, Microsoft will remain a user of Atlas, said Dave O’Hara, chief financial officer for the Redmond, Washington-based company’s online services division.

“We thought they had a good vision of where they want to go,” O’Hara said. “We’re still a very large presence in the online advertising business and will be for many, many years.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Brian Womack in San Francisco at bwomack1@bloomberg.net; Dina Bass in Seattle at dbass2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net


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