The world of adtech: a glossary of terms

Every industry develops its own language, but few have developed such a dense array of abbreviations, initialisms and acronyms in such a short space of time as adtech. For our own benefit as much as anyone else’s, we’ve drawn up a glossary of some of the most commonly-used terms to help out.

Ad Exchange

An online platform where advertisers can buy and sell ad inventory - often in auction format, which determines pricing.

Ad Fraud

The practice of willingly serving ads that will not be seen by real people (such as using bots to refresh a site’s pages), falsely driving “views” and making the site seem more attractive to advertisers.

Ad Network

A firm that works alongside both publishers and advertisers to enable them to buy and sell ads online.

Ad Server

Technology that serves creative to a website, and can also be used to decide which ads to actually serve. Many ad servers also have reporting and analytics functionality.


The means of determining which ad was behind an acquisition or conversion. Most popularly, last view/last click is used as an attribution model, but other models (such as time delay modelling, which argues that the touch points closest - in time terms - to the conversion have more influence on the customer decision than others) are coming into play as technology becomes more advanced.

Audience Extension

This process analyses a known audience segment to find shared characteristics. A brand can then use these to target other people who could potentially become customers.

Behavioral Targeting

Here, people are shown ads based on the types of site they generally visit. As an example, those who visit the BBC Sport page and the London edition of Time Out could be targeted with ads for London-based sports teams.

CDN (Content Delivery Network)

A network that delivers static content, which can include flash files or creative image files. Content is often delivered quickly, as CDN providers generally have servers across the globe.

Contextual Data

Data that establishes the context of a webpage’s contents, to target ads accordingly. If a user is reading an article about summer holidays, a travel firm may want to display on that page.


A user performing a desired action (such as signing up or making a purchase) in response to an ad.

Conversion Funnel

A user’s path from seeing an ad to taking a desired action (see Conversion).

CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)

The average amount paid for each new customer gained through an ad campaign.

CPC (Cost Per Click)

The average amount paid every time a user clicks on an ad in an ad campaign.

CPE (Cost Per Engagement)

The average amount paid for each customer interaction with a specific ad campaign: this interaction could be a like, a share, an impression a click or any other defined action.

CPI (Cost Per Impression)

The average amount paid for every time an ad is served for an ad campaign.

CPL (Cost Per Lead)

The average amount paid for every new contact gained from an ad campaign.

CPM (Cost Per Mille)

The price paid for every 1,000 times an ad is served. This is the standard pricing model used for ad impressions.

CPS (Cost Per Second)

The price paid for each second a given ad is in view on the user’s screen; this model is beginning to gain favor, as time spent with an ad can be a better proxy for attention.

CTR (Click-Through Rate)

In a specific ad campaign, the number of clicks divided by the total number of impressions that have been served.

DMP (Data Management Platform)

A company that acts as a data warehouse, allowing you to store, manage, catalogue and sometimes also export marketer data.

Deal ID

Code that contains terms that have been agreed between an advertiser and a publisher (such as negotiated pricing), allowing the advertiser access to the publisher’s inventory.


An automated process whereby an ad platform, ad server or exchange decides how, where and to whom to serve an ad.

Demand-Side Platform (DSP)

An interface that offers media buyers the opportunity to buy ad placements from various publishers, networks, platforms and exchanges - normally via real-time auction bidding.

Display Advertising

Display advertising (as opposed to search advertising) is image-based. Such ads are often known as ‘banners’ and come in a range of standardised sizes. They can include images, logos, text or rich media.

Dynamic Creative

Creative that consists of multiple versions, where different versions are shown to different customers. The most appropriate creative for each user is chosen (such as showing sunglasses to those living in sunny climates and umbrellas to those living in rainy climates). The decision as to which creative to show could be based on anything from recency and frequency to audience segmentation.

Engagement Metrics

Metrics that measure how engaged users are with the ads that they are served, used to gauge advertising effectiveness. Metrics can include factors such as clicks on an ad, whether an entire video ad has been watched, if a user has hovered over a creative with their mouse and more.

First-Party Data

Data that a company has collected itself, for example, a list of loyalty card holders that a coffee shop owns.


The lifetime of an ad campaign, from start to end. An active campaign is described as ‘in flight’ - campaigns that run indefinitely will have no flight dates.


Displaying ads to users based on their location. This location could be determined by their mobile device, GPS coordinates that are collected by the site/service, or postcode information submitted when registering with a site or service.


The matching of data sets from two different companies, without either party gaining access to the other’s data. For example, Facebook’s ad-targeting tool - Facebook Custom Audiences - uses hashing to match up customer email lists from advertisers with the Facebook accounts that those customers own.


An ad that is delivered within a piece of content, such as a promoted tweet that appears in a user’s Twitter feed or an ad served before a YouTube video begins.

Interstitial Ad

An ad that is displayed over or between the content of a page while a user is navigating. After clicking away from one page, the ad is displayed across the entire browser window before the target page is displayed.


Ad inventory is sold by publishers, consisting of open digital spaces where advertisers can serve and display ads.

Lookalike Modelling

See Audience Extension.

Native Advertising

A form of advertising whereby the ad experience is built into the actual design of the experience of where it is displayed: ads that blend into their surroundings. Often used in the context of sponsored articles appearing alongside editorial content, similar to print advertorials

Programmatic Buying

An automated means of buying ads: while manual buys involve contact with a sales team, programmatic buying allows campaigns to be set up via an RTB exchange (see below) or other automated system.

Programmatic Direct

An ad deal conducted between an advertiser and a publisher, completely via automated ad purchase systems.

Programmatic Guaranteed

An ad deal under which an advertiser is given access by a publisher to a specific audience at an agreed price under which the advertiser agrees to commit to take the agreed inventory.

Programmatic Reserved

Also known as Programmatic Premium. An automated ad buy, open only to a specified group of advertisers.

Programmatic Non-Reserved

A standard automated ad buy: an open auction where ad space that is available can be purchased by anyone.


The number of unique users that can be reached via an online advertising campaign.

Real-Time Bidding (RTB)

A marketplace for buying and selling ads on a per-impression basis via computer-run instantaneous auctions.


Serving an ad to a user who visited your site, while they are using another site. For example, a user may look at a handbag for sale on your website, and be served an ad for that same handbag when they later visit a news site.

Second-Party Data

First-party data that a company makes directly available to another company, who then use that data to sell ads.

Semantic Targeting

See Contextual Data.

Supply-Side Platform (SSP)

An ad-tech firm (such as Pubmatic or Rubicon Project) that works directly with publishers, allowing them to sell their available ad space for the highest amount possible.

Tracking Pixel

A small bit of code added to a web page, usually consisting of a single pixel, enabling companies to note when a desired action, or conversion, has been taken by a given user.

Third-Party Data

Data collected indirectly - such as via cookies - by a company, or that is aggregated by others and sold or licensed to advertisers for targeting purposes.

Unique User/Device ID

An ID that is assigned to an individual user or device, which remains in force as long as the account is active or until the device is reset. Apple, for example, has device IDs for its iOS phones and tablets, specifically for advertising purposes.


Ensuring that at least half of an ad was shown on the screen of a device for at least two seconds - this is a measure that is becoming more of an industry standard of an impression.

View-Through Rate (VTR)

The number of people who saw an ad, and subsequently visited the advertiser’s website. This visit does not need to be instant - it can happen days (or longer) down the line, and would still count towards the VTR.

Find out more about what we do by visiting our website.