Do You Know How to Speak Digital?

It’s one of my favorite episodes of Friends; The One Where Everybody Finds Out. Monica and Chandler are dating, and Joey is the only one that knows but Rachel and Phoebe eventually find out, except Monica and Chandler don’t know that they know. “They don’t know that we know they know we know.”

Sometimes this is how it can feel when talking about or explaining digital to businesses. There are so many different terms that can mean the same thing, or can mean completely different things, and people don’t want to get caught off guard and admit that they don’t know something. The only thing worse than getting caught off guard when asked if you know something or not, is not knowing what it is in the first place, so let’s talk about some digital buzzwords and acronyms are arm you with how to explain them when talking with advertisers.

Some of the most used terms in digital are Geo-Targeting and Geo-Fencing. These two are constantly getting used interchangeably, but they have their own identities. Geo-Targeting is the overall geographic area (“Geo”) a business wants to show their ads in. Usually, it’s a zip code or series of zip codes, a large radius around a location, a city, entire state, or even a country. As an advertiser, we don’t want to reach EVERYONE in that geographic area, so now we can add in different targeting strategies like Behavioral Targeting, Keyword Targeting, or using Artificial Intelligence. Geo-Fencing is a very tight radius around a location, which is usually around 500 feet, with no other targeting strategies layered in, so ANYONE in that tight radius has the potential to see that ad.

One strategy that gets used a lot when it comes to digital that I just mentioned was Artificial Intelligence (AI). Artificial Intelligence is showing an ad to people across all devices using machine learning to target consumers based on who is engaging with the ad. The way that AI works is, it refers to systems or machines that mimic human intelligence to perform tasks and can improve themselves based on the information they collect. For example, search engines can provide automated recommendations for products a person might be interested in based on users’ shopping habits. With our digital advertising, we are using a specific type of AI called machine learning which is systems that learn or improve their performance based on the data they consume. It’s important to note that although all machine learning is AI, not all AI is machine learning.

Cookies is another term that comes up a lot when talking about digital, especially the last couple years as Apple has made moves to block third party cookies from Safari and with the iOS 14+ updates. Mozilla’s Firefox is another browser that also blocks third party cookies, and Google has announced a 2023 deadline to deprecate cookies and no longer support third-party tracking cookies. Before we get to cookies, let’s talk about pixels. A tracking pixel is a small piece of code placed on a website that allows the website owner to gather information about visitors on a website—how they browse, what type of ads they click on (to determine behaviors), device, browser, IP Address, to track conversions, or serve retargeting ads. Although similar, a pixel is different from a cookie, but they are often used together. Both can be used to track the behavior of users across web sites, but the difference is how the information is delivered and where it is kept. Cookies are saved in an individual’s browser, such as Google Chrome. They cannot follow users across their devices, and users can block cookies or clear their cookies. Tracking pixels send information directly to servers, so they do not rely on the user’s individual browser. Pixels can follow users across all of their devices, and users cannot disable pixels like they can disable cookies.

Now the good stuff, the cookies. First party cookies are tracking pixels (code) that have information about a website visitor that is used by the website (or app) that the user is on. For example, filling in your username and password automatically because you’ve told the website to save your login uses a 1st party cookie. A website publisher can still collect behavioral data about its users, like what they click on, what content they engage with, etc., but the website publisher (or app) can’t share it with other companies without the users’ consent (like clicking on a button that asks you to allow cookie tracking). These types of cookies are not going away; they’re here to stay. Third party cookies are tracking pixels (code) that has information about a website visitor that is then shared with another company (not the company that owns that website). For example, retargeting and conversion tracking uses 3rd party cookies. Some products that we are offer like LinkedIn, Mobile Conquesting, OTT with On-Site Visit Tracking, Facebook & Instagram, and Amazon Targeting (display, video and OTT) all use first party data where each of those companies has collected information about their users.


When it comes to third party data, we integrate with top third-party data providers like BlueKai, Eyeota, Factual, Lotame, and Oracle, so almost any audience we want to target is available to us through these data provider companies. This data is layered over the ad inventory we bid on through the ad exchanges.

Ad Exchanges is a technology platform that works with publishers and ad networks and purchases their impressions to then sell them to advertisers. Advertisers can purchase directly from an ad exchange, or access ad exchanges through a Demand Side Platform (DSP). So what is a Demand Side Platform? That is a technology platform that allows buyers to manage, purchase and optimize programmatic inventory from multiple ad exchanges and Supply Side Platforms (SSP) through one interface. Inventory can be purchased through real-time bidding or programmatic direct deals which are direct deals between ad sellers and ad buyers. A Supply Side Platform is a technology platform that allows publishers (websites and apps) to manage and sell programmatic inventory for advertisers to bid on. Supply Side Platforms connect to multiple ad exchanges and DSPs at once to maximize the opportunity to sell inventory.

Now that we talked about where we can buy ads from, let’s look at the different ways we can buy ads. Programmatic buying is the use of automated technology for media buying. Programmatic advertising encompasses multiple ways of placing digital ads. It includes things like Real-Time Bidding, Private Marketplaces (PMPs) and Programmatic Direct buying.

Real-time bidding (RTB) is an automated process where advertisers can place bids, in real time, for specific display ad placements. Real Time Bidding is a programmatic process, but not all programmatic advertising takes place through RTB technology.

Private Marketplaces is where advertisers can only access the private marketplace with an invitation. Typically, top publishers (websites and apps) do this and offer their ad inventory to highest bidders among the select advertisers with whom they’ve done deals granting access to inventory not available on open auctions and premium access at a lower price.

Programmatic Direct is a very similar model to the private marketplace, with the exception that advertisers and publishers agree on specific inventory based on a fixed CPM. Because the CPM is predetermined, there is no bidding process involving other publishers.

One of the most popular digital products is Video and there are a lot of different ways to utilize video, but since there are so many ways to use it, it can be another situation where the terms that come along with using it starts to get confusing. Ad-Supported Video On Demand (AVOD) are streaming platforms like Tubi, PlutoTV, and Crackle. These platforms make their money off showing ads in between their content. As a result, the platforms are free for viewers. If you are watching a streaming program for free, it’s AVOD.

On the other side of that there is Subscription Video On Demand or SVOD. These are streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, Discovery+ whose content requires access to a paid subscription, and typically (although not always) doesn’t have ads.

When selling video ads against a TV or cable provider, they are offering Addressable TV or Linear TV. Addressable TV is serving different ad content to different audience segments watching the same TV program on IP connected TVs and set top boxes of cable companies or satellite providers like Comcast, DIRECTV, and Dish. Compared to the OTT digital offering we offer, with addressable TV, targeting is limited to the subscription data the company has access to. Linear TV is traditional television viewing. To watch a show, the viewer must tune in (or DVR) a specific channel on a television at an appointed time. Viewers access linear TV via cable or satellite or through over-the-air broadcasts.

One other way to watch TV and movies is through a Set Top Box. I like to think of these as what makes a “dumb TV”, a regular old TV, a “smart TV”. It is a device that is connected to TVs giving them internet access which convert digital video signals into TV signals. Set Top Boxes could be Apple TV, Fire TV, or  Roku boxes.

One of my favorite “party tricks” is being able to explain why people are seeing certain ads, or why that one ad keeps following them wherever they go when they’re online. People think pretty much Bob Kahn when I explain how it works, so go ahead and add theses terms and acronyms in your bag of tricks to impress your friends when you’re out this weekend.







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