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Universal App Campaigns (UAC) vs. Apple Search Ads

4 MINUTE READ | November 15, 2018

Universal App Campaigns (UAC) vs. Apple Search Ads

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Mason Suess

Mason Suess has written this article. More details coming soon.

As online shopping is estimated to account for ~50% of sales during the 2018 holiday season (up from just 40% the prior year), retailers with mobile apps are hyper-focused on driving sales within the app (accounting for over 50% of online sales on average). Two of the most popular ways to promote apps installs online are through the use of Apple’s Search Ads and Google’s Universal App Campaigns.

iPhone Screen with Apps

While the biggest difference between the two is the different digital properties that the ads would be found on (Apple App Store vs. Google Search, YouTube, etc.), depending on the app, higher app installs can be gained by utilizing these ad types to help your app reach more people.

Since app downloads are critical drivers of success during the holiday season, we’ve outlined the nuances of each of these two ad types by diving into what you can and can’t do on Apple Search Ads and Universal App Campaigns (UAC).

Apple Search Ads are touted as “an easy way to help people discover an app on the App Store for iPhone and iPad” and can be set up through either a Basic or Advanced Solution type. At a high level, the Basic Solution type lets you pay only for installs at a cost you choose, provides a quick-view dashboard that tracks ad performance, uses Apple’s intelligent automation to maximize your results, and requires minimal ongoing management to maintain. Apple specifics that Basic Solutions are designed for budgets up to $10,000 per app, per month.

As the name suggests, the Apple Search Ads Advanced Solution type gives you more control over your campaigns by letting advertisers set their own bids and budgets, it requires you to pay only when a user taps on your ad, detailed reports of all key metrics are provided, it lets you choose the keywords and audiences for your ads, and enables measurement and management at scale with APIs.

Apple Search Ads allow marketers to make bidding decisions based on Tune keyword and Apple UI keyword performance while also providing keyword-level insights, competitor conquesting, and creative sets which are rich assets that are great to serve to upper-to-mid funnel customers in the discovery stage. Conveniently, keyword-match campaigns in Apple Search Ads also enable teams to keyword mine new keywords to build into the larger strategy.

In terms of shortcomings, Apple Search Ads don’t allow for granular manual bidding, audience lists (WCA, CRM, etc.) can’t be applied for targeting, and we’ve noticed that there isn’t a ‘post-install’ action reporting capability in the UI (but luckily these insights are viewable via Tune to get around this). While useful to most, if not all, app developers, it’s important to remember that Apple Search Ads can only be used for iOS apps and not Andriod. To ensure your app reaches Andriod users, Universal App Campaigns are the way to go.

Universal App Campaigns were designed to streamline the process of promoting apps across Google’s largest properties like Google Search, Google Play, YouTube and the Google Display Network by doing the heavy-lifting for you.

Universal App Campaigns are efficient and use automated bidding via machine learning capabilities while also allowing marketers to optimize for post-install actions (revenue, sign-ups, etc.). Unfortunately, Universal App Campaigns don’t provide network reporting meaning that you can’t see where your ads are being served (whether it’s Gmail, Search, Shopping, YouTube, etc.).

We’ve also learned (the hard way) that video assets will be auto-generated by Google if one is not provided, and that these videos are often less appealing and cost per install (CPI) across video assets typically underperforms other creative. Lastly, and similar to Apple Search Ads, audience lists (WCA, CRM, etc.) can’t be used for targeting.

To see the biggest differences between the two ad types, refer to our cheat sheet below.

UAC vs Apple Search Ads

UAC vs. Apple Search Ads

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Depending on what your goals are (app installs, post-install actions, subscription sign-ups, etc.), Apple Search Ads, Universal App Campaigns, or both could play a prominent role in your app install strategy. Above all, it’s important to first establish a target cost per install (CPI) in order to successfully launch and track your app install campaign which we’ll be diving into soon. Until then, best of luck and we hope you get some use out of our handy cheat sheet.

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