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Best Practices for Naming Conventions of Marketing Campaigns

If you manage ad campaigns for a growing or a large business, reporting on those can be a real pain if you haven’t set your campaign naming right. Here’s a short guide on the dos and don’ts of naming...

If you manage ad campaigns for a growing or a large business, reporting on those can be a real pain if you haven’t set your campaign naming right. Here’s a short guide on the dos and don’ts of naming conventions.

Looking at your ad accounts, can you easily determine how each campaign is set up? What is the product or service that the campaign is promoting? Which audience is targeted? If that is not the case, you might consider developing a system for naming your digital advertising campaigns that will make them more organized and manageable.


What are Naming Conventions?

Simply put, naming conventions are a set of rules that allow users to deduce relevant information about the campaign they are currently observing. It is an important part of an internal data strategy, to make sure that all campaigns are named in accordance with defined rules, so they can be managed and analyzed more easily.

Who is coming up with these naming conventions? Normally agencies provide this service – they have the experience and the skills. But as some brands are taking back control of all things related to their most valuable asset – their data – sometimes brands work together with an independent consultancy firm on planning and providing a naming convention system.

Naming conventions can be used for campaign names but also for other marketing assets – from highest level properties right down to ad creatives, ad groups, and conversion events.

So it is very important that you set a bullet-proof naming convention from the very beginning and stick to it, as changing it six months down the line will have all kinds of unpleasant consequences.

Once you standardize your naming conventions you will gain various benefits – here are a few most important ones:

  • Increased data quality through a sound data governance setup
  • Improved robustness and detail of weekly/monthly dashboards
  • Well-defined and strengthened cross-channel analysis
  • Reduced manual workloads on local media and analytics teams

How analytically mature is your marketing?

Check out our Guide to Analytical Maturity in Marketing to find out how you can get more value from your data.


Basic Rules of Naming Convention Structures

A naming convention incorporates a number of different elements separated by a special character, called a Delimiter. Underscores (_) are best practice delimiters, but pipes (|) and dashes (-) can be used too, although dashes are less reliable because they are often used for other purposes such as Date formats (YYYY-MM-DD).

Each element in a naming convention is listed as a particular type of field.

  • Free-form
    You can type whatever you want to type; the description of the campaign or call-to-action, for example.
  • Structured format
    Requires a specific format (for example, date format YYYY-MM-DD).
  • Coded

Coded fields use defined three- or four-letter codes to communicate information in a shortened format (channels, cost models, campaign objectives, country name…).

Defining fields in this manner will support standardization across all teams and markets, which is crucial for large advertisers releasing campaigns across different markets. These fields communicate specific pieces of information that most marketing platforms do not communicate in their standard data formats.

When using codes and free-form only use alphanumeric characters (0-9, a-z, A-Z) and do not use punctuation, symbols (currency), or special characters (&, @, /). The only exception to this rule is the hyphen (“-“), which can be used to separate pieces of information in the free-form fields.

All dates are supposed to be in the same format, presumably YYYY-MM-DD. This format is a global ISO standard and can be read as a date automatically by various data tools. It is also important to always use standard ISO values for country, language, and currency codes, and to keep an appendix of these values as part of your naming convention documentation.


Proper Campaign Naming Taxonomy Helps with Data Governance

Having a standardized campaign naming taxonomy is an essential element in robust data governance, and helps to produce high-quality reporting on all media channels and across platforms, guaranteeing uniformity in cross-channel reporting and analysis.

For example, account and campaign level fields can be assumed as the top-level layers, containing key data values important for reporting on a global level. Lower granularity levels, such as placement, ad group, ad set, or ad creative, can focus on agency-level reporting and provide more details.

A much more detailed and rigid setup can be useful for large businesses with numerous items like products and brands. This convention provides an extra layer of structure separated by a tilde (~) for each corresponding field’s name for ease of reading.

Each level would have a specific template - such as Account, Campaign, and Ad set. And each channel could use a separate structure to capture specific fields to those platforms. The data dictionary should contain this key for each level and channel with a master list of each element's values, e.g. product lines.

All subsequent lower levels, such as ad sets or individual ad creatives, will use a similar structure, ensuring they can be linked together by the unique identifier of the campaign name. All variables, such as product, market, media, and media format, require a name using the same convention to enable reporting at every level - from campaign to ad sets and ads.


A Data Dictionary for Codes is Needed

A dictionary will be the single source of truth for all naming convention taxonomies if you are using codes in naming. Lookups can be used in a naming convention generator, so keeping the codes here consistent and updated is essential, with communications of any changes.

Using a data dictionary and codes is not always necessary. You could consider using the full name of a field in certain cases, especially for the fields at a more granular level. If you trim down the number of fields and use full names, then things become much more readable. It’s not length that’s the problem, after all, it’s the readable element that counts.

If you want to use codes instead of the full names of items in the naming convention, then it means the overall number of characters in the names doesn't get too long, and this is a good best practice.

Also using codes means less data variance. For example, spelling the same product in different ways, depending on who is inputting the convention, can lead to errors. However, with the more granular dimensions, such as ad or ad group, you need a slightly different and simpler approach to naming. The reason lies in the fact that there will be many of them at this granular level, and you need a sustainable solution that will not take too much time and nerves.

So firstly, don't use as many codes at the granular dimensions, as these take time to find in the dictionary. Secondly, it's often the granular dimensions that end up surfacing in dashboards when looking at performance comparisons, so it's worth keeping them more simple and readable, short and punchy.

All these tips are important if you want to maintain your data quality and spend less time preparing regular reports on campaign performance. Or you can also use Adverity’s feature called Smart Naming Conventions, which can identify and resolve common errors in campaign naming. The choice is yours.


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