What is a CPA?

Travis Lusk
Travis Lusk

In the media and advertising word, specifically digital, a CPA campaign is cost-per-action. Sometimes, this is also known as a cost-per-acquisition.

With this type of media buy, and advertiser is agreeing to pay a certain fee based on the number of desired outcomes.

The most common type is a direct sale. For example, an advertiser is willing to pay a media seller $1.00 for every confirmed online sale that a publisher drives. If the publisher gets 5,000 users to click an ad, and 10 of them actually end up buying the item advertised, the publisher would expect to receive $10.00 from the advertiser.

The publisher would typically not receive any monetary compensation for the 4,990 users that clicked the ad. They are only compensated for the users that completed a purchase.

Other "actions" that are typical of CPA campaigns include:

  • Sign ups for more information
  • Subscriptions to email news letters
  • Social media "follows" and "likes"
  • Phone calls made to the advertiser
  • Items placed into an online shopping cart

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Opinionated digital advertising practitioner, consultant for Fortune 100 Brands, and writer at ADLINGO.org.