Your one-stop guide to mobile marketing acronyms, by iQU's Fraser MacInnes

Demystifying the marketing speak

Your one-stop guide to mobile marketing acronyms, by iQU's Fraser MacInnes
Fraser MacInnes is a mobile games industry professional who cut his teeth writing for Pocket Gamer. He's now working at iQU, a behavioural knowledge company working in the games sector.

You can read the first two parts of Fraser's data series on segmentation, targeting, gamer profiles and user acquisition here.

The curse of knowledge: the more familiar one becomes with a certain area of knowledge, the easier it is to assume its understanding on the behalf of others.

In my conversations throughout the industry, I've often felt there is a huge assumed knowledge discrepancy in the world of big data and modern marketing - or affiliate marketing to give it its proper name.

Where to start?

It's a confusing soup of acronyms that are thrown around frivolously, which - in a market flooded with small, indie teams that know everything they need to about how to make a super game, but little about how to get it into players' hands - makes for an at times intimidating atmosphere.

In the interests of demystifying the black arts of data driven mobile marketing (and at the very real risk of patronising a large chunk of PocketGamer.biz's audience) I have assembled a list of common terms, and made attempts to explain what they mean.

The first thing you need to know is that any acronym that begins with a C is almost always a business model – i.e. a certain condition for paying a marketing company that runs a campaign. The most common of these, in my humble experience, is CPI.


CPI can mean two different things. The first is 'cost per impression'. An impression is an instance of a web page with an advert on it, appearing in front of a human being. CPI is the price that an advertiser (i.e. a developer) pays for every pair of eyeballs that a marketing network delivers to an advert.

There is no condition set with cost per impression deals for what that pair of eyeballs does after seeing the ad. The goal is usually as simple as achieving volume exposure.

There are complications here however, for example, what if an impression is delivered to a user where the ad connected to the CPI deal is placed in the footer of the page, but the user doesn't bother scrolling before bouncing to another page? Is that impression counted, even though the user didn't actually see the ad?

The really confusing thing is that CPI can also mean, cost per install, which is very different. Cost per install (or sometimes, cost per acquisition i.e., CPA, which also means cost per action, which I'll get to later) means that the advertiser only pays the marketing network for actual installs of the game, irrespective of the number of impressions delivered.

This can get complicated as sometimes the advertiser wants to attribute additional conditions to ensure the installs are worth paying for.

Installing the game doesn't mean the player will ever actually play it. This is where single and double opt-in business rules come in, where the developer only pays for the install after the player has booted the game either once or twice.

And what happens if the user sees an impression served by the advertising network but then the network's DMP (that's data management platform) doesn't log an install from that user for another two weeks? Can the advertising network rightfully claim payment for that install?


This stands for cost per lead, where the lead is a sign-up to a game. This basically means that the advertiser serves an ad, the user clicks on the ad, which usually then takes them to a landing page where they can sign-up for that game.

Only after completing the sign-up process can the marketing network claim a fee from the advertiser.


Confusingly, CPM stands for cost per thousand impressions. It is essentially a short hand for cost per impression deals so that advertisers can benchmark their spend against the total audience more effectively.

For example, if a campaign costs $25,000 to run, and the advertiser promises 4.8 million impressions for that price, the CPM is calculated as $25,000 budget, divided by 4.8 million impressions, multiplied by 1,000, which in this example would equal about $5.20 CPM.


This means, cost per active user. Naturally, snaffling a large number of active users is tricky.

A marketing network can either go the volume approach - just delivering an obscenely large number of impressions and hoping for the best - or, if it has enough of the right data and a means of reading and auctioning it in minute detail, it can go the highly targeted route.

Either way it's more time consuming and expensive than other approaches but it does deliver the kinds of users all developers want.

With additional business rules in place, a CPAU campaign can become a CPPU campaign, which means cost per paying user. This is less often a business model and more a means of assessing the marketing money spent by a large company versus the number of paying users.


This is the cost per click, where the advertiser agrees to pay the marketing network a certain fee per click on an advert, irrespective of what happens after the click.

In this model, all the advertiser cares about is that the ad is clicked on with the rational that a high number of clicks will result in a higher ratio of installs or sign-ups per unit paid than would occur in a cost per impression deal.

This makes CPC typically a bit pricier but for certain types of product and ad, it makes more sense to go this route.

CPAThis stands for cost per action, where the advertiser can attribute a number of different paid behaviors to an ad.

For example, the advertiser may opt to pay for a lead, an impression and an install, sometimes, all at different rates but all as part of a single budget for a single campaign.

House keeping usefuls…

CTR - is the click through rate which put simply, is the number of times an ad is clicked versus the number of times it is served as an impression.

This is useful for benchmarking the performance of an ad on a specific site or site position, or even for delving into the particulars of how the ad looks and how that affects its performance at the CTR level.

ARPU – average revenue per user, which is basically the total revenue generated over a certain time divided by the total number of users for that period. Simple.

ROI – This is the one that VC companies (venture capitalists) want to know after your indie mobile game company lands a hit and is facing investment interest. It means, return on investment. But you already knew that…
You can follow Fraser's industry commentary on his blog, or else grab bite-size rants via Twitter.

PocketGamer.biz regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.


View options
  • Order by latest to oldest
  • Order by oldest to latest
  • Show all replies
Keith Andrew
All credit should go to Fraser. :)
Joey Nelson
Great post Keith. As an indy game developer myself on the verge of launching our first game (Trivi.al) this is definitely the side of the business that's most unfamiliar to our craft but most important. I recently wrote something similar on the topic and those tools that have helped us. Give it a read if you like: http://trivi.al/analyze-optimize-and-monetize-user-engagement-in-mobile-apps/