Ad Tech: Are We Speaking the Same Language?

Key Digital Advertising Terms

The ad tech ecosystem is riddled with acronyms, jargon, and similar terms that mean a lot of different things. So it is no surprise that the IAB has released a lexicon guide on digital advertising terminology. The standardization of digital advertising language will help improve the creation of digital campaigns across all platforms because you are required to learn a new language with each new platform.

Before we get to standardization, let’s cover key digital advertising terms that have similar names but sometimes don’t mean the same thing:

Pixels / Tags

When referring to tracking tools for most digital advertising applications, pixels and tags say the same thing and can be used synonymously. In digital advertising, a pixel/tag is often used to attach code to an ad or website to use for tracking, attribution, reporting, data collection, etc. The part where tags / pixels can become confusing is when these tools are used in the execution of digital advertising. Conversion pixels and tracking pixels mean entirely different things than ad tags.

CPM/Ad Placement Cost

In the programmatic buying environment, all media is bought on a cost per thousand (CPM) basis. However, there still seems to be other terms like ad placement cost popping up to describe this cost. CPM, cost per mille, is a pricing method, which calculates the cost based on the number of impressions (per 1000).

Unique-User/Device ID

Digital advertising on mobile devices has opened up some new technology and targeting strategies for marketers. Unique-User and Device ID are an identifier assigned to a device or user that lasts until the device is reset or the account is deleted. For example, Google and Apple create advertising-specific device IDs for phones and tablets running Android and iOS, respectively. Facebook has unique-user IDs tied to each account on the social network.

Ad Slot/Placement

Ad slot and placement are generic terms meaning some combination of an ad and the place it is served. It can just mean all of one Ad Size for example or all ads on a homepage, or it could mean all ads on a section of a website, or even just a single ad on a single page of a website.

Audience Extension/Behavioral Targeting

Audience Extension and Behavioral Targeting can sometimes mean the same things but most times they are referring to different digital marketing strategies. Behavioral Targeting is a digital advertising strategy that shows ads to people based on their online or offline activity. For example, targeting people who are interested in sports. Audience Extension is a type of Behavioral Targeting, which is sometimes called “look-alike modeling” is the process that takes a known audience segment and catalogs various shared characteristics that can be used to target people who bear similarities and are therefore likely to become customers.


Many marketing pundits view cross-channel marketing as a way to progress from multichannel to omnichannel practices. At its core, omnichannel is defined as a multichannel approach that provides the customer with an integrated shopping experience. The customer can be shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, or by telephone, or in a bricks and mortar store and the experience would be seamless. Where as cross-channel marketing is the application of reaching your customers through digital channels, which can bring an omnichannel focus into view.


Retargeting and Remarketing are two terms that mistakenly get used interchangeably. Retargeting is most often used to describe online ad placements and display ads, served based on a user’s activity on your site. A user comes to your site; a cookie’s set and you can now target ads to them on other sites they visit. Hence, the term is retargeting. On the other hand, remarketing is typically the term used to describe re-engaging customers with email. Remarketing is used to describe shopping cart abandonment email campaigns and lifecycle marketing emails.

ROC (Run-of-channel)/RON (Run-of-network)/ROS (Run-of-site)

Since the fruition of digital advertising marketers have looked for ways to capture the attention of their target audience. ROC, RON, and ROS are all a variation of display advertising capabilities ROC (Run-of-channel) is a type of online ad buying campaign where the banner or video advertisement will appear on any channel of a given publisher’s site. RON (Run-of-network) is a type of online ad buying campaign where the banner or video advertisement will appear on all of the participating sites in a network where the purchased ad product exists. ROS (Run-of-site) is a type of online ad buying campaign where the banner or video advertisement will appear anywhere on a site where the purchased ad product exists.

It seems that with the growth of digital advertising there is a need for a common language and framework to understand the space as well as continue the upward trajectory.

About the author: Sidney R

Sidney is an editor and copywriter for Top Online Store Builders, covering topics ranging from starting an online store from scratch to all aspects of ecommerce marketing and cyber-security. When not writing, Sidney can be found hiking, traveling or surfing.

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