Digital Ads Playbook

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Digital Advertising Glossary

Date last updated: February 2022

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Table of Contents

Basic Terms

  • Ad campaign objective: The tactical goal of your ad campaign. This goal should guide your media plan and align with the campaign objectives selected in platforms when running ads. In paid media platforms, “campaigns” refer to a specific sum of money spent on one platform-specific objective with a set of ads.
    • “New donor acquisition” is a frequent ad campaign objective for candidates and issue-based organizations.
  • Media planning: The process of deciding how, when, where to run ads. This process should produce a media plan, usually in spreadsheet form, with all of these details and should be the one source of truth around how a budget is spent.
  • Ad platform: A tool that advertisers use to set up campaigns and access inventory
  • Ad trafficking: The implementation of the media plan onto an ad platform from set up to launch.
  • Key performance indicator (KPI): A metric used to determine whether or not you are meeting your campaign objective and to check the overall health of your campaign
    • If your objective was to acquire new emails for your organization’s email list, conversions and your cost per acquisition (CPA) would be primary KPIs.
  • Self-service platform: A platform or vendor who allows you to execute your ad campaign through their platform; most social platforms, like Facebook, fall under this category. These platforms usually don’t have budget minimums.
  • Managed service platform or vendor: A platform or vendor who executes the ad campaign on your behalf. These vendors often have a minimum budget you must spend on a buy.
    • Hulu
    • Pandora

Campaign Goals

Many political and advocacy advertising campaigns follow a cycle timed around either an election or a legislative session. The goals listed below explain the common strategic objectives that align with typical campaign phases.

  • Awareness: These campaigns seek to increase the audience’s familiarity with a candidate or issue. They are usually prioritized early in a campaign when it’s critical to define a candidate or issue.
    • Common KPIs: Reach, Frequency, Video Completion Rate (VCR)
  • Persuasion: These campaigns seek to inform and shape the audience’s opinion of a candidate or issue. These campaigns are typically prioritized after an awareness phase but still with plenty of time to inform those who are undecided or swayable about the topic at hand. 
    • Common KPIs: Reach, Frequency, Video Completion Rate (VCR)
  • Mobilization: These campaigns seek to push the audience to turn out and vote. This is the final phase in the campaign before the election where it is critical to make sure the people you’ve been talking to for the duration of the campaign actually show up to the polls.
    • Common KPIs: Frequency, Cost per click (CPC)
  • Acquisition: These campaigns seek to get the audience to complete an action, for example, making a donation, pledging to vote, signing up for an email list, becoming a volunteer, or completing a petition. Acquisition typically occurs in tandem with awareness, persuasion, and mobilization campaigns.
    • Common KPIs: Cost per acquisition (CPA), Return on investment (ROI), Conversion rate

Ad Campaign Results

The beauty of digital advertising is that as soon as your campaign is active and spending money, you will start to get performance data back. These are the reporting metrics you will commonly find on each paid media platform. The data points you’ll have access to will vary depending on the platform and campaign objective you’ve chosen, but the metrics listed below are a good starting point to understand what’s typically available or commonly calculated.

Basic Metrics
  • Amount Spent: The amount of money your ad campaign has spent. Depending on the platform, this might also be called “cost” or “spend”. 
  • Impression: The number of times an ad is served (not necessarily viewed).
  • Reach: The number of unique people to whom an ad impression was served. This metric tends to be a key metric to track in persuasion and mobilization campaigns.
  • Frequency: The average number of impressions each reached person was served. This metric tends to be a key metric to track in persuasion and mobilization campaigns.
  • Clicks: The number of clicks your ad generated; depending on the platform, this might just include link clicks, or it could include other ways a user could engage with your ad. It’s best to check each platform’s reporting glossary for exact definitions.
  • Engagements: The number of times a user has engaged with your ad in any way; this term is normally used with a platform like Facebook where users have the option to socially engage with the ad by liking, commenting, or sharing. Engagements and engagement rates are rarely a good indicator of persuasion, but they can be somewhat helpful to gauge your audience’s interest in your ads. The specific definition of an engagement varies by platform, so it’s best to check each platform’s reporting glossary.
  • Conversions: The number of times a user has taken an action designated by the advertiser, like a form completion, donation, email to lawmakers, etc. 
  • Video views: The number of times a user started a video; this definition can shift depending on the platform, so it’s best to check each platform’s reporting glossary.
  • Video Completions: The number of times a user completed the video. While many platforms define this as a view of 100% of the video, some may have lower thresholds for a completion (ie: 90% or 95%), so it’s best to check with the platform for the exact definition.
Cost Metrics

Represented as a dollar amount unless otherwise noted

  • Cost per thousand impressions (CPM): One of the most common pricing models; you pay by every 1,000 impressions the ad receives. This is a measure of how expensive it is to deliver your campaign to your audience.
    • Formula: 1000 * (Amount Spent / Impressions)
  • Cost per Acquisition (CPA): The average cost to generate one conversion.
    • Formula: Amount Spent / Conversions
  • Cost per Click (CPC): The average cost to generate one click. This is sometimes used as a pricing model. 
    • Formula: Amount Spent / Clicks
  • Cost per View (CPV): The average cost to generate one video view.
    • Formula: Amount Spent / Video views
  • Cost per Completed View (CPCV): The average cost to generate one video completion.
    • Formula: Amount Spent / Video Completions
  • Cost per Engagement (CPE): The average cost to generate one engagement.
    • Formula: Amount Spent / Engagements
  • Return on Investment (ROI): The amount of money you generate that’s attributable to your ad campaign over the cost to execute the entire campaign, usually represented as a percentage.
    • ((Amount Gained – Amount Spent) / Amount Spent) * 100
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): The amount of money you generate that’s attributable to your ad campaign over your ad campaign budget, usually represented as a percentage.
    • (Amount Gained from Ads / Amount Spent on Ads) * 100
Rates

Represented as percentages

  • Conversion Rate: The rate at which people complete your set goal, e.g. signing up for an email list, donating to your campaign. This is important to pay attention to when running specific types of campaigns such as list building or fundraising.
    • Formula: (Impressions / Conversions) *100
  • Click-thru Rate (CTR): The rate at which people are clicking on your ad to the landing page. The equation is the number of clicks divided by impressions an ad receives. This is an important metric to pay attention to when you are running a campaign whose success depends on people clicking through to your landing page.
    • Formula: (Impressions / Clicks) *100
  • Video Completion Rate (VCR): The rate of people who watch the entirety of your video ad. This metric can be a little misleading depending on the platform as some platforms force completed views. But on platforms where “skip ad” is an option for viewers, a high video 100% view rate is a solid indicator of whether your audience is engaging with your ad.
    • Formula: (Views / Completed Video Views) * 100
  • Engagement Rate: The number of interactions (likes, comments, shares) a post receives divided by the number of impressions a post receives. This is a good metric to pay attention to when you want to gauge how your audience is perceiving your creative.
    • Formula: (Impressions / Engagements) * 100

Audience Targeting

These are the methods and systems you can use to define the audience you wish to reach on each platform. Targeting methods vary by platform and it’s important to learn how to best craft your audience on each.

  • Demographic targeting: Data based on the user’s statistical information such as age, gender, race, education level, income, etc.
  • Geotargeting: Data based on the user’s geographic location. Different platforms offer varying levels of geo-targeting, but things like state, congressional district, and ZIP code are often available.
  • Behavioral targeting: Data based on a user’s online behavior, like things they’ve bought or put in a shopping cart, websites they frequent, topics they’ve read about, or other actions they’ve taken online. Interest targeting is a type of behavioral targeting. 
  • Contextual targeting: Data based on what content a user is viewing. For example, if you’re viewing a recipe, you may be reachable by contextual targeting about cooking. This data is often in topic or keyword form.
  • Retargeting: Data based on users who have previously interacted with your brand in some way, such as people who have visited your site or have previously viewed your ads. This type of data is also referred to as remarketing.
  • Custom list audience: Personally identifiable data (like names, phone numbers, and email addresses) that you own and upload to a platform who then matches it to their own data. In the political space, voter file lists are often used to create custom audiences.
  • Lookalike audience: Data created by using another audience segment, usually a custom list or retargeting audience, to find users with similar demographic and/or behavioral traits
  • First-party audience: An audience built off of your owned data.
  • Third-party audience: An audience built off of data aggregated from various outside sources.

Inventory

Inventory refers to the types of digital ad units you can purchase from each platform and the various systems involved in facilitating the exchange between advertisers, platforms, and publishers.

  • Ad specs: The specifications that your ad creative must adhere to in order to run in a specific ad unit. This could include anything from the dimensions of an ad to the length of a video.
  • Over-the-top (OTT): Any type of streaming video content served directly over the web; for example, Hulu, Amazon Video, or YouTube. The name “over-the-top” refers to the way that this content bypasses traditional set top cable TV boxes. Users can view OTT content on phones, laptops, tablets, gaming consoles, or smart TVs.
  • Connected TV (CTV): Smart TVs or other devices used to stream web content on a TV, for example, Roku. While these are often lumped in with OTT ads, CTV ads are only served on TVs, while OTT ads could serve on numerous devices.. 
  • Programmatic advertising: This literally means the automated buying and selling of digital advertising space, but this most commonly refers to all non-social or search inventory across the web, apps, and digital devices.
  • Demand Side Platform (DSP): An ad platform used by marketers in order to access and purchase programmatic ad inventory through automation.
  • Ad exchange: A marketplace where ad buyers can access sellers’ programmatic inventory. A DSP will typically access one or more ad exchanges in order to execute an ad campaign.
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM): The practice of purchasing ad inventory in search engines based on user keywords and search queries on platforms like Google and Bing. (Commonly referred to as just “search.”)
 

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