How To Explain PPC To A Non-Digital Marketer

We’re only 1 month away from Q4! In the PPC world, that means we’re all thinking about holiday strategy. But do you know what else Q4 means for PPC-ers?


Q4 means holiday parties full of mingling and small talk where you will inevitably be asked, “What do you do?” Then you must try and explain PPC to your family friends, acquaintances, and your Aunt Marge whom you’ve already explained PPC to a dozen times.


Sometimes, you’ll find yourself speaking with a tech savvy person with a marketing or business background that completely gets it. However, the reactions you usually receive fall into the following buckets:

  1. Disinterest
  2. Confusion
  3. Annoyance (if they make the connection that those display remarketing ads that follow them around the Internet are your fault)

It’s a constant struggle to tailor your explanation of PPC in a way that makes it both easy to understand and relatable.


I recently decided to survey my coworkers regarding their explanations of PPC to non-digital marketers. I am sharing these in the hopes that you’ll get a laugh out of them or you can nod in agreement in a “yeah, I’ve tried that one” way. However, there are a few serious responses that I hope you can draw from for your next encounter with Aunt Marge.


Here’s an example dialogue that exemplifies the disinterested family friend. There’s not much you can do if they’re not interested for whatever reason (they don’t like you personally, they hate small talk as much as you, they still use a flip phone because they resist technological advancement, etc.)


Person 1: What do you do?

Me: I work in Digital Marketing.

Person 1: Oh that’s cool. What is that?

Me: You know the ads on Google and Facebook? We do those for large companies. It’s a lot of looking at data and pulling levers to accomplish certain things.

Person 1: Oh, that sounds interesting. (But not really because they stop asking questions)


Generally, they try and make a hasty exit like Michael Cera when he experiences human interaction. Maybe that says more about me than anything though…



What I like about this next explanation is that it focuses on relatability by using a very specific product example. He also makes the point that not all PPC looks like spam. Finally, he makes the point that we wouldn’t have jobs if PPC didn’t work, which shoots down any comments like, “do people even click those ads?”


You know the ads that always annoy you online? Well, that’s what I do. It’s not the spam stuff, however. What I do is much more targeted and if you see the ad it’s because you’ve associated the with the brand before or you likely fall within an audience of someone who would associate with that brand.

For example, let’s say you google “running shoes”. Paid search ads are generally the first 4 listings on the top of the results page. If you see images of different running shoe brands above the search results, those are shopping ads. If you see those same running shoe ads on Facebook, it’s not because you searched for the shoes on Facebook. It’s because you fall into a targeted audience. That audience of users has something in common like sites they’ve visited, actions taken on Facebook, demographics, interests, etc.

You may not click those ads often, but a lot of people do, and they often make purchases. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a job.


This next example was funny to me, as I think we’ve all tried both the professional explanation (the one you would give if your boss was listening) and the quick explanation (the one you give when you already know they won’t remember so you just overly-simplify it).  These two explanations sound like night and day, which just proves how good my coworker is at tailoring their message to their audience.


Professional: Essentially, I manage the paid presence of a given brand across the entire digital landscape. We are responsible for maximizing value for our client anywhere you can buy a click — from Facebook to LinkedIn, AdWords to Bing, and well beyond.

Simplified: Ya know when you go to a website, leave it because you’re bored, but then keep seeing ads for that site for like 2 more weeks? Yeah, that is me. I run those ads.


This final response is very qualified as it has been tested and optimized throughout hundreds of conversations.  This response is from our Senior HR Coordinator who has TONS of experience explaining PPC and Hanapin’s role as a PPC Agency to career fair attendees who have never heard the term PPC.


You’re seeing PPC at work anytime you see an online ad that says ‘sponsored.’ PPC is all about relevance. It is the right combination of keywords you’re using to search and the price a company is willing to pay to have their ad shown to you. Hanapin is working on the backend of platforms like Google, Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. to make sure that our client’s ads show up to relevant customers.


Wrapping Up


This is just a sampling of responses from our team. There are hundreds of other ways you could explain PPC to a non-digital marketer.


I’d love to hear your best and/or funniest explanations. Feel free to share them with me @AlainaPThompson.

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