Incipia blog

New Feature: Apple Search Ads Creative Sets

Gabe Kwakyi | May 29, 2023

This topic was broken on ASO Stack by the team at Phiture and also Thomasbcn.

In a move that's arguably the most asked-for since expansion of markets, Apple has just released creative sets, which allows advertisers to modify (within slightly confusing rules) their live Search Ads creative, including screenshots and video previews.


Using Apple Search Ads' creative assets is a bit odd when compared to normal ad management systems such as Google UAC or Facebook Ads, but is as follows:

How to Make Search Ads Creative Sets

  1. Start making a creative set when making a new campaign or for existing ad groups.
  2. Click add creative set.
  3. Add a name.
  4. Select the assets you want to show in your Search Ad result (the first asset in the list selected will be the first shown; see caveat bullet #2).
    1. 3 assets must be selected for portrait orientation assets, or 1 asset for landscape orientation.
  5. Select assets for each asset size you like or check the use default assets check box.
  6. Save the creative set; new creative sets will show in the list above the default sets.


What You Can't Do With Creative Sets

  1. Upload new creatives directly into the Search Ads interface.
  2. Test all unique combinations of screenshots/preview videos in your product page.
  3. See creative set + keyword/search term performance.
  4. Give two creative sets the same name in any other campaign/ad set in the entire account - it would seem this is a bug!
  5. (Easily) see aggregated creative set performance across a campaign/account.
  6. Report on data such as age/demographics/time of day/day of weeks for creative sets.

Important Details to Know About Creative Sets

  • Creative sets are created only from screenshots or preview videos uploaded to iTunes Connect for a target app.
  • Order matters when selecting creative sets - creative ad sets can only be created from screenshots or preview videos in the left-to-right order they were uploaded into iTunes Connect in.
    • This means that if you are using your later screenshots for creative set A/B testing, you will need to order the screenshots in the order you want to select them.
    • Apple's documentation specifies:
      • iPhone example: if you have a Creative Set with four assets - ABCD - possible ads would be combinations of: ABC, ABD, ACD, BCD but CBA is not a valid combination.
    • Put another way, if your first screenshot is selected in a creative set, it will always show as your first screenshot.
    • If running tests with a set of 5 regular screenshots, upload your first test screenshot as iTunes Connect screenshot #6, your second test screenshot as iTunes Connect screenshot #7, and your third test screenshot as iTunes Connect screenshot #8)
  • A creative set can enable apps with preview videos to use only screenshots in a Search Ad without removing the preview video from the live product page.
  • Special characters such as pipes (useful for creating delimiters for analysis) are not permitted, but others such as commas or dashes are permitted.
  • Creative sets can be shared (AKA duplicated) between ad sets and campaigns.

  • Creative sets do not indicate the order of screenshots.
    • This makes it vital to name your creative sets appropriately, so that you can maintain accurate reporting.
  • Thankfully, creative set names can be edited after they are live, but the asset selection is immutable.
  • Creative sets also have their own IDs, which can make reporting easier.
  • Like search terms, creative sets do not appear in the campaign-level of hierarchy.
  • Creative sets don't require all asset types to be selected to be completed (meaning you can test using only one asset size if you have multiple; just select the use default check box).


The addition of creative sets also makes relevance more of a consideration in structuring of keywords/creative sets within ad groups than previously.

Now that creative sets can serve with any eligible keywords within an ad set, it is more useful to use SKASs (single keyword ad sets) in order to maximize TTR/CR through keyword-to-creative optimization. SKASs also overcome the inability to report on creative set performance with keywords/search terms.

First Thoughts on Using Creative Sets for iOS 1st Party A/B Testing

The release of creative sets also affects ASO by providing a more effective A/B testing tool. While Phiture's post caveats the use of this new creative ad management system in Apple Search Ads as being limited and less-than-ideal, using creative sets promises to still useful (potentially even more-so than a Google Play experiment) if used the right way. Previous A/B testing solutions relied on using 3rd party testing solutions (i.e. non-app store traffic), doing a same language country vs country hack A/B test, or running a simple pre-post/sequential reporting test.

Using creative sets for ASO A/B testing promises a more effective, more relevant and lower cost method than the aforementioned options for search impression AB testing; additionally, with creative sets ASOs can also test creative-keyword performance, which is an option not possible with Google Play Experiments.


The Bottom Line: Apple's continued commitment to its Search Ads product strikes gold in releasing a massive product improvement that will better enable app developers and marketers to improve the efficiency of their paid marketing and ASO efforts.


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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