It’s all Roman to me: Understanding CPM campaigns

CPM stands for “cost per thousand.” As in Roman numeral M. And if that sounds like Roman – we mean Greek – to you, you’re not alone. CPM advertising leverages the desire brands have to be seen. In advertising, media vendors charge brands based on every 1,000 impressions, or views, of a given advertisement. For example, a media vendor may charge $50 cost per thousand. Translation: that’s $50 for every 1,000 times your ad appears on a variety of websites, blogs, and digital news sources. But, just when you think you’re becoming fluent in digital ads, a vendor may charge $300 for that same cost per thousand. And you thought all roads led to Rome.
The trick to understanding CPM units is realizing they are priced based on a variety of somewhat ubiquitous factors, including how often viewers tend to click ads, how narrow your ad audience is (i.e., did you choose the “spray and pray” model or hone in on blogs your target market engages with), or the ad placement itself. Even the ebb and flow of your own brand popularity may play a part in your vendor’s media pricing. To help you navigate your strategy, we’ve created a cheat sheet of all the basic information you need to know before launching any digital spend.


Before we go any further, let’s get one common point of confusion out of the way. CPM is not the same as CPC. CPC stands for “cost per click.” In other words, this represents the actual price you pay each time someone clicks your digital ad and has no bearing whatsoever on CPM exposure. While these two terms may seem similar, they are as different as the Greeks and Romans. When launching digital advertisements, you can choose either a CPM strategy, or a CPC strategy. Not both. On average, CPM units tend to be cheaper than CPC units. For example: $50 CPM vs. $1.05 CPC, which would be $1050 per thousand. The reason is because even though your ad may appear on a page one thousand times, that doesn’t mean every viewer sees, notices, or interacts with your advertisement. In this way, a click is more valuable because it represents higher intention and a more engaged user. Sometimes. The distinction comes from knowing the goal of your media spend. If you simply want brand exposure, CPM may be the perfect, most cost-effective strategy for your organization. If you’re using digital advertisements to close a revenue gap, CPC may be more effective in getting you to your bottom line.


We love CPM campaigns to help build broad exposure, increase loyalty, or generate interest and excitement. CPM campaigns are great for established brands hoping to keep their products at top of mind and new brands looking to grow their customer base. They are great for all industries and all types of products. Generally, we recommend ads as a complement to any comprehensive end-to-end brand campaign that touches social media, web, and maybe even traditional media such as print or television. What makes CPM campaigns so effective is that you can get hyper-granular about where your ads appear. If you’ve launched a new children’s clothing line, you can feature your ad exclusively on parenting sites and mommy bloggers. If you are a financial advisor, you can introduce your firm on trade sites, bank homepages, and the financial section of the news. Unlike print ads and billboards, you know exactly who is seeing your ads and whether it is aligned with their needs.


We’re excited for you to get started on your next campaign too, which is why our creative team at your local Orlando marketing agency is on call to help you kickstart the work. As you look forward to launching a CPM campaign, make sure you set clear, measurable goals, choose your audience carefully, and time your campaign spend around your natural sales cycle. And remember, your local marketing agency always maintains tight relationships with regional and national media vendors so, when in doubt, call in the experts. We can help you do everything from negotiating fair pricing, to translating marketing jargon, and everything in between.


CPM campaigns are the cornerstone of digital advertising; so don’t let confusing terms or uncertainty deter you from taking part in this powerful tool. Click here for more ideas and successful campaign examples.

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