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By Russel Cooke, Guest Blogger

Remember when Internet advertising consisted of pop-ups and banner ads promising prizes to the 1,000,000th visitor?  Or guaranteeing that if you managed to smash the fly, you would receive a free iPod? I think we can all agree it’s a good thing those days are over.

No nostalgia for pop-ups. Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Today, Internet advertising takes many forms, but chief among them is collection of ads associated with a remarkable little thing called a “remarketing pixel.” By embedding the remarketing pixel—a creative little piece of code that acts as an advertising multi-tool—into their website, webmasters can gain access to an array of new tricks.

Now, just visiting a website is enough to expose visitors to many more recurring ads over the course of the next few days and weeks. The pixel creates an identifying cookie on the user’s computer that can be accessed by other advertisers. Simply dropping out of the sales funnel after visiting a site is enough to trigger ads for the site’s product all over the Internet. The remarketing pixel allows advertisers repeated access to funnel “dropouts” and has the potential to turn many of these dropouts into conversions.

Indeed, because of this innovation, Google owns a huge share of Internet marketing today, a share that has made other tech companies desperate for change. So it was far from a surprise when Facebook announced Atlas, its own take on remarketing and attempt to get a taste of the sweet remarketing sugar. Atlas gives Facebook a way to open up its massive stores of consumer data to commercial application.

Atlas has led an odd life so far: it began as the “Microsoft Atlas Advertiser Suite” until 2013, when Facebook bought it for $100 million dollars. At the time of purchase, Facebook demurred the significance of the buy, saying that it planned to use it to help marketers and agencies better analyze and understand their advertising campaigns’ performance on Facebook using Facebook’s built-in analytic controls.

But the truth, as it was revealed recently, is much bigger: Atlas takes Facebook’s consumer data and makes it available on the wider web, allowing advertisers to access and utilize this information even when consumers aren’t logged into Facebook. Though the precise details of how it works are necessarily proprietary, this appears the gist of it. Plus one more thing.

It wouldn’t make sense for Facebook to launch a competitor to AdWords unless it was sure it had an ace up its sleeve. And you know what? An ace it may be. Atlas addresses AdWords’ biggest flaw, and Google may be getting nervous. 

Users use multiple screens, but AdWords can’t follow them between their devices. Atlas can. Most Americans spend almost seven hours looking at screens of various types: TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone. But until now, advertising has treating users of those devices as separate consumers, missing critical opportunities. Atlas promises to change all that.

Flite partners with Atlas in delivering advertisers a multi-screen rich media solution, combining Flite’s cloud-based creative tools and Atlas’s ad serving and deep analytics capabilities. Advertisers can use Flite to build dynamic, high-engagement ads, traffic them through Atlas, and use them to drive Atlas metrics across their entire campaign.

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Russel Cooke is a business consultant and writer originally from Baltimore, Maryland, and now based in Los Angeles. You can follow Russel on Twitter @RusselCooke2.