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Facebook to launch new ad tools as brands look elsewhere

The Facebook logo is reflected against source code on the screen of a computer in this photo illustration.
Dado Ruvic | Reuters
The Facebook logo is reflected against source code on the screen of a computer in this photo illustration.

Facebook plans to unveil new tools to help marketers better target ads and measure their impact at Advertising Week next Monday in New York, according to sources.

The new tools will enable brands to target messages to users not just on Facebook, but as they move across the web. These changes have been expected since Facebook bought the Atlas Advertiser Suite from Microsoft last year. The new ad product will also be called Atlas.

The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Facebook declined to comment.

These new tools will help Facebook challenge Google's dominance of the online advertising, and expand beyond its expertise in social and mobile ads.

Though Google is much larger—its second-quarter revenue is more than five times Facebook's—Facebook has a couple of key advantages. It has more detailed information about consumers, and has the ability to track behavior across platforms, from desktop, to mobile devices, to brick-and-mortar stores.

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The news comes as brands increasingly move resources away from their Facebook pages in favor of microsites, where they have more control and ownership over customer interactions. For instance, EA's Madden NFL video game, instead of building a big Facebook presence, created a stand-alone site with a brand-oriented game, a "giferator."

Social video company Jun Group said the share of clicks to brands' sites grew to 57 percent from 28 percent. But clicks driving consumers to Facebook declined to 10 percent in 2013, from 31 percent in 2012. In the first half 2014, the percentage of clicks to brand sites held steady, a sign that the trend is holding.

"Now that there are so many traffic sources, you want to be able to drive consumers to your content from all sides," said Mail Online North America CEO Jon Steinberg.

Brands no longer want to build hubs on Facebook, he said. They'd prefer to have traffic land on their own sites.

"It can be more appealing to go to a publisher and create branded content, and then drive people to that content from Facebook or Twitter," he said. (There is also evidence that engagement is generally declining on the Facebook.)

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It's not necessarily bad news for Facebook's bottom line. Steinberg says he doesn't think the trend of brands trying to shift where consumers "land" from Facebook hubs to their own sites will impact Facebook advertising revenue, since Facebook is still a valuable way to drive traffic, especially on mobile devices, or to drive app downloads.