What 12 Of The Ad Industry's Hottest Buzzwords Actually Mean (For Those Too Afraid To Ask)


This post about the current and future state of the digital advertising industry is sponsored by Sociomantic.

Anyone starting a career in the advertising industry is presented with a digital advertising ecosystem with numerous intricacies and a befuddling number of buzzwords and acronyms.

What is the difference between native advertising and sponsored content? Or programmatic buying and real-time bidding?

We want to put you on the path of advertising jargon mindfulness. Below, you’ll find easy-to-read descriptions of some of the industry’s hottest buzzwords, the phrases you’ve heard a bunch of times but maybe don’t quite totally understand.

Native Advertising: “Native” advertising is all the rage these days, but lots of times people don’t define it properly. Technically, a native ad is any paid media placement that is customised and can only be used by the company that is selling it. This frequently looks like a blogpost a company paid for, like this Buzzfeed list from Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Facebook and Twitter sell more sophisticated versions — ads with those companies can only be seen on Facebook and Twitter, in the formats unique to Facebook and Twitter. Oftentimes when people say “native advertising,” what they really mean is “sponsored content,” a piece of editorial content (like that Buzzfeed post mentioned a moment ago) paid for by an advertiser. Don’t let these people fool you! Native advertising comes in all shapes and sizes, from when Twitter promotes a sponsored hashtag into your trending topics to when the video game you’re playing includes a billboard for Mountain Dew.

Creative: “Creative” is the Swiss Army Knife of a marketer’s vocabulary. It can be used either as an adjective the way a layman would use it (i.e. “that was a really creative way of communicating your idea”), or as a noun to describe either a piece of advertising content or the people who produce advertising content. In a sentence, the word could be used thusly: “The creatives came up with a really creative piece of creative that was so good, it was featured on the industry showcase website Creativity.”

Media Agnostic: With the advent of the internet has come an explosion of new media platforms and places brands can reach their consumers. “Media agnostic” is the philosophy that marketers should not hire advertising agencies with the intent of creating a “television campaign” but instead with the idea of crafting a message that appeals to the consumers the brand is trying to reach and deploying that message on whichever channels the consumer is most likely to find it — regardless of whether that channel is an old one like a magazine or a new one like Snapchat. See also: “Omni-channel.”

Deep Linking: Deep linking occurs any time someone posts a hyperlink to a specific indexed web page rather than a general home page (i.e. making a link to this specific article rather than BusinessInsider.com). But when people use the phrase in advertising, they’re talking about the ability to link users from the web to a specific place inside a mobile app. Though marketers are still learning how to use deep linking into mobile apps, the tactic is thought to hold major potential for brands and developers. That’s because it allows, for example, users with a department store’s app to click a Google search ad for a pair of boots and then be sent directly to the page within the app where they could purchase the boots. For more information, Google has a nice, short video explainer of deep linking here.

Programmatic Buying: This term refers to any digital advertising spots that are purchased using computer automation, as opposed to having a publisher’s salesperson meet with an ad buyer to discuss which inventory the buyer wanted to purchase and at what price. The most talked-about form of programmatic buying is real-time bidding, through which a number of ad buyers use automated programs running pre-set algorithms to bid on an advertising slot as the consumer is loading the desired webpage. However, programmatic also includes things like programmatic direct buying, in which buyers tap into a publisher’s software to purchase a clearly defined, pre-set selection of advertising inventory at a price set by the publisher.

Engagement: A catch-all term for when consumers interact with a brand or its advertising on social media. Though marketers often spend a great deal of time pursuing and quantifying the “engagements” they receive, oftentimes these interactions can be completely meaningless (a Facebook “like” from someone who will never buy your product) or actively negative (someone sarcastically retweeting a dopey branded tweet for the sole purpose of making fun of it).

Viewability: Viewability refers to the concept of whether or not an advertisement that someone paid for was actually seen by a real, live human being. As of now, nearly half of all online ads are not in a place where users will see them, oftentimes because they are placed way down the web page where users will have to scroll to see them. While there remain discrepancies in how different ad delivery services determine whether a space is viewable, Google announced in December that it would start allowing buyers to limit their automated purchases to inventory it certified as viewable.

Big data: A vague allusion to the fact that the internet allows marketers to collect a lot more information about consumers than they used to be able to. The phrase is mostly used by people writing about online advertising as a general preface to the idea that the industry should be implementing more technology and/or spending more of its advertising budgets on the internet.

Click Fraud: This occurs either when a group of computers are programmed to click on a certain webpage or an actual human being is paid to do the same, in order to give the appearance that more people are seeing the advertisements on that page than there actually are. This enriches publishers and the companies they pay to help refer traffic to them at the expense of brands who are unwittingly paying to have their ads seen by robots or distressed sweatshop workers in third-world countries.

Rich Media: A digital advertisement that includes more media than a mere banner ad or social media message, usually by expanding when a user rolls over it with his or her mouse (desktop) or finger (mobile). Rich media ads generally take up more space and ask the consumer to interact with them by either clicking to see a video or playing some sort of game. The idea is to build advertising experiences that consumers will want to “immerse” themselves in.

Responsive Design: Websites that have responsive design figure out which device a user is viewing them on and automatically present the user with a fluid experience fitted to the proportions and capabilities of the device he or she is using. With more and more web traffic coming from smartphones and tablets, brands and publishers are increasingly turning to responsive design to provide a seamless experience regardless of how the site is being viewed.

The Internet of Things: The idea that in the future, regular household items like your front door, fridges, coffee mugs and couches will all be connected to the internet, giving marketers an opportunity to collect data and serve more relevant advertising to consumers. Your fridge could prompt you to get groceries if it detects that it’s empty. Your front door could alert you that your dog walker has arrived in your absence. With all those items being outfitted with internet access, some in the advertising industry believe the couches and coffee mugs will one day carry screens of their own, on which marketers could show more ads.

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