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23 digital advertising acronyms and terms you need to know in 2019

Guest Author

Like it or not, the digital advertising industry runs on a system of acronyms, jargon, and shorthand terms you’ll need to command a deep knowledge of in order to thrive—both at your own company and when working with clients.

Originally brought on to usher in faster and more efficient communication, many of these acronyms are beginning to dominate the conversation.

If you’re not careful, a lack of awareness when it comes to the key terms in your industry can lead to pitfalls such as an embarrassing lack of comprehension when your boss is talking about something important, to reporting on the wrong metrics, or fumbling on a critical question from a client—all of which are positions you won’t want to find yourself in.

In digital advertising, to stay ahead of the curve, it’s your responsibility to educate yourself and stay up-to-speed on industry happenings. To help with that, we’ve compiled this ultimate jargon-buster list, which breaks down clear definitions and simple use cases for the most essential acronyms you’ll need the most.


Audience Reach: The percentage of audience targets reached through digital programs (e.g., websites, publishers, networks).

Audience Segmentation: The process of dividing your target audience by defined attributes such as demographics, purchase intent, interests, geography, past purchases, and other behaviors that indicate a likelihood for customer conversion.

Behavioral Targeting: Ads shown based on a consumer’s online browsing behavior. When collecting relevant consumer data on your website visitors, you can segment those visitors and later show them advertisements for products they viewed, links they clicked, and so on.

Conversion: The point at which a recipient of a marketing message performs a desired action.

Cookie: A small piece of data sent from a website to a web browser to anonymously capture a user’s browsing behaviors and preferences.

Cost per Acquisition (CPA): A method of advertising whereby the advertiser only pays when an ad delivers a conversion.

Cost per Click (CPC): The amount spent on online media divided by the number of clicks.

Cost per Lead (CPL): An advertiser pays for an explicit sign-up from a consumer interested in the advertiser’s offer.

Cost per Mille (CPM): A commonly used measurement showing that advertising can be purchased on the basis of showing the ad to 1,000 viewers.

Data-Driven Marketing (DDM): Using data from any source to make better decisions on who, where, when, and how to market.

Frequency: The average number of times an individual gets served an online advertising message during a defined period of time.

Impression: The presentation of an online ad to a consumer.

MarTech: The software that allows marketers to create, run, and manage online marketing campaigns and conduct onsite marketing—e.g., email marketing, social media management, A/B testing, personalization, user-feedback surveys, web analytics, etc. It represents use of 1st party data/consent/personally identifiable information (PII) to inform customer journeys.

AdTech: Technology designed to help advertisers and ad agencies create, run, measure, and manage online advertising campaigns across a number of websites or apps. It allows publishers (websites and apps) to sell their available ad space, also known as inventory, to a large number of advertisers. It represents the use of 3rd party data/external platforms to reach customers.

Native Advertising: The use of paid ads that match the look, feel, and function of the media format in which they appear. Native ads are often found in social media feeds or as recommended content on a web page. Unlike display ads or banner ads, native ads don’t really look like ads.

Pixel: A small piece of code that is placed on a web page to anonymously capture internet behavior and interest data.

Programmatic Advertising: A type of advertising that helps automate and optimize media-buying decision making by targeting particular audiences and demographics.

Retargeting: A form of online targeting advertising served to people who have already visited a website or who are contacts in one’s database (e.g., leads or customers).

Retention: The ability to keep customers satisfied to increase the likelihood that they’ll make another purchase (upsell or renew).

ROAS (Return on Ad Spend): A metric calculated by dividing the revenue generated from an ad campaign by the cost of that campaign.

Return on Investment (ROI): The return on a marketing investment, such as sales lift or a direct sale.

Revenue Per Mille (RPM): Measures the revenue from 1,000 ad impressions. While CPM is normally measured by advertisers, RPM is monitored by publishers. 

Segment: A grouping of consumer profiles on attributes. Categories range anywhere from very broad with a single attribute like “male” or “female” to very specific like “millennial female business traveler,” with multiple attributes.


While this handful of digital advertising terms and acronyms hardly scratches the surface of all that’s out there, having a firm grasp of these essentials will serve you well in both becoming a more effective marketer today and in advancing your career tomorrow.


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Ryan Robinson is a digital marketer, blogger, and podcaster who has worked with Fortune 500 brands such as Google, LinkedIn, and Adobe. He also teaches more than 400,000 monthly readers how to start a blog and become more effective marketers.






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Comments ( 2 )
  • Perry J Gibson Sr Friday, July 26, 2019
    I discovered Ryan's Blog online last night (7/25/2019) and it is like finding a gold mine in a swamp. I Thank God for allowing me to find this great treasure, and I thank you Ryan for giving us access to so much valuable information.
  • Greg Post Thursday, October 17, 2019
    Wow ! What a great list ~ Thanks !
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