Facebook solves cookie question

24 September 2014

NEW YORK: Facebook's imminent launch of a new advertising platform is expected to bypass online advertising's current reliance on cookies, improve targeting and track users across devices, according to observers.

The social media giant has re-engineered the Atlas Advertiser Suite it bought from Microsoft last year and will use the new model to link users' ad interactions to their Facebook accounts which can in turn be used to follow users across desktop and mobile devices, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"The biggest impact of this will be in mobile," said one ad executive, noting that people spend more time on mobile but, because cookies don't work there, marketers are reluctant to invest heavily. "This could finally enable us to spend more money in mobile," the executive added.

But the implications go beyond mobile. "What Facebook is doing is potentially more powerful than what Google can currently do," said Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategist of advertising holding company Publicis Groupe.

Google's leading position is unlikely to be under immediate threat – Facebook's advertising revenues are currently less than one fifth of Google's but that will start to depending on how quickly marketers embrace the new product. It is a year since Warc reported that Google was developing a tracker to replace third-party cookies but, as the WSJ noted, this has yet to be offered to marketers.

Google is now facing challenges on a number of fronts, both commercial and legal, as the European Union this week threatened formal antitrust charges if the internet giant fails to satisfactorily address concerns that it manipulates search results to favour its own services and products.

Facebook meanwhile has yet another trick up its sleeve with Atlas which can be used to link offline behaviour to online. Thus, a consumer buying a product in store might give an email address; if that address is linked to a Facebook account then the social network could inform the retailer if, when, and where the consumer saw its ads across the Web.

Data sourced from wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff