Facebook hasn't said much about Atlas since buying it a year ago, but it has been making incremental tweaks to the product.
On Wednesday it took a bigger step, launching a creative partner program (blog post) with rich media vendors Innovid and Flite. The deal will let Atlas's agency customers more easily integrate rich media into their campaigns, both from a trafficking and reporting standpoint.
According to Erik Johnson, the Facebook executive in charge of Atlas, the deal "signals to the marketplace our partner-friendly approach to the broader ecosystem." Future partner integrations are likely to be unveiled around search and analytics, Johnson said, but he declined to go into details.
A new day for Atlas? It's too early to speculate, but the "API bazaar" model is in keeping with Facebook's open approach, which gave rise to its sprawling Preferred Marketing Developer program and its expanding Mobile Measurement Partner program. Integrating with scaled partners on ad serving might help Atlas better compete with bigger players like DoubleClick for Advertisers and Sizmek (formerly Mediamind).
Atlas advertisers will be able to use Flite's Design Studio HTML5 to quickly build ads and transform ad creative on the fly. Flite users will find their Atlas campaigns automatically updated when they make changes within Flite, without logging into the Atlas system. "You create the creative and then push this creative into Atlas to use the analytics capabilities there," said Toshinari Kureha, Flite's VP of engineering.
Additionally, Atlas will support joint billing with its partners and coordinate on marketing.
Most of Atlas's developments since Facebook closed on the acquisition in April 2013 have been along the lines of workflow enhancements and UI tweaks. These changes are important, but much more will be needed to build the long-neglected products into a robust platform that can compete with existing ad servers. For instance, Atlas only runs on Internet Explorer and lacks plug-ins with other purpose-built ad-serving systems.
Johnson says more improvements will come with time. "Think of this as the first step," he said.