Gross Impressions Explained

Business Metrics
Getty Images / Andy Ryan

Online advertising firms operate and are commonly reimbursed based on the number of gross impressions that an ad generates. Gross impressions are defined in varying ways by different parties and may relate to a basic view of an ad on a website, or a click on the ad by a viewer, or other more involved actions by the website viewer (such as watching a full video or signing up for an email list through an interactive ad).

To fully grasp how this process works it is essential to gain some information into the industry of digital advertising. 

Gross Impressions in Digital Advertising 

A digital advertising firm will work with clients to both obtain space on a website (known as a publisher in the industry) and deliver the advertisement from the brand or agency that wants to advertise. The advertisement can come in a variety of forms such as a banner ad that is displayed on the website, a video that loads and plays on the site, or a high impact ad that takes over the screen and interacts with the user in some way. The advertising brand or agency they are working with will contract with the digital advertising firm using an insertion order for a number of gross impressions and will typically pay per every thousand impressions served. The digital advertising firm will earn the spread between what they receive from the brand for the gross impressions less what they pay to the publishers for the gross impressions delivered to that site.


What is the Purpose of Gross Impressions? 

Gross impressions are used to monitor ads and as a way of determining the reimbursement rates for both publishers as well as for the advertising firms that deliver the ads on behalf of the customers. Gross impressions represent non-duplicated individuals who are viewing an advertisement.


How Do You Measure Gross Impressions?  

Most digital advertising firms will keep track of the gross impressions that they serve based on a predefined metric that is typically a pay per view of the ad or pay per click of the ad. While some advertising brands will rely on these calculations, many use third party impression tracking agency to keep track of the impressions served.  

What Are the Different Types of Gross Impressions? 

Tracking impressions can be quite detailed and can necessitate analytics and other mechanisms for tracking. Many advertising brands have specific target markets and niches that they want to reach with their advertisements.

Examples may be customers within a specific age range (age targeting) or within a different geographic region or city (geo targeting).

Brands are often interested in advertising during limited time windows for the greatest effect, such as a movie being advertised prior to its release. Because of this, it is not only necessary to track impression based on these varying metrics but also to find publishers who offer space that can meet the needs of these advertisers. 

Gross impressions are therefore the measuring stick by what the success of an advertisement is viewed by, as well as how advertisers and publishers are reimbursed by the advertising brand.