Marketing Definitions: Impressions

Welcome to the latest edition of our new weekly blog series, Marketing Definitions. Each week, we will identify an oft-used term or phrase in the marketing community and break down its use and meaning for the broader population.

Last week’s term that we defined was Lifetime Value.

Today’s Term = Impressions

Impressions, broadly, are the number of times your ad gets shown. Each impression is one chance your ad has to be seen.

Seems simple enough, right? Well, the last couple of years has seen a fight in the advertising industry to redefine the term, or at least devalue its importance.

Let me explain. In online advertising, display or banner advertising more specifically, advertisers pay based on the number of impressions. Ads are priced as a “cost per thousand”, written as CPM. So if an ad has a $10 CPM, the advertiser pays $10 for every thousand impressions.

But here’s the problem – not every impression gets seen. Some ad blockers will block an ad from being seen but they will still register an impression. And some ads show up below the visible part of the page. So impressions don’t always equal, in fact rarely ever equal, views. And that is a fact that not every advertiser understands, and most agree isn’t fair.

So an impression just means the ad is served. It has a chance to be seen. Whether it is seen or not by the intended audience, who’s to say.

That does it for today’s definition. Have a term you’d like defined in a future post? Email us or post it in the comments below.