Incipia blog

All About Creatives for Universal App Campaigns

Gabe Kwakyi | July 2, 2023

Why Good Creative is Important for Universal App Campaigns

The AdWords PPC auction pioneered and popularized the modern, second-price auction, in which advertisers do not pay their actual bid, but rather some amount at or below the bid. Another integral component to the second-price auction is that advertisers may earn better pricing for having ads that do a good job of engaging users.

ad rank score = (bid * CTR) / (quality score / maximum quality score)

The above is a basic equation that illuminates the mechanics of the second-price auction. An advertiser’s ad rank score determines whether the their ads will earn an impression or not, and also affects how much the advertiser will pay if a user clicks.

The importance of creative shows in the numerator of this equation because if an advertiser’s ads drive a higher user engagement (i.e. high CTR) then the advertiser can afford to bid lower (and pay less), while still winning auctions. By the same token it also means that if an advertiser’s ads drive lower user engagement (i.e. low CTR), then the advertiser must bid higher (and pay more) in order to continue winning auctions. Quality score also includes a CTR component, squaring the importance of creative in running a successful campaign.

With the advent of Universal App Campaigns, the above equation is still relevant, yet given that the focus of UACs is to simplify the advertising experience, the equation earns updated parameters.

CTR is still important for UACs as the majority of users only install after clicking an ad; although some small percentage of users may install from an impression, hence the option for view-through-attribution. But given that the main focus of UACs is to leverage machine learning to target users most likely to complete a specified action (not simply a click), this means that in the UAC equation, CTR is replaced by the conversion rate (CVR) of the target action of the Universal App Campaign (e.g. installs or purchases).

Moreover, while UACs do provide a “performance grouping” label, this does not serve the same purpose/indication of the web campaign’s 10/10 quality score metric, and therefore must be removed from the equation.

Image Source: Inside AdWords blog

Per a Google blog post, performance grouping is indicative of how often a particular creative asset is selected over other available assets of the same type (i.e. text, image, video, HTML) and ranges from low, to good, to best. For each group of asset types present in the campaign, the assets will have a mix of each performance grouping label, why performance grouping cannot be used in the ad rank equation. Based on our experience, it generally takes between 4 and 8 days to reveal an asset’s performance grouping; but this can occur more quickly or more slowly, depending on the number of times ads are served.

With the above information in mind, the equation can be rewritten for Universal App Campaigns as simply:

UAC ad rank score = (bid * CVR)

The above Google blog post also indicates that millions upon millions of signals are analyzed in running campaigns, so bear in mind that the equation above is a simple face on what is a much more complex ad serving process. Other variables may include the campaign objective, the number of events occurring per day, and the campaign’s bid:budget ratio.

In any case, creative still proves to be one of two major factors influencing the ad rank score equation.

Creative’s importance is even greater for tCPA campaigns (optimized for events), where creative is not just a means of reducing the cost per install, but plays a vital role in enabling UACs to continue serving at the same daily budget.

Because Universal App Campaigns operate by making connections between users who successfully complete a campaign’s targeted action, they require a steady stream of conversions to run efficiently. Good creative increases the proportion of installs to ads shown, which with all things equal, increases the number of events that occur. This generates a positive feedback loop as the higher conversion volume improves the UAC’s targeting ability, which brings in more users who complete even more events, and so on.

Increasing the bid can improve the quality of each user acquired along with some increase in conversion rate, but from our experience ultimately reduces the number of conversions that occur for the same daily budget, given that each user becomes more expensive to acquire. In many cases, reducing the bid (if it is close to your actual target CPA) can reduce the quality of users targeted, which often means a reduction in the conversion rate, and in turn a reduction in the number of conversions that occur.

The highly competitive nature of the mobile marketing industry by and large means that the change in cost per event outpaces the change in conversion rate when making bid adjustments, which is why creative is the better solution for raising conversion volume.

This also means that good creative can help ensure that a UAC’s targeting algorithm remains aligned with the target CPA bid set for the campaign, which is essential to ensuring UACs are performing well and capable of scaling.

For example, if a target CPA bid for an event is $30 but the actual cost per event within the conversion window is $40, then the UAC will take action, attempting to course-correct and reduce the cost paid per event. This situation often leads to adverse outcomes that can cause campaigns to go underserved and lose steam even with a budget increase. Good creative can help enable UACs to continue serving and by reducing the cost per install, which once more is important because it brings in more users for the same budget, and gives your campaigns the best chance to keep the aggregate cost paid per event within the target CPA.

In addition to being a requisite for healthy performance, adding quality video and image assets is important to enabling UACs to spend their full budget by tapping into the vast (and growing) number of inventory sources across the Google network at-large. This also means your UACs have a better chance of finding inventory sources that can acquire users who convert within your target CPA.

How to Maximize Universal App Campaign Creative Performance

As covered in the prior article, a best practice is to fill up all of your UAC asset slots. That includes up to 20 images, 20 videos, and 20 HTML5 ads, in addition to the 4 ad text ideas.

However, if limited on time and resources, focus on these 10 most important image asset dimensions:


  • 320x480 (Portrait Interstitial)
  • 480x320 (Landscape Interstitial)
  • 300x250 (Square)  
  • 320x50 (Banner)
  • 300x50 (Banner)
  • 320x100 (Banner)
  • 728x90 (Leaderboard)
  • 1200x628 (Landscape Image)
  • 1024x768 (Tablet)
  • 768x1024 (Tablet)

Best practices for creative asset dimensions include:


  • Using 1-2 text ideas that are shorter than 20 characters.
  • Testing 5 unique image assets in the most popular 320x420 and 420x328 sizes, and then selecting the top 2 to create a full set of variations from the top-10 most popular dimensions.
  • Uploading a mix of video dimensions, including landscape, portrait, and square orientation.
  • Target a 90-second HTML5 ad length.


Best practices for creating image assets include:

  • Create a diverse mix of images, so that UACs can use different assets for different users and inventory sources
  • Use simple designs with minimal, but powerful text.
  • Include images or visuals taken directly from within your app, such as characters or product shots.
  • Include a logo and test layering on app store badges for the platform being advertised on.
  • Localize/translate text/voiceovers/content when running ads in other countries.


Best practices for creating text assets include:


  • Use a clear, active voice Call to Action, a verb, and if possible a date or number, such as “Start Saving Today” or “Play Over 1,000 Levels.”


    • Avoid excessive punctuation, as this can cause text assets to be disapproved.


  • Check user reviews to ensure your ads speak using the same language as your target users.
  • Text ads can serve as single lines in addition to in pairs or with other assets, so ensure each asset makes sense if read by itself.


  • Using shorter length text assets can prevent truncation on inventory sources like Gmail.
  • Localize/translate text/visuals when running ads in other countries.


Best practices for creating video assets include:

  • Create a diverse mix of videos so that UACs can use different ads for different users and inventory sources.
  • Test different video lengths, such as 6 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds,  and 30 seconds, and test different lengths for each dimension (portrait, landscape, square).
  • Make the first 5 seconds count! For skippable videos, this is the part of your video that users must watch.
  • Be straightforward and focus on the problem your app solves or show how people use it.
  • If using a voiceover, ensure you have text cut-scenes or overlays in case users do not have sound enabled.
  • End videos with a clear CTA or takeaway.
  • Add your app icon/brand logo for credibility.
  • Localize/translate text/voiceovers/content when running ads in other countries.


A couple interesting facts supporting the importance of portrait videos per discussions with Google include:

  • Nearly 70% of the impressions served on AdMob are in portrait mode.
  • Portrait videos have up to a 60% higher conversion rate compared to Landscape videos served in portrait mode.


Best practices for creating HTML5 assets include:

  • Provide users with an introduction before the playable starts.
  • Because many users still aren’t used to interactive ads, continue to include captions and directions throughout the ad.
  • Make the ad a full happy path or positive experience. This is a preview of what playing your game will be, so make it a good one!
  • Start with portrait orientation and build for landscape as you have time/resources.
  • When the playable experience ends, provide the user with an end card and a clear call to action to either download the app or replay the experience.
  • Include relevant logos/branding details to lessen the chances your ad will be disapproved, and raise the branding polish of your ad.
  • Localize/translate text/visuals when running ads in other countries.

Image source: Inside AdWords blog

Use the following list to familiarize yourself with the properties and inventory sources where UACs can run, for each asset type:

  • Text: Google Play Homepage, Google Play Browse, Google Play Search, Search Ads, YouTube Native, Gmail App Install, Admob (all sizes)
  • Image: YouTube Native, Mobile Web, Admob (all sizes), AdMob GIF
  • Video: YouTube Trueview, Admob Rewarded, Admob Native, Admob Portrait, Admob Square, Admob Landscape, Mobile Web
  • HTML5: Admob Interstitial, Admob Square, Admob Banner


How to Analyze Creative Success

In the ad assets report, you can see metrics useful for analyzing the success of your creative assets, including stalwarts like cost/clicks/conversions, CTR, conversion rate, and cost/conversion. By passing revenue or value data to UAC for each conversion, you can also see value/conversion data, which enables the calculation of ROAS at an asset-level.

Check the performance per asset and gradually swap out assets which have enough data.If you have recently added new assets, be sure to adjust the date range to compare the new assets only over a time period during which the new assets were running, especially if optimizing for a downstream event, which may take days or even weeks before conversion data is fully available.

Make reporting more precise by tapping into the segmentation features.

Use the “conversion action” segment allows you to report on conversion-related data such as cost/conversion per asset, per conversion (e.g. installs vs purchases). This is essential to optimizing tCPA campaigns, as the un-segmented cost/conversion metric blends all conversion actions. This metric is also what UAC uses to determine target-actual CPA success and whether algorithmic adjustments need to be made.

Use the Network segment to see how each asset type performs across different networks, like Display and YouTube. Make tweaks and adjust your strategy based on how assets perform across each eligible network.

Examples of UAC Creative We’ve Made

The following are two examples of videos we’ve made using a similar brief, but with a few different versions:

General brief (Wordscapes)

  • Ensure the video is visually engaging throughout to reduce drop-off.
  • Use a fast enough pace that keeps users watching.
  • Use text to convey the value proposition.
  • Leverage awesome visuals, animations, and transitions to retain user attention.
  • Add branding visuals for legitimacy.

V1 (real device, short)

V2 (unique and polished)

V3 (Cinematic)

General brief (Hushed)

  • Ensure the video is visually engaging throughout to reduce drop-off.
  • Use a fast enough pace that keeps users watching.
  • Use text to convey the value proposition.
  • Leverage awesome visuals, animations, and transitions to retain user attention.
  • Add branding visuals for legitimacy.

Traditional Cut Scenes

V1: Uplifting beat

V2: Indie pop

V3: Cartoon orchestra

V4: Ambient chill



This video is intended to be finalized with the music that performs best from the traditional cut-scene video test.


That’s it for today!


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Incipia is a mobile marketing consultancy that markets apps for companies, with a specialty in mobile advertising, business intelligence, and ASO. For post topics, feedback or business inquiries please contact us, or send an inquiry to