Mayple logo

What is CPM (Cost per Mille)?

Octavia Drexler
By Octavia Drexler
Ben Kazinik
Edited by Ben Kazinik

Published May 4, 2024.


Cost per mille (CPM) is a pivotal metric in advertising, quantifying the cost per 1000 advertising impressions (i.e., the advertising costs associated with showing your digital advertising inventory 1,000 times.) This model ensures advertisers pay for exposure, emphasizing the number of times an ad is displayed, irrespective of viewer engagement.

Unlike CPC (cost per click) or CPA (cost per acquisition), which focus on the direct interaction or conversion resulting from an ad, CPM measures the breadth of visibility, making it especially relevant for brand awareness campaigns.

Although CPM used to be a common advertising pricing model in traditional advertising too, it has been transferred to digital advertising pricing models as well. Cutting-edge programmatic advertising technology makes it easier to both manage CPM-based digital advertising goals and adjust them accordingly.

CPM can be used on social media advertising, search advertising, and display advertising, but it tends to be more common with display ads (CPM marketing goals tends to be better suited for awareness/ TOFU online marketing campaigns.) In email marketing and affiliate marketing, CPM is used for banners (such as broad marketing ads placed on blogs or in newsletters.)


Comparatively, CPM prioritizes visibility over direct action. While CPA (cost per acquisition) and CPC (cost per click) models charge advertisers only when specific actions are taken—such as a sale, sign-up, or click—CPM is purely about exposure. This difference makes CPM ideal for campaigns aimed at boosting brand awareness rather than immediate conversions.

For example, if you're launching a new product or trying to raise general awareness about your brand, you may want as many people as possible to see your ad, even if they don't click on it. In this case, CPM would be a more suitable pricing model than CPC or CPA.

Advantages of CPM targeting in advertising

CPM has been around as a metric since the days of traditional advertising -- and there's a very good reason it's still used: it works and it helps companies drive brand awareness.

Some of the biggest advantages of CPM targeting include:

  • Credibility: Consistent visibility of ads across chosen platforms can enhance a brand's credibility, as repeated exposure contributes to brand recognition and trust.
  • Relevance: CPM allows advertisers to focus on placing ads in relevant contexts, ensuring they are seen by their target demographic, thereby increasing the potential for later engagement.
  • Industry buzz: Utilizing CPM targeting for high-impact ad placements can create buzz, making it essential for launching new products or campaigns.
  • Cost-effectiveness: CPM can be a more cost-effective option for certain campaigns, as advertisers pay for impressions rather than clicks or conversions. This model allows for greater flexibility in budget allocation and can be a more efficient use of resources.

Disadvantages of CPM Targeting

The main critique of CPM targeting lies in its potential inefficiency, as payments are made for impressions rather than actions. Without proper targeting and creative strategies, advertisers risk spending on ads seen by disinterested audiences, potentially leading to lower ROI, especially as compared to CPC or CPA models.

How to Maximize CPM ROI

There are methods you can use to maximize your CPM return on investment. Some of the most important ones include:

Refine your targeting

Enhance ad performance by meticulously selecting audience segments based on demographics, interests, and behavior. For instance, you could use site lists to improve visibility on platforms frequented by your target market.

Refine your frequency

Determine the optimal frequency to avoid ad fatigue while maintaining sufficient visibility. You don't want to overwhelm your potential customers/ target audience by showing your ads too often -- but you do want to stay top of mind to them, so they buy from you when they're ready.

Invest in good copy & design

High-quality creatives can significantly improve engagement, making each impression more valuable. This is particularly more important in a world where banner blindness is a real issue, and people are more likely to ignore and skip your ads than pay attention.

Include social proof

Incorporating reviews or testimonials can boost credibility and attract more genuine interest. In a crowded digital space, social proof can differentiate your ad and help it stand out from others.

A/B test your ads

Regularly tracking the performance of your CPM campaigns is essential to determine what's working well and what needs improvement in your digital marketing efforts. Use A/B testing to compare different approaches, such as varying ad copy or targeting options, and adjust accordingly for optimal results.


The choice between CPM, CPC, and CPA hinges on your digital marketing campaign objectives: brand awareness, interaction, or specific actions, respectively. In a modern advertising strategy, each model could (and probably should) have its place based on advertising purposes, niche audience, and product type.

Do keep in mind your advertising budget will have to be adjusted to the specific metric you're measuring too.

How to use CPM to adjust your ads

Your cost per mile can be a good indicator of how well your ad is performing and if it's reaching the intended audience. For example, the following issues can point to specific inefficiencies in your advertising efforts:

High CPM

Investigate and address why CPM might be high, such as targeting a highly competitive audience or choosing premium ad placements. Naturally, you want to keep your CPM as low as possible, to maximize your return on investment.

CPM variability on different types of media

Be aware that CPM rates can vary significantly across different media platforms and adjust strategies accordingly. For instance, ads targeting a particular age group or geographic region may be more effective on certain social media platforms than others. On the other hand, ads aimed at a more general audience may have better results on broadcast television or display ad networks.

Furthermore, CPM on search engine ads tends to be higher as well, mostly because the main metric used in this online advertising channel is CPC (cost per click.) As such, different advertising metrics tend to be better for various channels, especially if your advertising budget is a concern (and it probably is.)

CPM anomalies

Keep an eye out for sudden spikes or drops in CPM, indicating changes in market dynamics or issues with the ad campaign. These anomalies could be signs that you should reassess your targeting or creative strategies.

Are there alternatives to CPM?

Yes, besides CPC and CPA (cost per action), alternatives like Cost Per View (CPV) for video ads or Cost Per Engagement (CPE) for social media campaigns offer different models aligned with specific campaign objectives and types of engagement.

If you want to measure the efficiency of your on your target audience (i.e., see how effective they are at drawing attention and instigating action), consider measuring your click-through rate too.

This is a common metric in digital marketing, as it provides insights into how many people actually click on your ad and visit your website. This can be especially useful for digital advertising campaigns focused on generating website traffic or driving conversions.