There’s an emerging trend in the advertising industry—for the first time, brands are shifting significant mobile advertising budgets from Facebook ads to Google Universal App Campaigns (UAC). While Facebook advertising has largely dominated mobile marketing budgets, this migration of budgets to Google’s platform has been a helpful shift to diversify risk tied to any single platform.
Why is this shift happening now? Why are advertisers changing spend so drastically? Improvements in Google’s search algorithm and the emergence of automation tools are now enabling brands to better identify, target, bid, and convert users with their ad campaigns.
What is Google UAC?
Google initially launched Universal App Campaigns (UAC) in 2015, and the intent was to make it easier for developers to promote their apps across different platforms within a unified system. In October 2017, Google replaced app install campaigns with Google Adwords, although a full migration occurred later in November.
The big difference with UAC is that advertisers don’t design individual ads. Instead, Google’s system uses text and assets from the app store listing to design a variety of ads across several formats and networks. In practice, this means that when creating a Universal App Campaign, an advertiser will upload creative assets that become the “building blocks” that the campaign uses to create ads. As such, it’s important to provide many different kinds of text, image, and video assets that align with the campaign goal (i.e., install volume or in-app actions). That way, UAC can create a relevant ad for every moment in every possible format for every channel. Google’s systems test different combinations, showing ads that perform best most often.
Algorithm Changes in Early 2018
In early 2018, Google made vast improvements to its algorithm for UAC, making it easier and more profitable for advertisers to reach their target audiences. Google has shifted its strategy over the course of the year to focus downstream in order to reach the smaller advertising budgets, and improving its algorithm, along with automation tools, has been a big part of this focus.
Most of the companies with which we work used to spend 10% of their budgets on Google versus the remaining with Facebook and other second-tier social platforms. Now they spend 30-50% on Google UAC.
Changing Role of the User Acquisition Manager
This shift from Facebook to Google UAC changes the role of UA managers that have typically focused on Facebook ads because much of the control over advertising decisions has been handed over to the algorithms. With Facebook, intraday changes are necessary, but Google UAC allows advertisers to set it and forget it. Instead, UA managers are freed up to focus on quantitative analysis, creative strategy, and audience expansion. It’s also now possible for less experienced advertisers to get results comparable to their more advanced peers. This means that more advertisers can profitably use Google UAC to grow and scale their reach.
Further, now that Google’s UAC algorithm and native tools have become so sophisticated, many third-party advertising tools have become less necessary. Ad tech tools had been a significant competitive advantage before, but now both Facebook and Google UAC basically offer comparable tools to advertisers for free, spurning the phrase, “Third-party ad tech is dead!” UA managers will look to social advertising technology companies instead to provide cross-platform campaign management, advanced creative reporting, and workflow automation.
Despite Google’s algorithmic improvements to identify and target audiences, optimizing ads to find winning creative is still manual. Constant creative testing—copy, video, images—becomes imperative to achieve and sustain return on advertising spend (ROAS) because creative rapidly fatigues with increased spend and audience reach. In fact, 95% of creatives fail to outperform a media buying portfolio’s best ads, so even when you have a high-performing creative, you need to think about replacing it. UA managers will increasingly focus on developing new creatives to keep pace with the volume needed to continue running campaigns with Facebook and Google UAC in the coming year.
Brian Bowman is the Founder & CEO of ConsumerAcquisition.com. He has profitably managed over $1B in online advertising spend and product development for leading online brands including: Disney, ABC, Match.com, and Yahoo.