Imagine the battle between Facebook and Google as a gigantic, high-speed game of chicken involving 18-wheelers. Now Facebook’s made an acquisition it hopes will give its rig a little more momentum ahead of the inevitable collision: the Atlas Advertiser Suite, which it took off Microsoft’s hands for an undisclosed sum.
AdAge, which knows a little something about this sort of thing, estimated the deal at somewhere “in the $30 to $50 million range.” Atlas offers tools for ad-campaign management and measurement, which its clients use to judge the effectiveness of their marketing across a variety of Web channels, including Facebook. In theory, the holistic view offered by those tools can allow companies to plan comprehensive ad campaigns.
“We plan to improve Atlas’ capabilities by investing in scaling its back-end measurement systems and enhancing its current suite of advertiser tools on desktop and mobile,” read Facebook’s official posting about the acquisition. “We will also work to improve the user interface and functionality with the goal of making Atlas the most effective, intuitive, and powerful ad serving, management and measurement platform in the industry.”
Translation: with enough forethought and engineering work, we’ll have another tool for countering Google’s advertising platform, currently the 800-pound gorilla of Web marketing.
“Ultimately,” that posting continued, “Atlas’s powerful platform, combined with Nielsen and Datalogix, will help advertisers close the loop and compare their Facebook campaigns to the rest of their ad spend across the web on desktop and mobile.”
Half a decade ago, when Microsoft was looking to build an all-encompassing online marketing platform, it plunked down $6 billion for aQuantive, which included a variety of advertising and publishing platforms and tools. While that might have seemed a good move at the time, the aQuantive assets never boosted Microsoft’s online-advertising revenue to Google-like heights. With is online division continuing to bleed cash, Microsoft ended up taking a $6.2 billion write-down on the aQuantive assets in 2012.
Can Facebook do better against the Google monolith? Considering how the social network specializes in online advertising, chances are good it can deploy its new assets in a way that actually translates into something positive. It could certainly make the crash of Facebook and Google over the future of the Web that much more interesting.