Digital Advertising Acronyms: What do they mean?

Advertising in general loves a good acronym. A member of the public walking into a conversation about advertising performance could be forgiven for believing we have our own secret language to keep them from understanding what is being discussed.

And nowhere is that magnified than within digital channels. Programmatic trading and its related technology has produced a world where whole sentences can be constructed using only acronyms and the odd verb.

Well fear not! The below list will help you navigate this overly complex language and boost your digital vocabulary.

CPC – the cornerstone of marketing performance since the early days of search marketing. CPC is the abbreviation of cost per click and cost paid (often an average across a number of clicks) for each click on your digital advertising. This can either be the exact cost for a single clicks, or the average cost per click calculated simply as total cost divided by number of clicks for a given set of data.

CPM – mostly used in relation to display advertising CPM is the cost paid for every thousand impressions (ad views) on a piece of activity. The M in CPM stands for Mille (from the Latin for thousand) and this metric was the original trading price for display advertising.  As more and more display advertising has become auction based it is now a fluctuating average of the price paid for a group of impressions rather than the fixed price it originally was.

CTR – Another staple of the digital advertising world. Click through rate (CTR) is the number of clicks generated divided by the number of times your ad was seen (impressions) represented as a percentage. Whilst no related to the price paid for the advertising it is often used as a measure of the relevance or effectiveness off a campaign.

ROI – Arguably one of the metrics that has led to the growth of digital ad spend over the last decade. Of course return on investment (ROI) is not a digital specific metric, but it due to the measurability of digital channels its use has helped budgets flow as it has provided advertisers with the assurances their money was being well spent. ROI is generally represented as a percentage or a numerical figure based on the equation £ generated divided by £ spent.

ROAS – a variation on ROI, ROAS represents return on ad spend and is another way of describing the return generated from an amount of investment.

CPAO – one for the account based services, CPAO is an abbreviation of cost per account opened. This is used by businesses such as banks, but also more traditional companies such as catalogue companies and even some subscription services as their primary measure of success.

AOV – Intrinsically linked to return based metrics Average Order Value (AOV) is self-explanatory. The total revenue generated divided by the number of orders placed to show the average value of each. This is often used by retailers with large product catalogues of varying price.

MPU – MPU’s are the square ad units you often see when scrolling through a news article. Their name comes from this frequently used position and is an abbreviation of mid-page unit.  I have seen it described as a multi-purpose unit in the past due to the versatility of this ad format, however the traditional meaning is mid-page unit.

DSP – The advertiser’s access to ad exchanges, the DSP is a demand side platform. The tool which an advertiser uses to access inventory available on the ad exchanges, or to trade with media partners in a programmatic manner. Leading DSP providers are Google (Doubleclick Bid Manager), AppNexus, MediaMath, Turn, Rocket Fuel and The Trade Desk.

SSP – The counterpart to the DSP is the SSP, the Supply Side Platform. The technology sits on the website publishers side and allows them to make inventory (ad impressions) available to the ad exchanges and manage the advertising that runs across their sites.  Many of the DSP technology providers have an SSP solution too given the complimentary nature of the technologies.

DMP – set to become key to advertisers digital campaigns over the coming 18 months a DMP is a data management platform. A place where all of your data relating to advertising campaigns can be held, segmented, reported upon, and activated against. It can be used to take in 1st and 3rd party data which can then power targeted advertising campaigns.

DBM – Googles DSP is Doubleclick Bid Manager, or DBM. Part of the Doubleclick Stack it (like all other DSPs) provides advertisers with access to display inventory bought programmatically.

DCM – Doubleclick Campaign Manager or DCM is the Google owned tool for housing and reporting up campaign level performance data for any advertising tracked through the Doubleclick system. If properly utilised it can contain all information relating to digital campaigns which are run both within Google’s infrastructure but also outside of it.

VCPM – A variation of CPM which has arisen in light of more awareness of viewability matrix is VCPM, or viewable CPM. So rather than reporting the average cost for every thousand impressions, only ads which were viewable are counted in the calculation. This figure would therefore be higher than the CPM but is often more useful to advertisers in in assessing the true cost of their advertising.

ECPM – Another variation of CPM you may see used is ECPM, or effective CPM. This calculation is used to show the cost per mille on a campaign

VAST – a video specific adserving tag, VAST stands for Video Ad Serving Template and allows for the effective serving of video ads within a video player. VAST is the universal video adserving specification developed by the IAB.

VPAID – VPAID is another form of video tag and is an abbreviation of Video Player Ad-Serving Interface Definition. The main thing VPAID offers over VAST is interactivity and the reporting of it. It allows for the tracking and reporting of clicks within an video, duration of video played, and other interaction measures above and beyond whether a video ad was displayed.

MRAID – Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions, or MRAID relates to mobile rich media, specifically ads that will run in App. MRAID is a standard which allows mobile rich media ads to serve in difference mobile apps allowing them to adapt to size and also consider different device level information.

VTR – the video equivalent of CTR, VTR is view through rate and represents the number of people who viewed the majority, or all of you video as a percentage of the amount of people who it was displayed to.

SDK – whilst it is specific to mobile apps, SDK is not as mobile an abbreviation as some people think. It stands for software development kit and is a programming package allowing the development of mobile apps. In advertising terms it is used in conversation around tracking as it is the software which allows for the tracking of in app activity or for the usage of apps.  It also powers a low of the location based mobile data which advertisers use for geographic targeting.

This is an initial brain dump for now and far from a conclusive list. I will aim to add to this list in time and build this out into more of a translation library to aid in your digital conversations.



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