The Fallacy of Calling Atlas People-Based ‘Marketing’

mattkeiserddtData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Matt Keiser, founder and CEO at LiveIntent.

If I’ve learned one thing from my 20 years in marketing, it’s this: When brands market to people, they expect to be able to close the loop with measurement and attribution.

Only in the world of advertising would anonymous results be acceptable. And let there be no doubt: Advertising’s essential role is prospecting to the unknown. Meanwhile, the role of the marketer is changing. In today’s environment, the marketer needs to push known data into systems purposely designed to keep them from closing the loop, such as Facebook, Twitter or Yahoo.

It’s a frustrating battle that I predict will soon be resolved as a result of competition between the tech titans.

I believe that while Atlas is impressive and groundbreaking, it is a two-legged stool.

Atlas taps into Facebook’s network of logged-in users and lets marketers target users across channels and devices wherever Atlas is being used. However, it is my understanding that once Facebook gets the brands’ first-party (CRM) data, it isn’t passed back to marketers. This means that marketers can’t realize their true goal: closing the loop on attribution, understanding customer lifetime value, engagement, net promoter score and ROI at the user level. Knowing in aggregate just isn’t good enough. Marketing technology supports long-term outcomes, which puts closed-loop measurement and attribution at the center.

Hence, Facebook isn’t offering people-based marketing, it’s offering people-based advertising. That’s a significant distinction.

Who Has It Backward Now? 

Call me dyslexic if you must (I am openly dyslexic) but in this case, I think it’s the rest of the industry that has it backward. Marketers, not advertisers, should run people-based advertising technology. Advertisers’ goals, such as impressions, click-throughs and frequency, are more transactional, as opposed to focusing on customer lifetime value and success.

That doesn’t mean that the metrics prized by advertisers aren’t important to marketers. But they need to be connected back to what matters: building a relationship with the customer that leads to long-term success. Marketers need to use technology that empowers them to communicate with known customers wherever they are spending time, whether it’s email, web, mobile web, in-app, search, social or video. Marketers of the future will need to go beyond email only and take back the relationship with the known customer.

Hence, marketers should be in control of the CRM data that fuels Facebook Atlas and people-based products. Notice I did not say “people-based marketing products.”

Comprehensive People-Based Marketing Does Not Exist Yet

Facebook is trying to pass off its ability to offer more targeted advertising and call it marketing.

This trend is endemic. Two weeks ago, Marketo announced the launch of its Ad Bridge product. Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez said the ability to tie digital ads to lead nurturing is unique to Marketo.

Marketo is the first marketing cloud that is bold enough to incorporate advertising technology, and it should get a lot of credit. It overcame ad tech-itis and integrated. It’s obvious there’s a convergence of ad tech and mar tech, and Marketo showed decisiveness.

However, to say Ad Bridge is unique is to misspeak. LiveRamp and the Oracle ID Graph make it possible to onboard CRM data for lead nurturing into almost any advertising technology. Salesforce Active Audience lets you onboard data into social (however, I predict that was an initial foray and its reputation suggests it’ll extend that capability soon). Lead Accelerator, formerly Bizo, allows for targeting anonymous prospects but LinkedIn’s login data could easily be used, if it is not already, to develop people-based targeting.

Criteo and AOL are investing heavily in acquiring the data needed to reach people across their platforms. And Google is rumored to be moving forward with search targeting using the email address. It’s worth speculating that DoubleClick Audience Center could enable first-party data to be used for people-based marketing within DoubleClick for the first time.

So, what Marketo is doing is exciting, but it’s really not unique. It’s also not what the promise of the future of the marketing cloud looks like fulfilled.

In an already complex ecosystem, combining marketing technology with advertising technology was a good first step. But we need this functionality built into a unified platform purposefully designed for marketers to market to known customers across email, web, mobile, apps, search and social. Prioritizing channels that allow the marketer to close the data loop across real-time email, video, display, mobile and in-app, so that marketers can manage the relationship wherever the customer is paying attention, is the dream. As of yet, no one has gone whole-hog and built a technology for marketers that includes the advertising technology necessary to complete this.

The function of marketing works best when it’s tasked with developing relationships with customers. While this involves overseeing advertising campaigns on a macro level, marketing should not be involved in the nitty-gritty. The next evolution is a purpose-built solution that combines ad tech with known customer data designed for marketers that’s operated by marketers. This open platform would also work with any point solution that functions as an open platform that provides anonymized exposure data on known users to close the loop for measurement and attribution purposes.

What’s The Hold Up?

There’s a reticence by marketing cloud vendors to embrace ad tech. Marketing cloud vendors want their technology to reach the same audience that was developed by ad tech vendors, while maintaining focus on their mission. This means delegating advertising and prospecting, as opposed to owning it.

That’s the plan for marketers but it can’t easily be done because no one has built or strategically acquired the right pieces to implement it. Today, a marketer needs to push known data into systems purposely designed to keep them from closing the loop. But I predict we’ll soon see clouds integrate with platforms that will round-trip the data, or see clouds integrate with third parties that make it possible.

I believe a solution is coming that will give the power back to marketers. The first step was to touch ad tech. The next is to let marketing automation software go beyond rules and workflow to get drunk on the tech.

I am confident the buzz will allow marketers to forget about ad tech-itis and the walled garden, people-based advertising that Facebook tried to pawn off as marketing.

Follow Matt Keiser (@mrkeiser), LiveIntent (@LiveIntent) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. Couldn’t agree more, Matt. You could also add IBM/Silverpop to your list with their recent Facebook partnership announcement.

    Tracking customer data is the engine that can power people-based marketing across the channels in which customers prefer to digest content. For some, that channel may be email. For others, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or maybe Pinterest. Part of the challenge, as you note, is enabling marketers to embrace these new channels. But without a consistent, underlying attribution model that can tell me the marketer which channel is right for which person for what content AND automatically allocate those customers accordingly, bundling all of these channels together in a manual fashion with duct-tape will not fly.

    We need to present the true-identity, multichannel story of why this is important through automated targeting and consistent attribution reporting. There’s no reason why the leading marketing automation providers today couldn’t build this – it just may require some serious retooling of their current offerings.

  2. Nadav Geft

    Matt – this is an excellent article. Insightful and certainly promising for what lies ahead.

  3. Steve Francolla

    Feels to me like the purity of “people-based” lives in data accessibility. If the mechanics of client data interfacing were via a protocol instead of legacy integration (i.e. upload/download), many problems would be solved. With that, Atlas would access a virtual list, provide its value-add (aud extension, omnichannel distro, etc.), but then be forced to write-back results to the client list via the protocol. With the advent of people-based, should we reinvent data access such that it lives independent of the platform?

  4. Great read! I think Phil @Marketo meant “unique” to the marketing automation space. I completely agree with these sentences too, “So, what Marketo is doing is exciting, but it’s really not unique. It’s also not what the promise of the future of the marketing cloud looks like fulfilled.” No one is “there” yet but Marketo certainly is one of the partners leading the way.