Cookieless and Beyond: CPE vs. CPM – Which Metric Wins?
Jun 13, 2024

In an era where digital advertising is undergoing significant transformation, the deprecation of third-party cookies and the rise of privacy-centric browsers like Brave and DuckDuckGo are reshaping how we approach advertising tracking. The importance of engagement in a cookieless world cannot be overstated. As tracking user behavior becomes more challenging, CPM faces a significant hurdle.

Deciphering a user's true intent or interests becomes murkier in this new landscape. However, engagement shines as a beacon of clarity, offering a vital instrument for brand building and awareness. Even in a cookieless environment, users will engage with brands that resonate with them, transcending mere intent. This makes engagement a crucial metric for evaluating the success of media targeting and ad campaigns.

In the fiercely competitive world of digital advertising, where consumer attention spans are shrinking, making informed decisions about where to allocate your advertising budget is more critical than ever. The challenge of the CPE vs. CPM conundrum lies in understanding the nuances, challenges, and opportunities each metric presents.

Cost per Engagement (CPE) and Cost per Impression (CPM) are both important metrics in digital advertising, but they serve different purposes and have distinct advantages. Here are the top three arguments for using CPE over CPM:

Quality Over Quantity

Engagement Focus: CPE focuses on the cost of user interactions with an ad, such as clicks, likes, shares, comments, or video views. These interactions demonstrate active interest and engagement with the content, indicating a higher likelihood of conversion or brand engagement.

CPM Emphasizes Visibility: CPM measures the cost per thousand impressions, focusing primarily on how often an ad is displayed to users. Impressions do not guarantee that users pay attention to or interact with the ad, so it doesn't necessarily reflect user engagement or interest.

Performance-Based Pricing

Pay for Results: CPE is performance-based; advertisers only pay when users take specific actions or engage with the ad. This aligns the advertising budget more closely with desired outcomes, such as website visits, sign-ups, or purchases. 

CPM May Waste Budget: CPM charges advertisers for ad impressions regardless of whether users interact with the ad. This can result in a wasted budget if impressions do not lead to desired actions. Advertisers argue that CPE offers a more efficient way to allocate their budget based on actual engagement and conversions. As stated by McKinsey, optimizing for engagement (CPE) can help companies realize up to 30% savings in marketing spend helping to stretch budgets further or reduce the cost to achieve desired results (Source).

Optimizing for Engagement and Conversions

Campaign Objectives: Advertisers often have specific campaign objectives, such as driving traffic to a website, generating leads, or increasing sales. CPE allows advertisers to optimize their campaigns for these objectives by measuring the cost of achieving them directly.

Actionable Insights: CPE provides actionable insights into which ads, creatives, or targeting strategies are most effective at driving user engagement and conversions. Advertisers can use this data to refine their campaigns and improve performance. 

The Right Choice for Your Campaign

The choice between CPE and CPM depends on campaign goals, industry, and targeting strategy. Some campaigns may benefit from CPM when brand visibility and reach are the primary objectives, while others may find CPE more suitable for driving user engagement and conversions. Advertisers often use a combination of both metrics to achieve a balanced approach to their digital advertising campaigns. However, when results matter most, CPE stands out.

Interested in finding out how you can engage with your users in a cookieless world? Contact us to learn more about optimizing your digital advertising strategy.


McKinsey: Marketing’s hidden treasure