Facebook announced on Thursday it plans to acquire the Atlas Advertiser Suite from Microsoft. The company didn't reveal a price tag, but sources said Facebook is paying in the ballpark of $100 million.
It's not a big deal, but it's a strategic one; the technology will be key to help Facebook better measure its ads impact on purchasing behavior across the web. That information should drive more ad purchases. It should also help Facebook and brands better utilize ads, to make sure they yield the best results.
When rumors of Facebook's interest in Atlas first surfaced, there was talk that this would be a key purchase to help Facebook grow an ad network. But in fact, Atlas' cookie technology will first be utilized to grow Facebook's measurement tools.
Facebook issued a statement saying: "We're focused on improving marketers' ability to measure how well their ads perform and believe this acquisition will allow marketers greater ability to measure the ROI of their ads for all their digital media spend. Ultimately, Atlas's powerful platform, combined with Facebook partners Nielsen and Datalogix, will help advertisers compare their Facebook campaigns to the rest of their ad spend across the web on desktop and mobile."
Atlas Solutions has what it calls "Click Purchase Path Analysis." That means it can track exactly what people do after seeing an ad. Do they visit a website three hours later? Do they go pick out a shirt and put it in a shopping cart but leave the site before they hit "buy"?
By understanding exactly what consumers are doing after interacting with ads, Atlas can help Facebook charge for ad effectiveness, not just volume.
This acquisition follows Facebok's announcement that it's updating its custom audiences ad service, and expanding it to work with third parties. This will help brands to work with companies including BlueKai and Datalogix, that use data to provide better-targeted ads. This all adds up to Facebook taking steps to make its ads more relevant and targeted, and finding ways to measure their impact.
Facebook is well-positioned to achieve growth of its display ad business, thanks to its real-time bidding platform, eMarketer said.
And although Facebook trails Google when it comes to display ad market share—in 2012 Google had 15.4 percent and Facebook had 14.4 percent—this should help close that gap.
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin