AdWords app-install campaigns to sunset as Universal App Campaigns take over

Google says Universal App Campaigns are now delivering 50% of app downloads across its network.

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Google launched Universal App Campaigns (UAC) roughly two years ago to help developers drive app downloads. UAC has co-existed with AdWords app-install campaigns since that time.

Now the company is moving all app-install ads under the umbrella of UAC. Google said that as of October 16, all app-install campaigns will run as UAC ads. All current app-install campaigns will stop running on November 15; so developers and publishers need to convert their campaigns accordingly. (Google’s blog post has instructions on how to do this.)

The two types of mobile-app campaigns offered different features and capabilities, with some distribution overlap. AdWords app-install ads offered more direct control over placements (single channel, multichannel) and bidding (CPC, CPI and so on) but were also more complex to create and manage.

UAC ads are automatically distributed across multiple Google channels (search, GDN, YouTube, AdMob and Google Play) and use a CPA model. UAC radically simplifies ad creation and optimization with automation and machine learning. From Google’s discussion of how UAC works:

[Y]ou don’t design individual ads for universal app campaigns. Instead, we’ll use your ad text ideas and assets from your app’s store listing to design a variety of ads across several formats and networks. All you need to do is provide some text, a starting bid and budget, and let us know the languages and locations for your ads. Our systems will test different combinations and show ads that are performing the best more often, with no extra work needed from you.

Google said that 50 percent of all app downloads across its network are now being driven by UAC. One factor behind UAC’s performance is the ability to bid and optimize against a range of goals: CPI, CPA or ROAS and set up automated Smart Bidding based on those goals.

Google is also seeing a shift from pure install-driven campaigns (download) to those that focus on engagement or specific in-app actions (hotel booking, first ride and so on). The company said that marketers who “optimize for in-app actions with UAC, on average, drive 140 percent more conversions per dollar than other Google app promotion products.” This is at least in part because ad creatives and CTAs are likely more compelling than plain-vanilla download campaigns.

Google indicated that one in four mobile-app-related ad dollars is now focused on promoting in-app events/conversions. The company has 2 billion active Android users globally, and Google Play is live in 190 countries.

Beyond the migration itself, what’s also significant about the shift to UAC is what it represents about the future of Google’s ad business. It shows that the company plans to infuse more automation, goal-based bidding, machine learning and auto-optimization across its various channels to simplify ad creation and improve performance — for advertisers and itself.


Google offered Zynga as a case study of success with UAC ads. The latter delivered the following from Kimberly Corbett, VP of User Acquisition. I’ve slightly edited her longer statement, provided in email:

UAC campaigns have allowed us to trim down time spent optimizing while increasing our time advancing our media buying strategies by focusing on larger growth opportunities. We have titles where we’ve run large numbers of stand-alone campaigns without notable traction for scale and performance, but by transitioning to UAC event optimization, we’ve been able to increase performance with event optimization by 97% in one month.

Initially, we ran a UAC Target ROAS alpha campaign with Google, where we gave the campaign a revenue goal to hit. After running the campaign for about a month, we noticed that not only were goals being hit, but some were exceeded by as much as 54%. As a result, we expanded UAC Target ROAS to more games in our portfolio to achieve increased scale and performance.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Greg Sterling
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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