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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

February 28, 2013 at 1:49 PM

Facebook acquires Atlas from Microsoft

Facebook, as rumored, has announced that it’s acquiring Atlas Advertiser Suite from Microsoft.

Seattle-based Atlas is a digital media measurement platform; it provides measurement, analytical and management tools for ad campaigns and marketing agencies.

Atlas was part of digital ad company aQuantive, which Microsoft had purchased for $6.3 billion in 2007. Last year, Microsoft took a $6.2 billion writedown for aQuantive.

Facebook said, in a posting today from Brian Boland, director of product marketing, that it believes its purchase of Atlas “will benefit both marketers and users.”

Atlas has been an approved partner for measuring ad campaigns on Facebook since June, and Atlas clients should not see any change to the service, Boland said.

He also said:

Today’s marketing environment is much more complex than it was just a few short years ago. Marketers and agencies struggle to understand how their efforts across different channels complement and strengthen each other. Consequently, they are forced to adopt siloed marketing strategies for each channel, leading to poor and inconsistent end-user experiences.

This challenge also provides an opportunity. 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. Atlas has built capabilities that allow for this kind of measurement, and enhancing these systems will give marketers a deeper understanding of effectiveness and lead to better digital advertising experiences for consumers.

The Atlas team will continue to operate from Seattle, joining the Facebook team here. According to Boland, “our Seattle engineering office already drives important parts of our ad system, and we plan to substantially invest in and build out our Seattle engineering and product teams.”

Facebook plans to invest in scaling Atlas’ back-end measurement systems and improve its user interface, functionality and current suite of advertiser tools on desktop and mobile.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. CNBC is reporting the deal was valued at about $100 million.

Microsoft said that the timing was right for such a sale, and that the sale allows Microsoft to focus on its vision and goals for its own digital advertising business.

“In no way does this announcement change or diminish our commitment to online advertising, in either display or search,” Tom Phillips, senior director of communications for Microsoft Advertising, wrote.

He said he felt the timing was right because:

The online advertising business, and our place in it, has evolved significantly since we acquired aQuantive (and by extension, Atlas) more than five years ago. At the time of the acquisition, Microsoft was in a race to build a single ad technology platform and tools stack that would become a marketplace where first and third party online advertising entities could conduct their business. …

That vision of a singular ad technology and tools platform, however, became more challenging given significant changes in the industry ecosystem, technology platforms and content consumption. …

We needed to sharpen our focus and concentrate on identifying, building and executing on the things that are core to our vision for the future as our entire company transitions to a devices and services model.  The continued investment in third party ad serving technology like Atlas, while important, is less of a strategic pillar for our business than it once was.

Perhaps more important than anything, five-plus years ago we did not have the stable of mature owned & operated media/screen assets with global reach that we now have, including: Xbox/Kinect, Skype, Bing, Windows Phone, a new and improved MSN that delivers premium ad experiences, and last but certainly not least, Windows 8 applications.

Microsoft’s vision for its advertising platforms, he said, now involves tight focus on relevance to the user, on “a ‘pull’ experience that people invite into their lives as opposed to a ‘push’ experience where advertising is served to them indiscriminately across devices and screens,” and digital content and experiences that enhance what they’re doing.

Facebook and Microsoft are already partners in areas such as social search. Today’s agreement will “strengthen our existing partnership and also includes a long-term strategic commercial relationship,” Dave O’Hara, chief financial officer of Microsoft’s Online Services division, said in a blog post.

Comments | More in Microsoft | Topics: aquantive, atlas, facebook

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