Ad Tech Glossary: Digital Advertising Terms & Jargon to Know
Ad tech and digital advertising are both riddled with acronyms, jargon, and slang terms.
Even veterans aren't exempt from the confusion caused by the latest industry buzzwords.
Due to the intricate history of ad tech, its nonlinear evolution, and terminology that gets used in different ways by certain parties, the ad tech dictionary can be bewildering to browse.
To make learning easier, the AdButler team has compiled an ad tech glossary of terms to help beginners and experienced “adtechians” alike navigate the vast ad tech ecosystem.
- Ad Agency (aka “Creative Agency)
- Ad Blocking
- Ad Call (aka “Ad Request”)
- Ad Campaign
- Ad Creative
- Ad Exchange
- Ad Inventory
- Ad Markup
- Ad Network
- Ad Ops (aka “Ad Operations”)
- Ad Pod
- Ad Refresh
- Ad Server
- Ad Server Priority
- Ad Tag
- Ad Targeting
- Ad Tech (aka “AdTech”)
- Ad Trafficking
- Ad Unit (aka “Ad Placement”)
- Ad Verification (aka “Verification Services”)
- Advanced TV
- Analytics Suite (aka “Analytics Panel”)
- API (Application Programming Interface)
- ATD (Agency Trade Desk)
- ATF (Above The Fold)
- Attribution (aka “Conversion Attribution”)
- Audience Extension
- Audience Segment (aka “User Segmentation”, or “Addressable Audience”)
- Audio Ad
- Beacon (aka “In-Store Beacon”)
- Behavioral Targeting (aka “Online Behavioral Advertising”)
- Bid Request
- Bid Response
- Bidding Strategy
- Bot Traffic
- Brand Safety
- BTF (Below The Fold)
- CDN (Content Delivery Network)
- CDP (Customer Data Platform)
- Clearing Price
- Client-Side Header Bidding (aka “Browser-Side” Header Bidding)
- CMP (Consent Management Platform)
- Companion Display Ad
- Contextual Ad
- Conversion (aka “Action”)
- Contextual Targeting
- CPA (Cost Per Action)
- CPC (Cost Per Click)
- CPCV (Cost Per Completed View)
- CPI (Cost Per Install)
- CPM (Cost Per Mille) (aka “Cost Per Thousand Impressions”)
- CTR (Click-Through Rate)
- CTV (Connected-TV)
- CVR (Conversion Rate)
- DAA (Digital Advertising Alliance)
- Data Broker
- Data Deduplication
- Data Onboarding
- Deal ID
- Demand Source (aka “Demand Partner)
- Demographic Data
- Deterministic Matching
- Device Fingerprinting (aka “Browser”, “Machine”, or “Canvas” Fingerprinting)
- Digital Agency
- Direct Deal (aka “Direct Order” or “Direct Buy”)
- Display Ad (aka “Banner Ad”)
- Display Video Ad
- DMP (Data Management Platform)
- DOOH (Digital Out-of-Home) Ad
- DSP (Demand-Side Platform)
- Dynamic Creative
- Dynamic Pricing
- eCPA (Effective Cost Per Action)
- eCPC (Effective Cost Per Click)
- eCPM (Effective Cost Per Mille) (aka “Effective Cost Per Thousand Impressions”)
- Email Ad
- Exchange Bidding
- Fill Rate
- First Look
- First Party
- First-Party Data
- First Price Auction (aka “1st Price Auction”)
- Fixed Price (aka ‘Fixed Rate”)
- Floor Optimization
- Floor Price (aka “Floor CPM”)
- Frequency Capping
- IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau)
- In-App Ad
- In-House Ad
- In-Store Advertising
- Instream Video Ad
- Interstitial Ad
- IO (Insertion Order)
- ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention)
- IVT (Invalid Traffic)
- Manual Media Buying
- Marketing vs Advertising
- Media Agency
- Media Buying
- Mid-Roll Ad
- MRAID (Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions)
- MRC (Media Rating Council)
- Multi-Size Ad Unit (aka “Multi-Size Ad Placement”)
- Open Auction
- Open Exchange (aka “Open Marketplace”)
- OTT Advertising (Over-The-Top Advertising)
- OTT Platform
- OTT Streaming Service
- Outstream Video Ad
- Overlay Ad
- PII (Personally Identifiable Information)
- PMP (Private Marketplace) (aka “Private Auction”)
- Pop-Up Ad
- Post-Roll Ad
- PPC (Pay-Per-Click)
- Pre-Roll Ad
- Preferred Deal
- Premium Inventory
- Price Floor
- Probabilistic Matching
- Programmatic Advertising
- Programmatic Direct
- Programmatic Guaranteed
- Remnant Inventory
- Reserved Inventory (aka “Guaranteed Inventory”)
- Retail Media Advertising
- Retail Media Network
- Retail Media Platform
- Rich Media Ad
- ROAS (Return On Ad Spend)
- ROE (Run on Exchange)
- ROI (Return On Investment)
- RON (Run on Network)
- ROS (Run on Site)
- RPM (Revenue Per Mille) (aka “Revenue Per Thousand Impressions”)
- RTB (Real-Time Bidding)
- SaaS (Software As A Service)
- Second-Party Data
- Second-Price Auction (aka 2nd Price Auction)
- Self-Serve Advertising
- Social Ad
- Soft Floor Price
- Sponsored Listing Ad (aka “Promoted Listing Ad”)
- SSAI (Server-Side Ad Insertion)
- SSP (Supply-Side Platform)
- S2S (Server-to-Server)
- Supply Source
- UA (User Acquisition)
- Unreserved Inventory (aka “Non-Guaranteed” Inventory)
- User (aka “Visitor”)
- User Data
- User Profile
- UUID (Unique User Identifier)
- VAST (Video Ad Serving Template)
- VAST Inline Response
- VAST Redirect
- VAST Wrapper
- vCPM (Cost Per Mille Viewable Impressions)
- Video Ad
- VMAP (Video Multiple Ad Playlist)
- vMVPD (Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributor)
- VPAID (Video Player Ad Interface Definition)
- VTA (View-Through Attribution, aka “Impression Tracking”)
Ad agencies (also sometimes referred to as “creative agencies”, or “advertising agencies”) are businesses that are hired by advertisers to manage the ad trafficking process on their behalf.
The services offered by ad agencies vary between businesses – sometimes including marketing functions and ad distribution, but typically focusing on the development of ad creatives and copywriting.
In the past, the term “creative agency” referred more specifically to companies which focused on providing branding services, such as logo design, color schemes, banner creation, email and newsletter design, copywriting, infographics, packaging design, video creation, and TV ads.
However, in modern advertising, the line between “advertising agencies” and “creative agencies” has been significantly blurred, to the point where the terms are often used interchangeably.
More information about ad agencies and their role in ad tech is available in this guide.
Ad blocking is a term which refers to software and techniques which prevent ads from being displayed to users through their web browser.
The use of “private” or “incognito” modes on certain web browsers may also limit the amount of information that can be associated with a user for the purposes of ad targeting, as these modes limit the amount of data that can be stored and read from cookie files.
An ad call (also sometimes referred to as an “ad request”) is a signal which is sent by an open ad slot (or ad unit) from a publisher’s owned properties to an ad tech platform.
The purpose of the ad call is to initiate the process that will eventually lead to an advertiser’s ad creative being served to the website and displayed through a user’s web browser.
Ad calls typically contain information about users, which is pulled from cookies stored on their computer.
Additionally, ad calls contain information about the ad unit making the request – such as the dimensions of the available ad space, its location on the page, the type of media it can accept, the publisher’s ID, and other information necessary for serving an ad to the slot.
An ad campaign is a high-level marketing strategy that integrates multiple techniques and channels in order to deliver a cohesive set of advertising messages to a target audience.
The process used to assemble an ad campaign is referred to as ad trafficking, which typically adheres to a budget plan allocated during the planning phase of the campaign.
The term “ad creative” refers to all of the media elements that go into the making of an advertisement that’s displayed to a user.
It may include media elements such as images, videos, sounds, font or typeface selections, animated visual elements, and any other assets that comprise the completed ad.
An ad exchange is a technology platform that allows publishers, advertisers, and other parties to automatically buy and sell ad inventory in a marketplace environment.
Ad exchanges operate by auction ad space on an impression-by-impression basis known as RTB (real-time bidding), and are considered a fundamental component of programmatic advertising.
In modern ad tech, most major SSP (supply-side platform) service providers offer an ad exchange as a component within their platform’s overall service offering (which didn’t always used to be the case).
Because of this, the terms “ad exchange” and “SSP” are often used interchangeably in modern ad tech conversations.
More information is available in a dedicated post which covers the differences between ad networks and ad exchanges.
Ad inventory is simply another way of referring to the number of ad space impressions a publisher is able to make available through their website within a specified timeframe.
As a metric, ad inventory allows publishers to conveniently measure, package, and sell their ad space to advertisers by estimating how often a set of ad space will be viewed by users.
Ad inventory is often categorized and sorted based on the perceived value of the ad space being sold – with more valuable ad space being referred to as “premium inventory”, while less valuable ad space is referred to as “remnant” or “unsold” inventory.
The term “ad markup” refers to the code which allows an ad creative to be displayed on a page.
The markup code of an ad creative is also sometimes described as the ad “payload”.
Outside of the context of ad serving, "markup" refers to code which tells a web browser how to display a web page's words and images. Markup code which falls between triangular brackets characters are referred to as "elements", though the entire unit of code itself is often referred to as a "tag".
More information is available in our guide to ad tags.
Ad networks are businesses that are owned and operated by humans – serving as intermediaries that facilitate media transactions between publishers and advertisers.
This differs from ad exchanges, which are automated technology platforms which manage this process without human intervention.
The role of ad networks is to bundle (or amalgamate) publisher ad inventory before selling the grouped inventory to advertisers on behalf of the publisher that owns it.
Again, this differs from ad exchanges, which manage media transactions on an impression-by-impression basis.
In modern ad serving, the role of ad networks has developed to include some programmatic ad selling processes, leading some ad networks to become very similar to the function of DSPs (demand-side platforms).
This dedicated post that covers the differences between ad networks and ad exchanges provides more information about the distinct role of ad networks in the ad tech ecosystem.
Ad ops (or “ad operations”) is a department or dedicated team within an organization which is responsible for managing ad campaigns.
Ad ops specialists can focus on advertiser (demand-side) operations, publisher (supply-side) operations, or both, depending on which organization they’re a part of – and are typically experienced in using a wide variety of ad tech platforms.
An ad pod is a series of ads which are served together in response to a single ad request.
It’s commonly used in the context of video ads and CTV (connected television) ads, and can be interpreted as a structured “ad break” consisting of multiple ads, comparable to those seen on traditional cable television.
An ad refresh refers to the automated process of an ad unit reloading on a page, based on predefined factors specified by a publisher – such as an action taken by a user, their scroll-depth on a page, or the amount of time they spend on a page.
When an ad refresh takes place, a new ad impression is generated, allowing another round of bidding to take place in instances where programmatic advertising is being used by the publisher.
An ad server is a piece of ad tech used by many different parties in advertising, including publishers, advertisers, ad networks, and sometimes ad agencies.
The role of an ad server varies depending on who’s using it – but in all cases, ad servers are used to coordinate the delivery and placement of ads to a publisher’s available ad space.
More information is available in this post about the difference between publisher ad servers and advertiser ad servers.
The term “ad server priority” refers to the “hierarchy” of advertising demand sources that are contacted when a bid request is sent by an ad server.
While ad server priorities may be configured in different ways by a publisher, the traditional and standard priority is as follows, with #1 being the highest priority (or in other words, the demand source which is contacted first when a bid request is sent by the ad server):
- Guaranteed Deals (aka “Reserved Inventory” or “Guaranteed Inventory”)
- Preferred Deals
- Private Auctions
- Open Auctions (aka “Remnant Inventory”)
More information is available about these different deal types in the dedicated post, “Types of Programmatic Advertising: Deals & Formats Explained”.
An ad tag is a code snippet that’s placed into the HTML of a publisher’s webpage.
Ad tags allow details about a webpage, as well as the ad “space”, “slot”, or “zone” that the tag refers to, to be communicated with other software platforms in the ad tech ecosystem.
More information about what ad tags are, how they work, and their role in serving ads can be found in the dedicated post, “What is an Ad Tag?”.
Ad targeting refers to the process of an advertiser defining details about the ideal user persona they’d like to serve ads to.
When defining how ads will be targeted, user details may include demographic information such as age, gender, marital status, location, occupation, and income level, among others.
Ad tech (sometimes written as a single word, “AdTech”) is shorthand for “advertising technology”.
As an umbrella term, ad tech refers to a wide range of different hardware and software systems used to accomplish the serving of digital advertising online.
Ad tech is often confused with mar tech. However, ad tech primarily supports advertising functions of advertisers, publishers, and other parties involved in the ad serving process, while mar tech is focused on supporting marketing teams and their initiatives.
A comparison is available that explores the differences between ad tech and mar tech in more detail, including examples of each type of technology.
Ad trafficking refers to the entire process of converting the plan for an ad campaign into the live digital ad campaign itself.
It may involve the creation and uploading of ad creatives, selection of advertising supply sources, coordinating the placement of ads within certain ad zones, designating timeframes (often referred to as “flight” or “run” times), and the configuration of ad servers.
The term “ad unit”, also referred to as an “ad placement”, refers to a single ad “space”, “zone”, or “slot” on a publisher’s website, app, or other medium.
In other words, an ad unit is simply a location where an ad can appear.
Each ad unit owned by a publisher has its own set of specifications, including dimensions and types of ad formats that can be accepted in the space.
Ad verification is a broad term that refers to any process that assists in confirming that served ads are arriving on websites (and placement locations within those websites) that meet the criteria specified in an ad campaign.
Some of the details that are assessed by ad verification processes include the geographical region the website is being hosted from, the website’s domain, the context of the webpage, the location of the ad on the page (page header, sidebar, footer, etc.), as well as audience information about users visiting the site.
In order to accomplish this functionality, part of a completed ad creative being served to a website may include a “verification tag” (a code snippet), which is deployed along with the ad itself.
The verification tag allows the ad to assess the details of the website it’s served to, confirming that the qualities of the website match the specifications of the ad campaign.
The organization seeks to increase the transparency of how OBA (online behavioral advertising) works by providing users with details about how their information is being used to target ads towards them.
AdChoices calls for advertising companies to establish and enforce responsible privacy practices for interest-based advertising, and allows companies to opt into the AdChoices program.
Some online ads include a blue letter “i”, which can be clicked by users to identify how their data is being used on their devices, and to either opt in or opt out of behavioral ad targeting.
Ads which include the blue letter “i” indicate that a company which is serving ads has opted into the AdChoices program.
Despite spelling “ads”, the abbreviation in “ads.cert” actually stands for “authorized digital sellers”.
Ads.cert is an update made to complement and enhance the functionality of “ads.txt” – a file which publishers add to their website(s) in order to signify which partners they work with within the ad tech ecosystem.
Ads.cert seeks to reduce fraud and further increase transparency within programmatic advertising by authenticating a publisher’s ad inventory, having them cryptographically sign their bid requests, and by allowing buyers to track and review the details of ad inventory to ensure they’re purchasing from an authorized publisher source.
Despite spelling “ads”, the abbreviation in “ads.txt” actually stands for “authorized digital sellers”.
Ads.txt is a file that’s created by publishers and added to their website(s) in order to specify a “whitelist” of approved partners, such as SSPs (supply-side platforms) and ad exchanges, that are permitted to sell the publisher’s inventory.
The use of this file was introduced by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) in an effort to increase the level of transparency provided in programmatic media transactions, as well as to prevent the unauthorized sale of a publisher’s ad inventory.
Advanced TV is an umbrella term which encompasses OTT, CTV, and a number of other terms related to the “cord cutting” ecosystem disrupting traditional cable television.
A list of popular advanced TV acronyms can be found here.
More information is available in this guide to OTT and CTV advertising.
In ad tech, the term ”advertiser” refers to a party seeking to purchase ad space in order to display their ads to a target audience.
Advertisers are considered the “demand” generators for ad inventory within the ad tech ecosystem, providing publishers (the “suppliers” of digital ad space) with a way to monetize their websites.
More information about advertisers and their role in ad tech is available in this guide.
An analytics suite (sometimes referred to as an “analytics panel”) is a section within a piece of software which allows users to interpret data collected from one or more connected platforms.
Analytics suites often allow teams to visually represent data, making it easier to analyze and share information.
Both publishers and advertisers typically make use of their own versions of analytics suites within the ad tech platforms that they use.
An API (application programming interface) is a coding term used to describe a code function which helps one software platform communicate with another one – often assisting in the unification and communication of data between two or more platforms.
In the context of ad tech, APIs help the different platforms that advertisers, publishers, and third-parties use to connect and interact with one another in order to buy, sell, serve, and report on ad serving activities.
An ATD (agency trade desk) is the term used to define a dedicated programmatic ad management service offered by some advertising agencies.
ATDs specialize in managing the programmatic advertising function – meaning that they possess a high level of experience in using DSPs (demand-side platforms) and monitoring programmatic campaigns to optimize their performance over time.
In some cases, ATDs are hired to manage a DSP that’s owned and operated by an advertiser, while in other cases, an ATD may use their own DSP to launch and manage a programmatic ad campaign on the behalf of their clients.
More information about ATDs and their role in ad tech is available in this guide.
The phrase “above the fold” refers to the section of a website which is visible on a webpage immediately when it loads, without the user needing to scroll down to see it.
The phrase originated from newspapers – which similarly had a headline section which remained visible after they were folded for delivery.
In marketing and advertising, the term “attribution” (sometimes also referred to as “conversion attribution”) refers to the concept of associating an action that a user takes with the original source of that action.
For example, if a user clicks an ad, and then clicks on a special offer listed on a website, and then proceeds to make a purchase, “attribution” refers to being able to accredit the ad that the user clicked as the original “attributed” source of that purchase.
Attribution is an important concept that allows payment models such as CPA (cost per action) to function successfully.
Audience extension is a technology and technique used by publishers to monetize their websites by assisting advertisers in reaching their desired target audiences.
The benefit of audience extension technology to publishers is that they don’t necessarily need to serve ads to their properties in order to monetize them – meaning that publishers can lift their revenue without risking a negative user experience.
Audience extension also allows advertisers to gather more information about the behaviors of audiences they’re interested in on certain websites – and without needing to actually serve ads to those websites, find similar publisher sources through which to serve their ads (although in some cases, ads may still be served to websites that use audience extension).
An audience segment (as a technique, sometimes referred to as “user segmentation” – or as a noun, an “addressable audience”), is a list of users which are grouped together based on a set of unifying characteristics that are shared between each of the individuals.
For example, a marketing department might segment all of the users that sign up for a company newsletter by labelling those user profiles as “newsletter opt-ins”, allowing them to easily distribute future newsletters to those users.
In the context of advertising, audience segments are typically compiled based on PII (personally identifiable information), past behaviors that users have exhibited, as well as other factors, such as the device a user is currently using.
These audience segments are then provided as options for advertisers to target their messages towards.
For example, an automotive advertiser might choose to target an ad campaign towards users aged 30-45, living in the United States, who have recently viewed content online about car insurance.
Audio ads refer to any ad that appears within the context of audio content online – such as podcast productions and online radio stations.
Audio ads may be manually placed within audio content by the publisher, or purchased and served to the content on an ad hoc basis by advertisers using programmatic audio advertising.
A beacon (also sometimes referred to as an “in-store beacon”) is a bluetooth device which communicates with mobile devices such as phones and tables.
Beacons are typically placed within brick-and-mortar store locations to notify people about promotions that are taking place.
As an additional function, beacons are able to contribute to ad targeting and conversion attribution based on their interactions with a user’s device.
Behavioral targeting (also sometimes referred to as “online behavioral advertising”, abbreviated as “OBA”) is a method of matching ads with users based on their interests and browsing habits online.
This technique relies on behavioral data, which is collected by assessing a user’s browser and search history, their time spent on certain websites, how they’ve interacted with certain ads in the past, and other information about their actions taken online.
Behavioral targeting is a primary focus of the AdChoices organization – which seeks to increase the level of transparency made available to users surrounding behavioral data, including how it’s collected, how it’s used, and the option to opt-out of its use entirely.
A bid request is a function of programmatic advertising which takes place on the publisher’s (or “supplier”) side of the ad serving process.
When a user visits content owned by a publisher, if that content has available ad space, a bid request is sent to the demand sources the publisher is connected with (according to the bidding prioritization configured by the publisher).
The bid request is sent by the publisher’s SSP (supply-side platform) or connected ad exchange to the “bidder” component of a DSP (demand-side platform) used by advertisers.
Bid requests contain information about the available ad impression as well as details about the user it’s being served to – allowing advertisers to place bids based on their ad campaign criteria.
A bid response is a function of programmatic advertising which takes place on the advertiser’s (or “demand”) side of the ad serving process.
After receiving a bid request from a publisher, an auction is run by a DSP (demand-side platform) to collect bids for the available ad impression.
Once the auction is concluded, a bid response is sent back to the SSP (supply-side platform) which originally sent the bid request.
A bid response includes the concluded auction’s bid amount, the ID of the winning advertiser’s ad creative, and the ID of the participant that won the auction process.
In ad tech, the term “bidder” refers to a component of a DSP (demand-side platform) which receives and processes bid requests from a publisher’s SSP (supply-side platform).
When a bid request is received by the bidder component of a DSP, the bidder places a bid on behalf of an advertiser by following a process known as RTB (real-time bidding).
Bidding in programmatic advertising, similar to other forms of marketing, refers to the maximum amount an advertiser is willing to spend in order to purchase an ad impression.
In the context of programmatic advertising, it’s important to understand that the term “bid” is not always connected to the concept of an auction – despite the two terms often being seen used frequently together in the context of traditional/physical auctioning processes.
It’s very common to hear the phrase “advertiser’s bid” even in a context where no auctioning process is taking place (refer to the description for OpenRTB to understand why).
In ad tech, a bidding strategy refers to an advertiser’s configuration of their DSP (demand-side platform) as it relates to how programmatic bids will be placed on bid requests received from publishers.
While common examples of bidding strategies include fixed price and dynamic price models, a bidding strategy may also involve placing an emphasis on bids for ad inventory associated with certain audience demographics.
In adtech, a blacklist refers to a list of websites that an advertiser doesn’t wish to purchase ad space from.
Blacklists are often populated based on factors such as website’s suspected ad fraud, malpractices such as spam, and adult, illegal, or otherwise inappropriate website content.
Some ad tech service providers will provide access to pre-populated databases that include a wide range of blacklisted websites to help improve ad performance and brand safety.
Bot traffic refers to a fraudulent ad practice in which website traffic is generated automatically through the use scripts that simulate human activity.
Most major DSPs (demand-side platforms) implement the use of anti-fraud technologies and practices to help combat traffic generated from bot sources.
The term “brand safety” refers broadly to practices which are followed by businesses in order to protect their brand image.
Brand safety is a concept implemented by both publishers and advertisers.
Publishers implement brand safety by ensuring that ads served to their websites don’t negatively impact their user’s experience. This may mean ensuring contextual alignment between their website’s content and the ads being served, or rejecting ads that feature undesirable subject matter.
Similarly, advertisers implement brand safety by ensuring that the publisher sources their ads end up being displayed on are reputable and don’t feature content which may produce a negative association with the brand being featured in a served ad.
The phrase “below the fold” refers to any section of a webpage which isn’t visible unless the user scrolls down the page after it initially loads.
The phrase shares the same origin as ATF (above the fold), which was first used to describe sections of newspapers that were either above or below the fold line.
A CDN (content delivery network) is a series of servers distributed across diverse geographical locations for the purpose of being as physically close to a given user as possible when serving web-based content to them.
A CDN is created by establishing multiple data centers, typically across the world.
By consistently updating content across all of these different data centers, that content is able to be served from the data center which is closest to a user’s physical location.
CDNs are an effective way of reducing page loading times and improving user experience on a website.
In the context of ad tech, CDNs are also used to host ad creative files – which allow the ads themselves to be served as quickly as possible to users.
A CDP (customer data platform) is a platform that can be used by both publishers and advertisers.
The purpose of this technology is to store first-party information and PII (personally identifiable information) about potential clients and customers – amalgamated from various first-party data silos, such as analytics platforms, CRM (customer relationship management) platforms, social media, and internal A/B testing data from platforms like websites and apps.
This information is passed between different platforms in the ad tech ecosystem to more accurately target ads towards users.
While DMPs (data management platforms) were more prominently used for this function in the past, the end of third-party cookies has seen more businesses moving towards first-party data strategies, including the use of CDPs, to achieve better user profile targeting for ads.
More information about CDPs, their role in the ad tech ecosystem, as well as factors that distinguish them from similar platforms are available in the dedicated post, “Ad Servers vs DSPs, SSPs, DMPs & CDPs”.
The “clearing price” is the final price paid by an advertiser after winning the bidding process for an available ad impression on a publisher’s ad space.
In digital advertising, a click is a metric which is tracked each time a user clicks on an ad.
There are many pricing models which are centered on clicks, including the CPC (cost per click) and CPA (cost per action) models.
Clicks are tracked regardless of whether or not a user successfully reaches the URL associated with the ad – meaning that if a network outage occurs, clicks on ads will continue to be tracked.
Client-side header bidding (aka “browser-side” header bidding) is a method of implementing header bidding in which a publisher installs code into a webpage’s HTML that communicates directly with each of their individual SSPs (supply-side platforms) or other demand partners.
The code which manages communication with the publisher’s demand partners is read and initiated directly by the visiting user’s web browser in a client-side header bidding configuration.
This differs from S2S header bidding (aka “server-side” header bidding) in which a code is used to to ping a header bidding server. The header bidding server then manages all of the requests to the publisher’s SSPs and other involved demand sources.
The term “cloud” refers to a series of servers (typically distributed across diverse geographical locations) which facilitate access to various online services.
In the context of ad tech, most SaaS (software as a service) companies that provide access to the tools that publishers and advertisers use operate using the cloud – meaning that the functionality of the products, as well as their data, are hosted and stored entirely online.
A CMP (consent management platform) is an application used by website owners to manage the process of confirming a user’s consent to any terms and conditions which may be associated with the use of the website being accessed.
CMPs help website owners to comply with regulations regarding consent collection by automating the process of informing users of the terms and conditions, as well as any data collection policies that may be in effect for the website.
A companion display ad (or sometimes just “companion ad”) is nearly the same as a standard display ad.
However, companion display ads are shown next to audio and video players. They include branding and themes which match the ad served within the player. The purpose of a companion display ad is to reinforce the primary call-to-action presented by the audio or video ad, and to provide an interactive touchpoint for viewers to click on.
More information is available in this guide to video advertising and VAST.
A contextual ad is a type of advertisement that’s strategically paired with a piece of content online that’s thematically relevant to the context of the ad being served.
For example, an article online that compares the rates of 10 different car repair shops would be an ideal candidate for contextual ads served from businesses in the automotive industry.
Contextual information about a website or other piece of content online is referred to as “contextual data”, which typically consists of data including the content’s URL, as well as its associated keywords, categories, and tags.
The term “conversion” (also sometimes referred to directly as an “action”) is used to describe any action that’s tracked when a user takes it.
Conversions are defined and sometimes assigned a monetary value by marketing and advertising personnel prior to launching a campaign, in order to measure the value of certain actions that their audience takes.
For example, an advertising team might track how many times a signup form is submitted on a landing page, and an order or subscription confirmation page may have the cost of the product or service assigned as a monetary value associated with the conversion.
In some cases, advertising arrangements are created based on CPA (cost per action) metrics, which can be interpreted as a “cost per conversion”.
Conversion tracking is often implemented through the use of “pixels”, which are small snippets of code which allow website owners to record the actions taken by users that interact with the site.
Contextual targeting is a subset method of ad targeting.
It allows advertisers to serve ads to users based on the “context” of the content on the page that the user is visiting.
For example, an advertiser in the automotive industry might choose to match their ads with all blogs that talk about car repairs, track racing, car insurance, and car reviews.
To accomplish this functionality, contextual targeting typically relies on content being labelled with certain keywords by a publisher, and having advertisers select those keywords when configuring an ad campaign to match contextually relevant ads with certain types of content.
In the context of adtech, a cookie is a small text file containing data that’s downloaded and stored locally on a user’s computer within the file directory of their web browser.
This information is most commonly used for remembering a user’s preferences on certain websites, providing an enhanced browsing experience.
Cookies have also traditionally been used in advertising to identify users, based on the unique sets of data found in the stored cookies.
This data has traditionally allowed advertisers to target ads towards users based on their interests, among other details which have been identifiable via a technique called “cookie matching” or “cookie syncing”.
However, these advertising techniques will be phased out of ad tech with the end of third-party cookies, as most browsers will no longer support their functionality.
CPA (cost per action) is a pricing arrangement in which an advertiser agrees to pay a publisher based on the number of times a certain conversion (in other words, an “action” taken) is performed by a user.
CPA arrangements differ from CPC (cost per click) in that CPA is typically associated with actions taken on a website or other platform, rather than clicks made on advertisements.
As a point of clarification, CPA is sometimes used to abbreviate “cost per acquisition”, which refers to the price of “acquiring” a new customer.
However, cost per action and cost per acquisition, while sometimes overlapping, are not the same thing – as there are many actions which can be measured which do not directly result in the acquisition of new customers.
In digital marketing, the term CPC (cost per click) refers to a price that an advertiser agrees to pay to a publisher whenever a served ad creative is clicked on by a viewer.
The formula to calculate CPC is:
Total Cost of Ad Campaign ÷ Number of Clicks Received = CPC
CPCV (cost per completed view) refers to a price paid by an advertiser whenever an ad which includes an animation or video is watched in its entirety by a user.
CPCV is a payment model used by advertisers when they wish to place an emphasis on the amount of time users spend viewing their ad creatives.
CPI (cost per install) refers to a media buying arrangement in which an advertiser agrees to pay a certain amount each time a unique user installs a piece of software on their device.
CPI is a conversion-based compensation model used by advertisers that wish to emphasize the action of software installation over other possible user engagements.
In digital marketing, the term CPM (cost per mille) refers to the price an advertisers pays for serving 1,000 ad impressions through a publisher source.
For instance, if a website publisher charges $2.50 CPM, it means that advertising demand sources working with that publisher would need to pay $2.50 every time their ads are viewed 1,000 times by visitors of that publisher’s website (in other words, $0.0025 per impression).
CPM can be calculated by dividing the cost of running a campaign with a publisher by the number of impressions that are being delivered – then multiplying that number by 1,000.
For example, if a publisher asks for $2,500 USD and offers 1,000,000 impressions in return, 2,500 ÷ 1,000,000 = $0.0025 … multiplied by 1,000 = $2.50 (the CPM amount).
CPM is a term used by advertising parties when calculating their cost of running ads on a publisher’s website.
Publishers use the term “RPM” (revenue per mille) when calculating the internal value of their ad inventory.
CTR (click-through rate) refers to a ratio that determines the percentage of users that click a particular element, such as an ad or a link or button on a webpage.
In the context of ad serving, CTR is closely tied to CPC (cost per click), which is an amount paid by advertisers based on how many times their ads are clicked on by users.
CTV is a term used to refer to devices such as smart TVs, streaming devices, and game consoles which are capable of streaming OTT media. The term should NOT be used when referring to mobile, desktop, laptop, and/or tablet devices, according to the IAB.
Some devices that are classified as CTV mediums include streaming boxes, stick PCs, smart TVs (aka “connected TVs”), video game consoles, and set-top boxes which allow DTV (digital television) broadcasts to be viewed on analog TVs.
More information is available in this guide to OTT and CTV advertising.
CVR (conversion rate) refers to a percentage of clicks that resulted in a designated conversion (or “action”) taking place.
For example, if 100 people clicked on an ad that presented users with a signup form, and 10 users submitted the form, the formula for calculating the conversion rate would be:
10 (the number of conversions, in this case ‘forms submitted”) ÷ 100 (the number of clicks) = 0.1 (the CVR – in this case, a 10% conversion rate)
CVR is an important formula for determining the compensation rate of some payment models, such as CPA (cost per action).
The DAA (Digital Advertising Alliance) is an association responsible for the self-regulation of companies within ad tech – allowing online advertising companies to opt-into their programs in the interest of facilitating better digital advertising experiences for users.
One of the most prominent programs offered by the DAA is the AdChoices program, which seeks to increase the transparency and control offered to users in regards to the collection and use of their data in OBA (online behavioral advertising).
A data broker (sometimes also referred to as a “data provider” or a “data supplier”) is a business that collects user data from a variety of different sources and sells it to ad tech platforms such as DSPs (demand-side platforms) and DMPs (data-management platforms).
Data brokers use various methods for acquiring data, including the use of tags deployed to websites, as well as purchasing it from other companies.
Advertisers use information provided by data brokers to increase the effectiveness of their ad targeting.
Data deduplication refers to the process of eliminating copies of data which already exist within a platform.
In the context of ad tech, data deduplication refers to the removal of redundant audience data from the databases used by publishers and advertisers within their ad tech platforms.
This process results in the elimination of cookie data and device ID information which references the same user multiple times, which would otherwise result in the presence of conflicting records for a given user.
The term “data onboarding” refers to the process of consolidating offline data sources with online records.
Data onboarding is typically used by businesses to update online client records with new information acquired from offline sources (or sources which otherwise isn’t automatically recorded) – such as live events, phone calls, and other types of meeting sessions.
Dayparting refers to a PPC (pay-per-click) advertising technique in which ads are scheduled to be displayed at certain times of day, or on certain days of the week, in order to more effectively reach target audiences.
A deal ID (or “deal identifier”) is a unique series of numbers which is generated by a programmatic auction system at the time of a programmatic direct media buying arrangement being created between a publisher and an advertiser.
The deal ID is used to identify the arrangement which has been established between the publisher and advertiser – and is used by ad tech systems during the ad serving process to identify ads which are associated with the created deal.
A deal ID also contains information about the media buying arrangement itself.
For example, a deal ID may reference the price floor at which an advertiser must bid, the placement location of ads purchased through the deal, which web pages purchased ads may be served on, and any other established terms within the arrangement.
Decisioning is a broad term in ad tech which refers to the processes used by platforms such as ad servers, SSPs (supply-side platforms), DSPs (demand-side platforms), and ad exchanges in order to determine which ad creative should be served to a user.
While many factors go into the process, decisioning is primarily influenced by an advertiser’s ad campaign criteria – including their targeting options and bidding strategy.
In the context of advertising and ad tech, the term “delivery” is almost entirely synonymous with the terms “publish” and “serve”, in that it’s used to describe the act of an ad arriving (or “being delivered”) to a publisher’s platform by an advertiser.
The delivery of an ad takes place once an advertiser purchases the ad unit through one of the many diverse methods of media buying available in digital advertising.
A demand source (also sometimes referred to as a “demand partner”) is any advertising party or platform that’s interested in purchasing ad space (their purchasing intent creates “demand” for the available ad inventory).
It could be a piece of ad tech owned and operated by an advertiser directly, an ad network, and ad exchange, or a party acting on behalf of an advertising party – like an ad agency.
Demographic data refers to information about a user such as their age, gender, income, job title, or area of residence.
Demographic data is sometimes collected and sold to data brokers, who then resell that information to interested parties within the ad tech ecosystem.
Advertisers are able to target their ad campaigns to reach certain audiences based on the demographic data that’s known about users when they visit a website, app, or other platform owned by a publisher.
Deterministic matching is an advertising technique used by all parties and platforms within digital advertising – including publishers, advertisers, and ad tech platforms.
It refers to the ability to uniquely identify a specific user across the different devices that they use by associating one or more pieces of persistent data with the individual in order to distinguish them from other users.
For example, services such as Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn that require a user to log in to access their platforms are able to use a user’s email credentials to facilitate deterministic matching across all of the devices that user uses to log into those platforms.
Device fingerprinting (also sometimes referred to as “browser”, “machine”, or “canvas” fingerprinting) is a technique used to identify a device or a browser based on the unique characteristics they possess.
Device fingerprints are stored in server-side databases, which differs from web cookies – which are stored locally on an individual’s device that they use to access a website.
Because device fingerprints don’t rely on cookies to operate, their use has been suggested by many parties in ad tech as an alternative means to accomplish ad targeting pending the end of third-party cookies.
A digital agency is a business capable of providing some or all of a comprehensive array of digital marketing services – including paid online advertising, SEO (search engine optimization), content creation, online lead generation, brand development, web design, campaign planning, as well as video, email, and mobile marketing – among others.
As part of a digital agency’s service offering, some aspects of digital advertising and ad tech may be included. However, a digital agency is unlikely to focus as many resources exclusively on the process of optimizing digital advertising campaigns as an ad agency will.
In digital advertising, a “direct deal” (sometimes also called a “direct order” or a “direct buy”) refers to a purchasing arrangement between a publisher and an advertiser in which the publisher’s ad inventory is sold directly to the advertiser.
In some cases, an intermediary party, such as an ad agency or a negotiator may assist in the sales process, though ultimately, the final sale is a direct media transaction between the publisher and the advertiser.
A direct deal is sometimes conducted through a programmatic media buying method referred to as “programmatic direct”.
In most cases, direct deals are established by determining fixed prices, rates, and terms – resulting in one of the different types of programmatic deals being established between the publisher and the advertiser.
The inventory agreed upon in the deal is then “set aside” by the publisher as “reserved inventory” or “guaranteed inventory”.
Display ads (also referred to as “banner ads”) are one of the most common forms of advertising on the internet.
The first display ad was a banner ad displayed back in 1994.
A display ad is simply a visual ad that is served to a website’s ad “spaces”, “slots”, or “zones”, with common locations including the web page’s header, sider, footer regions, and sometimes even within the page’s content itself.
Display ads can also include animations, which allow certain elements of the ad to move once the ad has been served to a page.
Display video ads appear in many of the same locations that a regular display ad might be seen. The only difference is that display video ads include, as the name suggests, a video component. Display video ads often include pause buttons, playback progression bars, and volume controls to improve user experience.
More information is available in this guide to video advertising and VAST.
A DMP (data management platform) is a piece of ad tech used by both publishers and advertisers.
The role of a DMP is to receive and process ad tags from ad servers – supplementing the ad tags with additional known details about users that are visiting a website.
More information about DMPs, their role in the ad tech ecosystem, as well as factors that distinguish them from similar platforms are available in the dedicated post, “Ad Servers vs DSPs, SSPs, DMPs & CDPs”.
DOOH (digital out-of home) ads combine digital advertising with the traditional methods of using physical billboards and posters to promote messages to audiences in public places.
Rather than targeting individual users, DOOH makes use of real-world data to determine which ads to display on digital billboards and posters, targeting groups of people that are likely to be present in the area.
A DSP (demand-side platform) is a software system used by advertisers to manage their ad campaigns and automate the process of buying media through a single interface.
DSPs are typically accessed by advertisers by paying a subscription fee to a SaaS (software as a service) company that hosts and maintains the software and its integrations with other parts of the ad tech ecosystem.
More information about the components of DSPs, how they work, and their role in ad tech is available in the dedicated post, “What is a DSP?”.
The term “dynamic creative” refers in part to the term “ad creative”.
A dynamic creative refers to an ad which is divided into a series of different media elements that are called on an individual basis, based on factors such as the platform the ad is being served to, a page’s content, information about the user viewing the ad, and other factors.
The different media elements are assembled into a finalized ad creative based on these factors before being served to the user.
Dynamic pricing refers to situations in which the cost of an ad impression fluctuates depending on the information which is known about the user the ad is being served to.
For instance, if an ad impression is associated with a user which matches the ideal target audience for several large automotive dealers, those advertisers would likely bid higher and drive the price of the impression higher than that of a generic ad impression.
Dynamic pricing is typically witnessed in RTB (real-time bidding) environments, in which many advertisers with different criteria for their ad campaigns bid against one another.
The counterpart of dynamic price media buying is “fixed price”, in which the price of each ad impression is agreed upon by the parties buying and selling media from one another.
The abbreviation eCPA (effective cost per action) is nearly identical in meaning to CPA (cost per action).
The only difference is that eCPA is used in instances where diverse pricing models are being used to calculate the cost of an ad campaign – in other words, when CPM (cost per mille), CPC (cost per click), and/or CPA are each being paid for at separate rates within the pricing model of an ad campaign.
The term eCPA refers to the conversion of CPM and CPC into an amalgamated CPA cost, by using the standard CPA formula while factoring in the amount paid for impressions and actions:
Total Cost of Ad Campaign ÷ Number of Actions Taken = eCPA
Because the total cost of the ad campaign will also include CPM and CPC, the final number calculated for eCPA will be higher than CPA alone.
Using eCPA allows CPM and CPC to be converted into a consolidated reporting metric when reviewing the cost of an ad campaign, to view how much was “effectively” (hence the “e” in “eCPA”) spent on actions taken over the course of the ad campaign.
The abbreviation eCPC (effective cost per click) is nearly identical in meaning to CPC (cost per click).
The only difference is that eCPC is used in instances where diverse pricing models are being used to calculate the cost of an ad campaign – in other words, when CPM (cost per mille), CPC, and/or CPA (cost per action) are each being paid for at separate rates within the pricing model of an ad campaign.
The term eCPC refers to the conversion of CPM and CPA into an amalgamated CPC cost, by using the standard CPC formula while factoring in the amount paid for impressions and actions:
Total Cost of Ad Campaign ÷ Number of Clicks Received = eCPC
Because the total cost of the ad campaign will also include CPM and CPA, the final number calculated for eCPC will be higher than CPC alone.
Using eCPC allows CPM and CPA to be converted into a consolidated reporting metric when reviewing the cost of an ad campaign, to view how much was spent on “effective” (hence the “e” in “eCPC”) clicks over the course of the ad campaign.
In advertising, eCPM (effective cost per mille) refers to the total cost of running 1,000 ad impressions through a publisher’s website, app, or other content – particularly in instances where a variety of different pricing models are being used for those 1,000 impressions.
For example, a publisher may charge at $2.50 CPM (cost per mille), but may also charge at $5.00 CPC (cost per click) and $10.00 CPA (cost per action) for certain user interactions.
Due to these varied pricing models, CPM alone becomes ineffective for determining the price of the campaign. Instead, the other actions which are being paid for (clicks and actions) are grouped into the cost of a calculated eCPM.
The formula for calculating eCPM is the same as calculating CPM – more specifically, by dividing the cost of running an ad campaign by the number of impressions that are being delivered – then multiplying that number by 1,000.
However, because the CPC and CPA prices are being included in the calculation, the eCPM value will be higher than the CPM on its own.
The term eCPM is a way of converting the CPC and CPA rates into a consolidated reporting metric when reviewing the cost of an ad campaign, to “effectively” (hence the “e” in “eCPM”) view how much was spent on impressions over the course of the ad campaign.
The term eCPM is an advertiser-oriented term. Publishers use the term “RPM” (revenue per mille) when calculating the overall internal value of their ad inventory.
As the name implies, an “email ad” is an ad which is served within the contents of an email which is opened by a user from their inbox.
Email ads allow parties to monetize their subscriber lists by serving ads through emails that they send to their engaged users.
Newsletters and announcements are common email formats that feature ads, though any type of email may be eligible for monetization through the inclusion of ads.
Exchange bidding is commonly referred to as Google’s approach to executing header bidding (a programmatic bid management technique used by publishers).
As a server-to-server auctioning model, exchange bidding allows multiple SSPs (supply-side platforms) and ad exchanges to place bids on a publisher’s inventory at the same time via Google Ad Exchange – providing similar benefits and functionality to header bidding.
The term “fill rate” refers to the amount of publisher’s available ad inventory they’re able to sell – calculated as an overall percentage of how much of a publisher’s ad space was sold.
To calculate fill rate, a publisher takes the total number of ad impressions they generated for a time period and divides them by the total amount of inventory that was available within that same timeframe.
Ideally, a publisher’s fill rate should be as close to 100% as possible.
In instances where fill rates are significantly lower than 100%, it may indicate a problem in the ad serving technology being used, the advertising demand sources that are connected to, or a discrepancy caused by inaccurate reporting numbers.
First look is a versatile term that refers to the level of priority a publisher grants to an advertiser when determining who is allowed to bid for an ad impression.
While this term is closely tied to the “preferred deal” type of programmatic deal in modern times, it’s also sometimes used when discussing how an ad server’s bidding prioritization has been configured by a publisher as a whole (also referred to as “ad server priority”).
In ad tech, the term “first party” is used to describe any and all platforms that are used by the publisher’s “side” of the ad tech ecosystem.
For example, in a situation where an ad server is being used by a publisher to manage their ad inventory and serve ads to their website, that ad server would be referred to as a “first party” ad server.
The origin of this term comes from the early days of ad tech’s history, in which publishers were considered the “first party” due to their direct ownership of the websites which hosted the ad space that advertisers were interested in buying.
When publishers negotiated with advertisers, these were considered interactions with “third parties” relative to the website and it’s owner(s) being the “first party”.
In marketing and advertising, first-party data refers to any information that is collected and stored by the owners of a business using tools and methods that they own and operate themselves.
For example, the information collected by a website’s signup forms, analytics panels that track web page activity, as well as phone calls and other interactions with users would all be considered types of first-party data.
First-party data is often stored on CRM (customer relationship management) platforms for use in planning and optimizing marketing and advertising campaigns.
Due to the end of third-party cookies, the popularity of first-party data strategies amongst advertisers has increased significantly, and is forecasted to become the new standard of ad tech in the future.
A first price auction is a model in which the winner of the auction is required to pay the full amount of the bid that they placed during the process.
This differs from a second-price auction, in which the winner of the auction only pays 1 cent more than the next highest bid competing with the winning bid.
Fixed price refers to an advertising deal in which the total price paid by the advertiser is “locked in” prior to running their ads through a publisher’s ad space.
Naturally, this means that no auction or bidding processes take place in a fixed price deal.
Fixed price deals typically establish a CPM or CPC for a given ad campaign, though alternate payment agreements may be negotiated in some cases.
Historically, fixed prices were the go-to method for striking deals between advertisers and publishers. However, in modern digital advertising, fixed prices are typically only used to strike strategic deals between mid-to-large scale publishers and advertisers.
Floor optimization refers to a subset of yield optimization practices followed by publishers in order to maximize the amount of revenue they’re able to generate from selling their ad inventory.
Specifically, floor optimization refers to making use of both “soft” and “hard” price floors for certain units of ad inventory, based on data that’s gathered about the performance of certain ad units.
By making adjustments to floor prices, publishers seek to find the best balance between maximizing their fill rate while getting the best possible price for their ad inventory.
The term “floor price” or “floor CPM” (cost per mille) refers to a minimum price that a publisher is willing to accept for each of their available ad impressions.
If an advertiser bids less than the floor price for an impression, even if that bid is the highest bid amongst those competing for the ad space, the bid won’t be accepted, and the ad won’t be served to the publisher’s website.
For example, if a publisher sets a floor price of $1.50 CPM, and several advertisers bid up to $1.25 for the impression – none of the advertisers will win the impression.
Floor prices are a flexible and widely used element of media buying as a whole, and are made use of in both open market RTB (real-time bidding) environments as well as direct deal arrangements between publishers and advertisers.
Frequency capping is an advertising technique that refers to the maximum number of times the same ad creative may be displayed to the same user within a given time.
For example, an advertiser may specify that they’d only like to have an unique user view 5 impressions of their ad every 24 hours.
As a technique, frequency capping helps to reduce “ad burnout” or “ad fatigue” experienced by users who view the same ad too many times, and allows advertisers to more effectively disperse the allocation of their budget towards broader reach and more engaged audiences.
The GDPR (General Data Privacy Regulation) is a legal regulation which was put into effect within the European Union on May 25th, 2018.
The regulation is a framework that enforces guidelines related to the collection and processing of both PII (personally identifiable information) and non-personal information of people who reside in the European Union.
The objective of GDPR is to allow citizens to have control over which businesses and organizations are able to access and leverage their digital data.
Geotargeting is a subset method of ad targeting.
Geotargeting allows advertisers to serve particular ads to users based on their geographical location in the world.
For example, a music concert organizer might configure their campaigns to serve ads to users based on concerts that are scheduled to take place in their local areas.
As an advertising function, geotargeting can allow ads to be served based on the country, city, or other specific region a user is in when they access a publisher’s content.
The location of a user is typically determined either through their IP address, first-party data collected about the user during a signup process, or through the use of data stored in cookies.
A guaranteed deal is an arrangement between a publisher and an advertiser in which a fixed CPM (cost per mille), ad campaign duration, and other details such as ad placement locations are agreed upon.
The publisher then “sets aside” the ad inventory involved in the deal – making it “reserved inventory” or “guaranteed inventory” which is exclusively held for the advertiser.
In modern digital advertising, guaranteed deals are typically facilitated and fulfilled through a technique known as “programmatic direct”.
A guaranteed deal is not the same as a direct deal.
While a guaranteed deal may be established on a direct (or “one-to-one” negotiation) basis, other types of programmatic deals or non-programmatic deals can be struck via a direct deal between a publisher and an advertiser.
A hard floor price is a minimum bid amount that a publisher will accept for their ad impressions.
Unlike soft price floors which allow a degree of leniency for bid amounts, when a bid is submitted by an advertiser which falls below a hard price floor, that bid is disqualified from the programmatic auctioning process.
Header bidding is a technique used in programmatic advertising which allows a publisher to auction their available ad inventory through multiple demand sources at once, accepting the winning bid from across all of those sources.
In modern ad serving, header bidding is a popular practice that is considered to be a revenue optimization best practice amongst most publishers.
More details about how the complete process works are available in the dedicated post, “What is Header Bidding?”.
The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) is a Canadian organization established in 1997.
The purpose of the foundation is to develop industry standards, conduct research, and to provide legal support for the online advertising industry.
An iframe is an HTML element which loads as part of a complete webpage. The iframe element allows the contents from another webpage to be displayed directly within the webpage upon which the iframe is present - including interactive components such as forms, buttons, and video players.
In advertising, an “impression” defines the event of a user viewing (but not necessarily interacting with, such as clicking) an ad creative.
For example, if a web page is viewed by a user, it would be defined as a “page impression”, while if an ad were to be viewed by a user, it would be defined as an “ad impression”.
An in-app ad refers to an ad that is served directly within a mobile app (or “application”).
While almost any type of ad may be served within an app, the distinguishing factor of in-app advertising is that the ad is served within the app itself, without the use of redirecting a user to an external source such as a website.
The term “in-house ad” refers to an advertisement which is prepared and deployed internally by a company, typically promoting a message that relates to the business itself.
For example, a company might deploy an in-house ad on their homepage to make users aware of a new promotion being run for a product or service that they offer.
The term “in-house advertising” or “in-house marketing” can also refer to an individual or group of people who are dedicated to managing the function of marketing and advertising within an organization, forgoing the need to hire a 3rd party service to manage the process.
In-store advertising refers to media techniques which are used within physical brick and mortar locations to reach consumers. In-store advertising may include both forms of display and video advertising, as well as audio ads played throughout the store.
More information is available in this guide to retail media advertising.
An instream video ad is an ad which is served within a video player. Instream video ads can be served in either linear or non-linear formats.
As a point of distinction, social media feeds are also sometimes referred to as “social streams” by some people, and in some cases, “instream ads” is a term used to describe ads found within these social platforms - though this concept is entirely separate from instream video ads.
Outstream video ads are the counterpart to instream video ads.
More information is available in this guide to video advertising and VAST.
An interstitial ad is a forced full-screen ad that inhibits a user from taking any other action on a website, app, or other content until the ad is engaged with in some way – either through taking an action, or by manually closing the ad.
While effective in some ways by forcing users to engage with the ad, interstitial ads are also notorious for generating negative user experiences due to their intrusive and obstructive nature.
An IO (insertion order) is a document that outlines the details of a media transaction taking place between an advertiser and a publisher.
The document often includes specifications such as the start and end date of the campaign, ad unit dimensions and placement locations, audience descriptions, the number of impressions to be served, CPM (cost per mille), and reporting agreements.
The use of IOs was far more prominent in the early days of advertising’s history, when manual negotiations and agreements were more popular.
While IOs are still sometimes used by publishers and advertisers when establishing contracts for large advertising deals, programmatic advertising has more or less replaced the role of IOs in modern advertising.
ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention) is a privacy feature included in Webkit, which powers Apple’s Safari web browser.
ITP was introduced with the release of Safari 11 and iOS (iPhone Operating System) 11.
As a privacy feature, ITP blocks the use of first-party cookies for functionalities associated with user tracking, ad retargeting, and conversion attribution.
IVT (invalid traffic) refers to any website traffic which doesn’t come from authentic human sources -an occurrence which artificially inflates the number of impressions and/or clicks that advertisements on a publisher’s website receives.
Traffic categorized as IVT may include accidental clicks from users due to obstructive ad unit locations, fraudulent clicks made by competing advertisers, and bot traffic generated through scripted actions, among other sources.
A landing page is the term used to describe a web page upon which a user lands or is redirected to after clicking on an ad creative.
Landing pages can either be a company’s main website, or a specific web page which is created to focus on having users take a specific action prioritized by an advertiser – for example, creating an account on a platform or registering for an email list.
Lazy loading is a technique used for building web pages.
It involves the use of placeholder boxes on a page, which are displayed as empty “content slots” when a web page is initially loading for a user.
These placeholder sections are dynamically loaded with content as they become visible to the user as they scroll down the page – meaning that things like images, ads, and other content only load when it’s possible for the user to see them in their browser.
This technique has the potential to greatly reduce page loading times.
A “line item” refers to a single parameter or attribute possessed by specific ad inventory – and is used by advertisers to define the type of inventory they intend to purchase from a publisher.
A line item typically refers to a particular aspect of ad inventory, such as where the ad creative will be positioned, how many times the ad will appear, audience criteria – and, depending on the arrangement, a CPM (cost per mille) and/or a CPC (cost per click).
Linear ads are served within the “linear progression” of a piece of audio or video being played within a player. Linear ads can be served in the pre-roll, mid-roll, or post roll positions of a piece of media.
Linear TV is a term which refers to traditional television broadcasts through which programming is accessed directly at the time during which it’s broadcast.
The naming convention originates from “linear scheduling” in which TV programs are lined up to be played one by one at certain times by a TV network.
The term should not be confused with “linear video ads”, which refers to ads which are served within the “linear progression” of an online video player.
More information is available in this guide to OTT and CTV advertising.
Lookalike modelling refers to the process of advertisers attempting to define their ideal target audience based on their perception of the attributes possessed by their “best” or “ideal” customer.
The process of look-alike modelling may involve reviewing past customer engagements, finding overlaps in their behaviours and demographics, and drafting customer personas that incorporate the types of users who have made the most financial engagements with the company.
A look-alike model may be tightly or loosely defined depending on the type of ad campaign being run, and multiple variants of “ideal” users may be defined in instances where multiple products or services are sold by an advertiser.
MadTech is a combination of the terms “AdTech” (advertising technology) and “MarTech” (marketing technology).
The term was coined by David Raab, in reference to the modern landscape of digital marketing and advertising in which the lines between the two practices are becoming increasingly blurred.
As a concept, MadTech seeks to provide a holistic set of tools that provide the best possible overview of customers as they interact with advertising campaigns and move through the different phases of marketing funnels.
Where AdTech and MarTech used to be offered as separate solutions, MadTech seeks to combine the two through a combined service offering.
A comparison is available that explores the differences between mar tech and ad tech in more detail, including examples of each type of technology.
Manual media buying refers to a situation where an advertiser purchases online ad inventory from a publisher directly, without the use of ad tech tools to assist in the process.
In modern digital advertising, manual media buying is a rare occurrence, which typically only takes place for transactions involving a large volume of inventory between major advertisers and publishers.
While manual media buying used to be a standard process in the early days of advertising, programmatic advertising has since become a much more efficient way to automate the time consuming process of conducting media transactions.
Marketing and advertising are two terms which are sometimes wrongfully used interchangeably. Marketing is a “high level” or “top level” strategy, which includes advertising as one of its strategic components.
Marketing refers to the defining of audiences, key messages, and distribution of marketing collateral - while advertising is primarily concerned on delivering CTAs (calls to action) which seek to elicit a direct response from an ad’s recipient.
Both MarTech (Marketing Technology) and AdTech (Advertising Technology) software providers exist - and sometimes, the term MadTech (Marketing and Advertising Technology) is used to describe service offerings which offer a mix of both.
Mar tech is shorthand for “marketing technology”.
Mar tech is often confused with ad tech. However, mar tech primarily supports the functions of marketing initiatives rather than advertising campaigns.
A comparison is available that explores the differences between mar tech and ad tech in more detail, including examples of each type of technology.
In discussions related to advertising and ad tech, “media agency” is a common misnomer or inaccurate label for an advertising agency – especially in relation to digital advertising (due to the common use of the term “media buying” when describing the act of purchasing ad impressions).
Media agencies are businesses which offer services that help to facilitate diverse media-based advertising campaigns through a variety of channels, including traditional channels such as TV, news, press, and radio.
When an advertiser wishes to promote a message through one of these media channels, media agencies are the businesses which have the necessary connections in order to book the slots necessary to deliver the advertisement.
Media agencies also often provide services which support the planning of advertising campaigns – including consultation and providing consumer insights.
The term “media buying” is simply another way of referring to the many diverse (digital and non-digital) ways of buying advertising.
The term is often used interchangeably with “ad buying”, though the term “media buying” extends beyond digital advertising – referring to the many diverse forms and channels of “media” used to deliver ads to people (for example: visual, audio, and printed text ads).
Mid-roll ads refer to audio or video ads which are served throughout the course of media playback at regular intervals. The media’s playback is paused until the ad is completed.
MRAID (Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions) is an API (application programming interface) which is used to display rich media ads in mobile apps.
MRAID offers a standardized set of commands that are compatible with a wide range of mobile device operating systems – which alleviates the need to create rich media ad creatives for each individual type of mobile platform.
The MRC (Media Rating Council) is an independent non-profit organization based in the United States that seeks to maintain a high level of quality for audience measurement (measuring the impact and reach of different advertising channels) tools and practices.
The MRC is responsible for auditing and accrediting tools and services that deal with audience measurement, and provides a set of standardized guidelines that, when adhered to by vendors, qualify their services for an MRC certificate.
A multi-size ad unit (or “multi-size ad placement”) is a location within a publisher’s website, app, or other channel capable of serving ads in which a range of different ad creative dimensions (or sizes) are acceptable for the location.
Because the specifications for a multi-size ad unit are more flexible than normal ad units, bid requests are able to request a variety of ad creatives with different dimensions, which results in increased bidding competition for the publisher’s available inventory.
Multichannel is a broad term used in both marketing and advertising, used to describe the optimization of numerous specific channels in relation to the experience of users that engage with a brand.
In advertising, a “multichannel strategy” refers broadly to the ability to optimize ad campaigns for specific platforms – such as physical brick-and-mortar locations, social media platforms, web browsers, and mobile devices.
The term multichannel holds a broader definition outside of the context of advertising, which generally refers to a business’s efforts to optimize their customer journeys across each of the individual channels upon which a user may engage with their brand.
The term “multichannel” differs from “omnichannel” in that omnichannel strategies are focused on optimizing and unifying a user’s experience across all channels upon which a brand is present, while multichannel strategies refer to the optimization of specific channels.
Native ads are advertisements that adapt to the “look and feel” of the website content they’re served to.
Display ads and native ads are somewhat similar – with the primary difference being that native ads will shift dynamically in appearance to better “blend in” to the context of the content in which they’re being served.
Some common examples of locations for native ads to appear include the “read more” sections of blogs, as well as “learn more” sections in the middle of online publications.
A non-linear ad is an ad which is served within the “linear progression” of a piece of audio or video media, without interrupting its playback. Non-linear ads are typically seen in an overlay format - they appear visually similar to banner ads which popup over the player, covering the content underneath. Non-linear ads can be closed at any time by viewers.
Omnichannel is a broad term used in both marketing and advertising, used to describe a “unified” strategy towards planning a user’s engagement and experience with a brand across different mediums.
In advertising, an “omnichannel strategy” refers broadly to an ad campaign’s ability to reach users with unified key messaging across a wide range of platforms – including physical brick-and-mortar locations, social media platforms, web browsers, and mobile devices.
In other words, an omnichannel advertising strategy is one which places an emphasis on reaching customers with unified key messaging, regardless of where advertisements may be displayed.
The term omnichannel holds a broader definition outside of the context of advertising, which typically refers to the architecture of a user’s overall experience with a brand across different channels.
The term “omnichannel” differs from “multichannel” in that multichannel strategies are focused more on leveraging optimized user experiences within individual channels, while omnichannel strategies apply to all channels at once.
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The term “open auction” is simply the official name for the function in ad tech referred to as RTB (real-time bidding).
An open exchange (also referred to as an “open marketplace”) is an ad exchange in which any publisher, advertiser, or other participants may buy and sell ad inventory through the use of RTB (real-time bidding) technology.
In contrast to PMPs (private marketplaces), open exchanges can be connected to by any user of an SSP (supply-side platform) or DSP (demand-side platform) in order to conduct media transactions on an impression-by-impression basis.
OpenRTB is a term that causes a lot of confusion when first learning about programmatic advertising.
It refers to the name of the technology that powers most programmatic advertising.
It should not be confused with the term “open auction”, aka “RTB” (real-time bidding).
OpenRTB is considered a standard of communication between parties conducting media transactions via RTB.
Despite OpenRTB being considered a type of “real-time auctioning technology”, many of the types of programmatic deals it powers (specifically, the types of deals classified as “programmatic direct”) don’t use auction processes – which is understandably very confusing when first encountered by beginners in ad tech.
One description that can be used to interpret situations where auctions don’t take place (again, particularly in the deal types categorized as “programmatic direct”) is to think of OpenRTB as being an auctioning technology that has been “pushed to its limits” to facilitate deal types that it wasn’t originally created to process.
OTT (over-the-top) advertising is a method of delivering ads directly to viewers through online streaming services on CTV devices.
OTT advertising allows advertisers to reach their audiences directly – granting them the freedom to move away from pre-planned ad schedules and geographic limitations in favor of leveraging programmatic technology to serve more engaging ads to targeted audiences.
A number of explanations as to why the term is called “over-the-top” are available in this guide to OTT and CTV advertising.
An OTT platform is a service which helps independent OTT publishers to become their own streaming service, rather than relying on a pre-existing streaming service to host their content.
More information is available in this guide to OTT and CTV advertising.
An OTT streaming service is the name given to a channel through which OTT content is streamed to a CTV device. Some examples of popular OTT streaming services include Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.
More information is available in this guide to OTT and CTV advertising.
An outstream video ad refers to an ad which is served beside a video player, “outside” of the video stream itself. Outstream video ads are most commonly seen as companion ads.
Instream video ads are the counterpart to outstream video ads.
More information is available in this guide to video advertising and VAST.
An overlay ad is an ad which appears overtop of a piece of content – such as a video or within an app.
Unlike interstitial ads which cover the entirety of the screen region, overlay ads typically only cover a portion of a screen without fully obstructing a user’s view of the content.
This approach allows ads to be served that attract attention from users, without fully interrupting the content they’re engaging with.
The term “passback” is used to describe a situation where an ad exchange or ad network is unable to find a bid from an advertiser that meets a publisher’s CPM floor price, or when no bids are placed in response to a bid request.
In these situations, the bid request is “passed back” to the publisher so that it can be forwarded to another advertising demand source in search of a qualifying bid.
The term “piggybacking” refers to a situation where a pixel on a webpage causes pixels from other platforms to trigger.
This is typically accomplished by creating a “pixel container”, in which multiple pixels may be set to fire when the container is activated.
Piggybacking is used to implement a technique called “cookie matching” or “cookie syncing”, as well as to implement cross-platform conversion tracking for elements on a webpage.
PII (personally identifiable information) refers to any information which can be used, either on its own or in combination with other information, to identify a real-world individual.
Examples of PII may include a person’s full name, their date of birth, home address, email address, phone number(s), SSN (social security number), credit card number, or even their IP (internet protocol) address used to connect to the internet.
The term “pixel” refers to either a code snippet (or a “block” of code), or a literal 1×1 image pixel which is placed or injected into a publisher’s website as the webpage loads – sometimes through the use of a code “tag”.
When loaded, pixels create a cookie on a user’s device, which is used to monitor and record the behaviors and conversions a user makes while interacting with a given piece of content and reporting that information back to the platform from which the pixel originated.
Tracking pixels can originate from a wide variety of platforms.
For instance, most major social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, offer tracking pixels which can be used to monitor how users that click-through social posts to a website interact with content they’re presented with.
This allows advertisers to calculate how effective their ad spend on various platforms is by calculating their CPC (cost per click) against the website conversions they receive.
Many other advertising platforms, such as PPC directories, also offer tracking pixels to help their clients measure and optimize their campaign performance.
PMPs (private marketplaces) (also sometimes referred to as “private auctions”) are a form of RTB media buying that are also often classified as a “programmatic direct” method of purchasing ads.
PMPs are most commonly used to describe environments in which publishers selectively invite certain advertisers to purchase ad space from them.
However, some environments exist where intermediaries, such as ad networks, may selectively invite publishers and/or advertisers to access their private ad ecosystem (which may be considered a form of PMP).
More information about how PMPs work is available in this guide.
A pop-up ad is an ad which appears within a GUI (graphical user interface) display area on top of the content of a website.
Modern pop-up ads are typically displayed within the same browser window from which a user originally opened a page – though historically, it was more common to see pop-up ads which would appear in separate browser windows which would open automatically.
A similar technique, referred to as “pop-under” ads, more commonly make use of opening separate browser windows, though these new windows appear “underneath” or “behind” the currently active browser window in a more discrete manner than pop-up ads.
In both cases, these types of ads are universally branded as one of the most intrusive forms of advertising. Due to their negative association with user experience, this form of advertising is typically reserved for in-house advertisements in most organizations.
A post-roll ad is an ad which is served after the playback for a piece of audio or video media has concluded.
In advertising, PPC (pay-per-click) is a popular pricing model in which an advertiser pays a company for an advertising service based on the number of times their ad is clicked.
Some common examples of platforms that offer PPC pricing models include Google Ads, software directory listings such as Capterra and GetApp, and websites that review products.
While the definitions of PPC and CPC (cost per click) are similar, in general, the term “PPC” is more commonly used in the context of search engine advertising and directory listings, while CPC is more commonly used in association with serving ads to a publisher’s website.
A pre-roll ad is an ad which is served prior to a piece of audio or video media starting its playback.
After installing Prebid.js to their website(s), publishers are able to connect to a list of over 150 SSPs (supply-side platforms), which provide access to a wide range of advertising demand sources.
Prebid.org was developed to help publishers manage their connections to SSPs with a minimal amount of code – improving the overall function of header bidding as well as decreasing page load times.
Traditionally, each SSP needed to be connected to on an individual basis, which was a time consuming process for publishers.
A preferred deal is a type of media buying that’s classified as programmatic direct.
Preferred deals go by many alternative names, including “unreserved fixed rate”, “spot buying”, “right of first refusal”, “private access deals”, and “first look deals”.
Preferred deals are among the most flexible and lenient types of digital ad buying arrangements, with neither the publisher or the advertiser being forced to commit their resources upfront to the deal.
Instead, rates and terms that are “preferential” to both parties over conducting media transactions elsewhere are established, creating a private ad buying arrangement that benefits both parties when they choose to make use of it.
More information about preferred deals is available in this guide.
The term “premium inventory” defines a certain type of publisher ad inventory.
Premium inventory is typically classified as the most valuable ad inventory a publisher possesses – for example, a banner ad unit at the header of a website’s home page, or a sidebar banner ad on a website’s most popular blog post.
The term “premium inventory” can also be used to broadly describe any ad inventory which a publisher is able to sell directly to an advertiser, which secures a “premium” rate over selling that ad inventory programmatically.
The counterpart term to premium inventory is “remnant inventory”, which refers to any ad inventory which a publisher is unable to sell to an advertiser directly.
A “price floor” is a minimum bid amount a publisher is willing to accept for their ad inventory.
This amount may also be interpreted as a minimum CPM (cost per mille).
A price floor can be implemented and controlled by a publisher through the settings available on various ad tech platforms.
There are two types of price floors – “hard” price floors, which strictly reject all of the bids below the floor, and “soft” price floors, which allow a certain degree of leniency for accepting bid amounts lower than the floor.
The term “probabilistic matching” refers to the use of data and algorithms to identify the same user across different devices and platforms with a high (but not certain) degree of accuracy (when a match is confirmed, it’s referred to as “deterministic matching”).
In instances where a user can’t be deterministically matched, information such as IP address, geographical location, browsing tendencies, and other data which aligns between devices is used to “probabilistically” associate devices with a given user.
Programmatic advertising is a broad term that refers to the use of software and machines to manage the automated purchasing of digital advertising online.
Programmatic advertising is a complicated and confusing topic in it’s own right, and we’ve focused on it exclusively in this guide to programmatic advertising deals and formats.
Programmatic direct refers to ad transaction methods and/or agreements that originate from one-to-one (or “direct”) negotiations between a publisher and advertiser.
As a term, “programmatic direct” is also used to categorize 2 (and in some cases 3) of the 4 primary types of programmatic deals:
- Preferred deals
- Programmatic guaranteed deals
- PMP (private marketplace) arrangements
Note: PMPs (Private Marketplaces) are often categorized as both Programmatic Direct and RTB, since one-to-one negotiations take place when inviting participants to a PMP. Yes – this is confusing.
The easiest way to remember what programmatic direct means – is that a deal is being manually struck on a one-to-one basis between a publisher and an advertiser.
In other words, a publisher is “directly” inviting an advertiser to purchase their available ad inventory via the functionalities offered by a programmatic platform.
This means that unlike open marketplaces and private marketplaces, which use auctions to sell ad inventory, programmatic direct deals establish fixed prices through one-to-one negotiations, conducted exclusively between a single publisher and a single advertiser.
More information is available in a guide to the different types of programmatic advertising deals.
Programmatic guaranteed is a method of media buying that’s classified as a programmatic direct deal type.
In a programmatic guaranteed arrangement, a publisher and an advertiser negotiate on a one-to-one basis to determine a fixed price for ad inventory.
This method of media buying offers the advantages of automation, while allowing publishers and advertisers to maintain control over the terms and pricing of their deal.
More information about programmatic guaranteed deals is available in this guide.
In ad tech, the term “publisher” refers to an owner (either an organization or an individual) of digital ad space online – typically associated with one or more website domains that they own (though mediums such as software and apps can also be monetized through ads).
Publishers are considered the “suppliers” of ad inventory within the ad tech ecosystem, providing advertisers (the “demand” generators for ad space) with the ability to purchase and display their ads on the publisher’s website or other content mediums.
More information about publishers and their role in ad tech is available in this guide.
In advertising, “rate” refers to the price that an advertiser is being charged in order to have ad inventory filled, based on a deal created with a publisher.
In advertising, “reach” generally refers to the maximum number of people who could potentially be exposed to an ad.
The more loosely defined an audience is, the higher its reach will be – while a more well-defined audience will naturally have a lower reach.
While higher reach is generally favorable to advertisers, the pursuit of gaining more reach is typically sought after by advertisers while maintaining the targeting of an ideal audience.
Remnant inventory is a broad term that simply refers to ad inventory that a publisher was unable to sell via direct deals with advertisers.
Remnant inventory is frequently sold off by using various RTB processes, with the most common outlet being “open exchanges”, “open marketplaces”, or “open auctions” – where the widest range of potential buyers for the available impression can be found.
Typically, publishers prefer to reduce the amount of remnant inventory they possess by selling these impressions through direct deals – which secure far more lucrative CPM rates than those offered by public exchange platforms.
More information about open exchanges and their role in selling remnant inventory is available in this guide.
Reporting can refer to a number of different functions in ad tech.
Generally, reports refer to information about an ad campaign’s performance, such as how many impressions, clicks, and conversions are being generated, as well as the amount spent vs the campaign’s budget.
Ad campaign reports may be accessed by advertisers, publishers, or 3rd parties, depending on which parties are involved in coordinating and optimizing the ad campaign.
It’s also not uncommon for publishers and advertisers to cross-reference reports from one another’s ad tech platforms to verify that the data is accurate.
Additionally, the term “reporting” may be used to refer to the performance of a publisher’s owned properties, such as their ad fill rates, RPM (revenue per mille), and other statistics related to user engagement across their platforms.
Guaranteed or reserved inventory refers to aspects of an advertising deal that are “locked in” when a programmatic advertising deal is struck.
When ad inventory is reserved for a specific advertiser, it’s typically done so through a direct sales process.
This means that when ad inventory is reserved, it’s almost always established at a “fixed price” or “fixed rate”.
As an example of this process, an advertiser may purchase all of a publisher’s ad impressions which occur on blog posts about a specific topic or category.
The number of impressions, duration of the deal, the frequency of ad display, and the placement location of the ads may all be agreed upon in advance (in addition to the CPM).
The specific ad space that relates to this deal on the publisher’s website would then be “reserved” exclusively to ensure the ads in the campaign are shown, based on the deal.
In situations where the number of impressions that were guaranteed aren’t reached, the publisher will typically provide access to further ad inventory to make up the difference.
Retail media advertising is a broad term which refers to techniques used by retail companies to promote the products and services of their brand partners.
An overview of the retail media advertising landscape, as well as statistics surrounding its recent popularity are available in this guide to retail media advertising.
A retail media network or “RMN” is a series of multiple retailers and/or brand marketers which connect to the same ad network - allowing them to act as programmatic supply and demand sources for one another.
More information is available in this guide to retail media platforms.
Retail media platform is a term used to describe the technical components which allow a retailer to service various retail media ad formats on their website.
Some ad formats supported by retail media platforms include featured product sections, limited time deals, and related product sections.
The term “retargeting” refers to a technique used by advertisers to place ads in front of users who have engaged with their product or service in some way – typically through an interaction with their business’s website.
In some cases, this technique is also configured and used on behalf of advertisers by third-party services, such as ad agencies.
Retargeting functions through a process referred to as “cookie matching”, which relies on a cookie file stored locally on a user’s device in order to identify them and their past web activity.
However, this advertising technique will be phased out of ad tech with the end of third-party cookies, as most browsers will no longer support their functionality.
A rich media ad is an ad which includes advanced features to engage users, such as video, audio, and other elements that let users interact with the creative directly.
The purpose of rich media ads is to engage with users more actively than traditional ad mediums such as display ad and text ads.
ROAS (return on ad spend) refers to the amount of monetary revenue which is generated (or “returned”) to a company after running an ad campaign, divided by the amount they spent on running the ad campaign.
For example, if a company generates $30,000 in product sales associated with an ad campaign, and that company spent $5,000 to run the ad campaign, their ROAS would be:
$30,000 ÷ $5,000 = 6
This would be a 6:1 ROAS, or 600% return on ad spend.
ROAS is one of the most important calculations made by businesses that run advertising campaigns, as it provides an indicator as to which channels and techniques are working, and which campaigns require further optimization.
ROE (run on exchange) is a term used to describe a publisher’s ad inventory which is available for purchase on a specific ad exchange.
ROI (return on investment) is a widely used term in business which refers to the amount or effectiveness of a resulting outcome, based on the resources which are allocated (or “invested”) into achieving that outcome.
While commonly used in monetary contexts to measure the effectiveness of an investment by gauging how much revenue was generated (or “returned”), the term ROI can also apply to a diverse range of “inputs vs outputs” – such as an increase in social media engagement after running a campaign, faster website loading times after hiring a website designer, or virtually any other comparison between an invested resource and a returned outcome.
RON (run on network) is an ad targeting method used by advertisers which allows them to run an ad campaign across all of the publisher sources which are part of a specific ad network.
ROS (run on site) is an ad targeting method used by advertisers which allows them to run an ad campaign on a specific list of publisher websites.
RPM (revenue per mille) (also referred to as “revenue per thousand impressions”) is a term used by publishers to calculate the overall monetary value generated for every 1,000 ads they serve through their platforms.
RPM is calculated by dividing total ad revenue by the number of impressions served, and multiplying that number by 1,000.
For example, if an advertiser generates $10,000 in ad revenue in a month, and served 1,000,000 ad impressions that month, their RPM would be:
10,000 ÷ 1,000,000 = 0.01 (cost per impression) x 1,000 = $10 RPM
In other words, every time this website, app, or other content platform were to serve 1,000 ads to visitors, it would generate $10 for the publisher.
RPM formulas can also be applied to specific pages and other parts of a platform in order to measure specific sections of a platform which is monetized through ad serving.
The terms CPM (cost per mille) and eCPM (effective cost per mille) are used by advertising parties – particularly when planning how much it will cost to run an advertising campaign with a publisher.
The official name for RTB (real-time bidding) is “open auction”.
RTB is a bidding model that allows ad inventory to be bought and sold on an impression-by-impression basis by publishers and advertisers.
While RTB is a form of programmatic advertising, not all programmatic advertising methods use the RTB auctioning model.
Introduced in 2009, RTB is the oldest and most popular programmatic ad auctioning method.
More information is available in this guide that describes how the RTB process works in digital advertising.
SaaS (software as a service) is a term used to describe a program or utility which is typically provided through a monthly subscription-based pricing model.
By definition, a SaaS product is a software application run from somewhere off-premises, meaning that the technology used to power the product is hosted in a different physical location than the location it’s being accessed from.
SaaS products are almost exclusively hosted using cloud technology, meaning that the entirety of their services and data storage are facilitated through a series of interconnected web servers which keep the service online.
Second-party data refers to “someone else’s” first-party data, which is given or sold to another party to be used for their initiatives.
In the context of advertising and ad tech, publishers and services like DMPs (data-management platforms) may sell their first-party data to advertisers in situations where the advertiser’s own first-party data is not enough to define their target audience.
Second-party data differs from third-party data in that second-party data is originally collected in its entirety from a single first-party source, while third-party data can be a compilation of multiple third-party sources.
A second-price auction is a model in which the winner of an auction process is only required to pay 1 cent more than the next highest bid that was competing with the winning bid.
This differs from a first-price auction arrangement, in which the winner of the auction is required to pay the full amount of their bid when the process concludes.
Self-serve advertising refers to the ability for an advertiser to book and place ads on a publisher’s website, app, or other owned channel, without the need to interact or negotiate with sales personnel.
Self-serve marketplaces are typically offered as website “portals”, or pages on a publisher’s website through which advertisers can submit their advertising requirements via a form submission, while attaching the ad creatives to be included in the ad campaign.
In a sense, self-serve advertising is a method of automating the traditional IO (insertion order) and ad trafficking processes which traditionally needed to be coordinated manually between publishers and advertisers.
Sellers.json is a file which is used by SSPs (supply-side platforms) in order to list which publishers are connected to the platform and enabled to sell ad inventory by using it.
Sellers.json contains the seller ID and other various details about the publisher organizations and/or individuals which are connected to the SSP.
This allows advertisers or intermediaries buying media on behalf of another party to verify which publisher sources they may potentially be making programmatic media buys from when connecting to the SSP.
When reviewing advertising analytics in a web platform, a “session” refers to the entire duration of a user’s visit to a website.
This differs from a single page view, which only provides data about interactions that were made on a specific page of a website.
Reviewing session data can be an effective way for publishers to calculate their overall RPM (revenue per mille), as it better reflects the full scope of actions that users may have taken during their time spent on a website.
A social ad simply refers to an ad that’s displayed on social media.
Other types of advertising formats are commonly used in conjunction with social media platforms to create effective social media ad campaigns.
A soft floor price is a guideline for the minimum bid amount that a publisher will accept for their ad inventory.
Unlike hard price floors which don’t allow for any leniency in accepting lower bid amounts, when a bid is submitted by an advertiser which falls below a soft price floor, that bid may be accepted in situations where the bid is only slightly lower than the price floor, or in some situations where rejecting the bid would result in no yield for the publisher’s inventory.
A sponsored listing ad (also sometimes referred to as a “promoted listing ad”) is a type of ad primarily used within the context of eCommerce.
Sponsored listings are used to promote the products of vendors through search results, blogs, emails, in-app notifications, and other mediums which are owned and operated by e-retailer (and similar) platforms.
Many websites implement sponsored listings, including eCommerce multi-brand retailers (ex. Amazon, Walmart), online marketplaces (ex. eBay, Etsy), business discovery directories (ex. Yelp, Expedia) and other platforms that use listings (ex. Pinterest, Ticketmaster).
SSAI (server-side ad insertion) refers to a method of ad delivery that doesn't rely on the use of ad tags to display ads to web property visitors and mobile app users.
The technique involves conducting the ad call (or ad "request") outside of the web client via backend infrastructure, which avoids the traditional necessity of having an ad tag placed on the page itself (which is often referred to as “client-side” ad serving).
SSAI is commonly used for the fulfillment of direct deals, rather than for programmatic ad sales - though a similar (but different) technique known as S2S header bidding can enable a similar functionality for programmatic inventory.
SSAI is also predominantly popular in the use of video ad serving.
An SSP (supply-side platform) is a software system used by publishers to manage the ad inventory, and to sell that inventory automatically through programmatic advertising.
SSPs are typically offered as SaaS (software as a service) products that are accessed through a monthly fee and/or in exchange for a portion of the ad revenue generated from the publisher’s sales.
In modern ad tech, most major SSP service providers include an ad exchange component within their platform’s service offerings, which has led to the terms “SSP” and “ad exchange” being frequently used interchangeably in conversation.
More information about the components of SSPs, how they work, and their role in ad tech is available in the dedicated post, “What is an SSP?”.
S2S (server-to-server) refers to a situation in which a publisher’s first-party ad server and a advertiser’s third-party ad server communicate information directly with one another without an intermediaries.
S2S is also used to describe a particular header bidding configuration known as “S2S header bidding” or “server-side” header bidding.
In an S2S header bidding configuration, a user’s web browser connects directly with a single header bidding server that manages all of the connections a publisher has established with their SSPs (supply-side platforms).
This differs from “client-side” or “browser-side” header bidding, in which the connections to a publisher’s SSPs and other demand partners are managed through code which is placed directly in a web page’s HTML.
In online advertising, a “supply source” refers to a publisher that owns and is able to provide the digital real-estate (often in the form of a website, app, or other piece of media) necessary for serving and displaying ads to visiting users.
In essence, publishers are the “suppliers” of digital ad space (also referred to as “ad inventory”) online.
Supply sources may include arrangements that are negotiated directly with publishers, connections to SSPs (supply-side platforms) that publishers use to manage and sell their inventory, or ad networks which bundle and sell ad space through traditional sales methods.
The definition of the term “tag” differs in advertising from its use in coding.
In advertising, a “tag” is used to define a typically short “snippet” or “block” of code which is placed on a website, providing some sort of functionality, often in relation to a part of a broader system, software, or set of functionalities with which the tag is associated.
In the context of ad tech, tags are sometimes used by publishers to deploy certain functionalities to their websites – such as the functionalities of ad tech tools including ad servers, SSPs (supply-side platforms), and DMPs (data management platforms), among others.
A “tag container” is a section of code which contains multiple tags (or short “snippets” or “blocks” of code) within it.
Tag containers are used to organize tags on a website, and can be managed by using a tag management system.
Text ads are ads which, as the name implies, only feature the use of text, without accompanying visual elements such as images or videos.
In most cases, the term “text ads” refers to a specific type of ads offered by Google Ads, which appear prominently in SERPs (search engine result pages) amongst the other results which are returned for a user’s search query made through Google’s search engine.
In ad tech, the term “third party” is used to describe any and all platforms that are used by the advertiser’s “side” of the ad tech ecosystem.
For example, in a situation where an ad server is being used by an advertiser to store ad creatives and optimize their ad campaigns, that ad server would be referred to as a “third party” ad server.
Publishers have always been considered the “first party” in ad tech, because they have direct ownership over the websites and ad space that advertisers seek to purchase.
When advertisers purchase media from a publisher, the publisher is considered to be making an interaction with a “third party” in relation to the website (or other advertising medium) and business.
Third-party data is information about users that is provided by external businesses to the company that’s interested in targeting a certain audience demographic with their ads.
In ad tech, one of the most common sources for third-party data are DMPs (data management platforms), which function by adding additional known information about users into ad tags during the ad serving process.
However, this approach to leveraging user data will be phased out of ad tech with the end of third-party cookies, as most browsers will no longer support their functionality.
Most DMPs are either rebranding to CDPs or adding new features to their service offerings in preparation for this change in the industry.
Third-party data differs from second-party data in that third-party data can be amalgamated from many different sources, while second-party data is originally accrued from a single, first-party source.
A TMS (tag management system) is a piece of software used by publishers in order to manage the tags they deploy to their websites.
Publishers are able to add, remove, or edit existing tags from the interface of a TMS, and are also able to configure the conditions under which certain tags will “fire” or activate.
UA (user acquisition) refers to the process of gaining new users for a piece of software, an app, or another provided service.
UA strategies are often associated with CPI (cost per install) compensation models, in which advertisers focus their budgets towards having users install and use their product or service.
For many companies, evaluating the cost of UA is an important aspect of optimizing ad campaign performance to receive a better ROI (return on investment) and/or ROAS (return on ad spend).
Unreserved or “non-guaranteed” inventory, in contrast to guaranteed inventory, refers to any ad inventory which isn’t exclusively being reserved or “set aside” for a specific advertiser.
Naturally, when inventory is unreserved, no expectations exist surrounding a minimum number impressions to be received by an advertiser, because no deals or arrangements exist for the inventory in question.
Unreserved inventory is also sometimes used interchangeably with the terms “non-premium” or “remnant inventory”, implying that certain ad impressions weren’t able to be sold through a publisher’s programmatic direct deal channels.
In the context of ad tech, a user (also commonly referred to as a “visitor”) is simply an individual who opens a website, app, or other property owned by a publisher.
Users are people who see the ads which are served to a platform owned by a publisher – generating impressions, clicks, as well as conversions when engaging with the landing pages associated with the ads.
User data refers to information which is stored about an individual who has engaged with one or more of a publisher’s owned properties – or has been collected, sold, or otherwise exchanged between one or more organizations.
There are several categorizations of user data, including behavioral and demographic, which are used in different ways by advertisers to target their ad campaigns towards certain users that match certain criteria.
A “user profile” is the term used to describe a set of information which is known about a specific individual online, which is stored and referenced by a variety of AdTech and MarTech platforms.
User profiles may include details about an individual’s behaviors, demographic information, device usage and IDs, offline data onboarded to an online profile, and other information stored in cookies.
In ad tech, a UUID (unique user identifier) is a set of data stored in a cookie, which is used to identify a user and track their actions across various platforms.
UUID can serve as an alternative or complementary method to using PII (personally identifiable information) to identify users across various platforms and devices that they use.
Developed by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) is a standardized set of specifications that define the requirements for serving ads to video playback sources online.
These video specifications are delivered in the form of a script which allows video players to interpret information about the ad being served.
All video ads must adhere to the guidelines in VAST, due to the wide set of parameters that must be in alignment between all of the ad tech platforms involved in the process.
More information about the VAST ad serving process is available in this guide to video advertising and VAST.
Outside of the context of ad serving, “inline code” refers to code which is added to a program.
In the context of video ad serving, the “inline response” refers to the step of the VAST ad serving process in which the ad creative’s media file as well as tracking URLs are delivered “inside” the code of the video player.
More information about the VAST ad serving process is available in this guide to video advertising and VAST.
A VAST redirect is sometimes part of the process of serving a VAST ad. Rather than returning an inline response directly from a publisher’s ad server, a VAST redirect returns a VAST wrapper to the video player, which contains further instructions for following through with the ad request.
More information about the VAST ad serving process is available in this guide to video advertising and VAST.
A VAST wrapper is a piece of code that “wraps around” a video ad being served. It contains instructions about how the ad should be served, and how details surrounding the ad’s performance should be tracked.
VAST wrappers are typically returned after an ad request is made - and more than one VAST wrapper can be present around a single video ad (for example, in instances where multiple parties each have their own tracking pixel to monitor the ad’s performance, when header bidding is implemented, etc.).
The term vCPM (cost per mille viewable impressions) takes the concept of CPM (cost per mille) a step further by only calculating the price of every 1,000 impressions which are considered to be “actually seen” by a user.
The MRC (Media Rating Council) defines a “viewable” or “viewed” ad as an ad that has had at least 50% of its pixels appear within a user’s field of view for at least 1 second, or 2 seconds for video ads.
A video ad is a type of ad that is served and played within a video player online.
There are many different ways to serve video ads, including: in-stream ads (which “appear” or “pop up” within the video’s playback itself), out-stream ads (which are embedded and played alongside content such as blogs and website pages), and in-display ads (which are thumbnail ads appearing in the sidebar of video playback websites like YouTube).
In-stream video ads may also be served as pre-roll (ads that are played before a video begins playing) mid-roll (ads that are played by interrupting the video playback) or post-roll (ads that are played after a video has finished playing) ads.
Some video ads may also be set as skippable, allowing users to skip them after a certain amount of time has passed.
In advertising, viewability refers to whether or not a human actually saw an ad that was served.
In other words, just because an ad is served to a device doesn’t necessarily mean that a human looked at it.
The MRC (Media Rating Council) defines a “viewable” or “viewed” ad as an ad that has had at least 50% of its pixels appear within a user’s field of view for at least 1 second, or 2 seconds for video ads.
VMAP (Video Multiple Ad Playlist) is a specification developed by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) which allows individuals who create videos to describe the structure of their video content as it relates to serving ads.
As a tool, VMAP allows video creators to specify details about ads in their videos, such as where ads should play, and the criteria surrounding which ads can be served.
VMAP is specifically used in instances where video creators may not necessarily own the video playback platform upon which their videos will be played, such as on YouTube.
The term vMVPD (Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributor) refers to a method of serving traditional television programming over the internet instead of via cable from a television broadcast station.
As a video streaming format, vMVPD is sometimes described as a “classic linear viewing” broadcast, meaning that it follows the programming schedule of traditional television.
VPAID (Video Player Ad Interface Definition) is a script that allows video players and ads served within those video players to interact with one another.
This allows interactive ads to be served within the video player.
Similar to VAST (Video Ad Serving Template), VPAID provides a set of instructions to video players about which ads to play, as well as details about creatives, such as how long the ad is and when it should play.
VPAID is considered more flexible than VAST (which used more prominently for “vanilla” ad serving) in that it allows video players to accept a wider range of ad types, in addition to providing ways to measure user engagement that’s made with interactive rich media ads.
VPAID is also considered a more valuable format for publishers to adopt, as it allows advertisers to make use of programmatic advertising techniques within video contexts.
For example, an advertiser running an ad campaign could create variations of the same video ad – and through VPAID, those ad variations could be served to users based on details like their geographical location, device being used, or other known user data.
VTA (view-through attribution) also commonly referred to as “impression tracking” is a technique used to associate a specific conversion (for example, installing a piece of software) with a served ad impression.
Served ads aren’t always clicked on by people that view them – but this doesn’t mean that the ad doesn’t influence their behavior.
VTA allows an advertiser to create an association between the ad impressions they’re serving and the valuable actions which are being taken within their ad campaigns.
As a technique, VTA relies heavily on third-party cookies, meaning that alternate methods will need to be explored to accomplish this functionality in the future when third-party cookies stop working.
In ad tech, the term “waterfalling” (also sometimes referred to as “daisy chaining”) was a technique which was popular amongst advertisers for selling their remnant inventory.
Waterfalling allowed publishers to connect to multiple advertising demand-sources, such as DSPs (demand-side platforms) and ad exchanges one by one in order to secure bids for their ad inventory which were above their set floor price.
However, the technique was considered somewhat suboptimal from a yield optimization perspective, and has since been replaced by a more modern technique known as header bidding – which serves a similar purpose in a more efficient way.
More information is available in a post that covers the differences between header bidding and waterfalling.
As an additional note, the term “daisy chaining”, while originally used in part to describe waterfalling, is still sometimes used when referring to a transfer of data between one or more platforms in ad tech.
A web server is a combination of hardware and software, which together enable HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) requests to be received from web browsers and other web agents, such as web crawlers.
In the context of digital advertising, web servers are the first part of the ad serving process – allowing web pages to be served to users in their web browsers.
Ad tags are one of many components which are loaded along with the web page which is served to a user.
The ad tag then sends an ad call (or “ad request”) to the website owner’s (or “publisher’s”) ad server to continue the ad serving process – eventually leading to an ad being displayed on the web page the user is visiting.
A whitelist is a designated set of publisher sources that an advertiser has specified as being safe to serve ads to.
Whitelists can be used in conjunction with blacklists to allow advertisers to specify a range of publisher’s that they’d like to work with, and a list that they’d like to avoid.
In advertising, the term “win rate” refers to the number of ad impressions an advertiser won against the number of ad impressions won.
Win rate is a percentage-based metric which can be calculated by dividing the total number of impressions won by the number of impressions bid on over the course of an ad campaign.
As a tool for optimizing campaign performance, win rates are often a good indicator of how effective an advertiser’s bidding strategy is for a given ad campaign.
A “wrapper” is a coding term used to define a block of code that encapsulates (or “wraps around”) another block of code in order to either convert data into a unified format or structure, or in order to create a simplified “surface layer” of code with which to work with.
In the context of ad tech, wrappers are sometimes used by publishers to deploy certain functionalities to their websites – such as header bidding configurations and tracking codes, among others.
In ad tech, “yield” refers to the amount of revenue a publisher or advertiser is able to generate – or in other words, the amount of value they’re able to extract from their ad serving efforts.
In ad tech, “yield optimization” refers to efforts taken by publishers and advertisers to generate more revenue – or in other words, to increase the amount of value they’re able to extract from their ad serving efforts.
Publisher yield rates can be influenced through mechanisms such as adjusting price floors, increasing the overall value of their ad inventory, and diversifying the advertising demand sources they connect to.
Advertising yield rates can be improved through actions such as accurately defining target audiences, developing effective bidding strategies, and diversifying the supply sources they connect to.
Many ad tech platforms and services online offer dedicated solutions that seek to identify and capitalize on yield optimization opportunities for publishers and advertisers.
Have questions about the terms in the glossary or ad tech in general?
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