In March of 2013, I found myself at Adobe Summit for the fourth time in five years. One of the main sessions had just let out and, in the hall outside, attendees were haphazardly clumped together as traffic flowed hurriedly around them. Across the room, I spotted a former colleague and, after exchanging pleasantries, I learned he was selling DMPs. Yes, DMPs.

I asked him: what the heck is that? He went on to explain that it was connected to multiple DSPs which were, in turn, aggregating inventory from multiple ad exchanges. After a litany of other acronyms made me feel like a complete dunce, I was determined to learn them all.

This “directory” of sorts aims to have a little fun with all of the definitions out there. There are plenty of other articles on the Internet you can turn to if you prefer your definitions dry as Melba toast.

  • API (Application Program Interface): These are the pieces of code that let different software programs talk to each other. My colleague Max Baehr explains them in an approachable way.
  • Attribution: Not an acronym but hugely important. This refers to figuring out how many sales (or leads) a marketing campaign actually created. They do a lot of big fancy math to figure this stuff out because, chances are, that new customer of yours was exposed to all sorts of marketing before she became a customer. Figuring out the influence of each of those bad boys had on the sale is the job of the Attribution vendors out there.
  • BI (Business Intelligence): A toolkit for analysts to take a bunch of your data, manipulate it and then display it in relatively attractive ways. The attractiveness varies dramatically from vendor to vendor. I have no idea why some of them haven’t hired designers.
  • Big Data: At some point, data became big — the explosion of consumer activity in digital meant that we were collecting a whole bunch more data than we used to. Big Data is a catch-all for the massive amount of data we can and often do collect. And hey that data has got to be useful right? Well…maybe. For more on a contrarian opinion, check out this excellent piece by Nassim Taleb.
  • CMP (Content Marketing Platform): The marketing department is, in part, a content production engine. And one of the core challenges for marketing departments is that they need to produce more content than ever without a corresponding increases in budget. The CMP is designed to help content marketers plan, collaborate, approve, and distribute content — where content can be a catch-all term for blogs, social posts, whitepapers, infographics, and anything else a marketing department is expected to produce.
  • DMP (Data Management Platform): A technology platform for managing audiences based on your data (called first-party) or other people’s data (called third-party, although referred to as second-party from time to time). A good DMP should connect these audiences to all of the technologies you want to deliver them to. For example, you may want to personalize a landing page or digital ad based on an audience profile, and your DMP should help you do that. Oh, and by the way, “audiences” turns out just to be a fancy name for customer (or prospect) lists. A cousin of the DMP is the Custom Data Platform, which is typically more expansive and includes personally identifiable information (PII).
  • DSP (Demand Side Platform): You may not know it, but the digital advertising market is a lot like the stock market. A DSP is basically a buying platform that enables you to bid on impressions in real-time. As E*Trade is to the stock market, a DSP is to the ad market.
  • ELP (Enterprise Listening Platform): Aggregating what is being said about you, your competitors or anyone or anything else on social media and across the Internet. The queries and reports can get quite complex, but ELPs just help you listen to what is being said.

  • ESP (Email Service Provider): The technology that sends your emails to your customers. There’s all sorts of fancy features now, but the core functionality remains sending emails.
  • Marketing Automation: Marketing Automation is built on the premise that it’s better to have a digital conversation with someone than just send a series of one-off communications. In other words, these platforms coordinate a series of messages based on who you are and where you are in the buying cycle. They started off doing this in email and on landing pages. They’ve expanded to include push notifications. There is huge overlap with ESPs because, for most marketers, email is what they use Marketing Automation vendors for.
  • SEM (Search Engine Marketing): Paying for those sponsored listings on Google. There are SEM platforms that will help you manage and optimize your spend on this stuff.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Changing the code on your webpages so you get listed higher in Google’s search results. Again there are vendors out there who have technology to help automate and optimize this process.
  • SSP (Supply Side Platform): A technology that helps publishers—who provide the inventory to the ad market—optimize the revenue from selling impressions. This isn’t typically something that marketers need to worry too much about.
  • SRP (Social Relationship Platform): A technology that automates and streamlines the process of managing your communications on social channels. SRPs are built upon integrations with the social networks so that Social Media Managers can have a single dashboard to interact with their customers and prospects on as many social networks as possible.
  • Tag Management: Over time, marketers are going to deploy a whole bunch of technology and, almost as importantly, seek to try the latest offerings from the plethora of vendors out there. When we were living in a web-centric (as opposed to mobile-centric) world, these technologies were typically deployed via tags. Tags are just small snippets of code deployed to your website. The trouble was that with each new vendor, there was a need for an involved IT deployment to deploy a new tag. Tag Management vendors help companies get around this problem by deploying a single tag, that could then have other tags loaded into it, reducing the dependence on precious IT resources.

This list is by no means exhaustive. As more budget flows to the CMO, we’ll no doubt see a continued explosion of new acronyms. I’ll be right there with you, closely watching developments and learning along the way (and eventually distilling the acronym overload into plain English.) Hang on for the ride; things will not get less complicated any time soon.