How to run campaigns on an ad network

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Class 05 Growing your user base

How to run campaigns on an ad network

Intermediate | 11 minutes

We’ve talked a bit about ad networks and how to choose the right ones for your game’s UA. Now it’s time to get to business. In this class we’ll take you through a checklist for preparing your media plan, we’ll explain the key tasks to do when setting up campaigns, and discuss the different ways you can optimize your UA strategy once your campaign is out in the wild.

Hi guys, Assaf here. By now, we’ve already talked a bit about ad networks and how to choose the right ones for your game’s UA. Now, we’re going to dive into the fun stuff – how to actually get started and set up your first campaign.

There are 3 parts to starting a campaign on an ad network: getting your media plan together, setting up the campaign itself, and then optimizing the campaign. By the end of this video, you’ll understand how to get started with all of it.

Let’s jump in.

Preparing your media plan

Now, let’s say you’ve chosen a few media sources and ad networks to work with. There are a few things you’ll need to decide on before starting the campaign. Let’s go through your UA checklist:

-Choosing your geos
-Choosing your creatives
-Calculating a ROAS goal
-Determining your base bid

Choosing your geos
First things first – which countries do you want to run your UA campaign in? If you haven’t run an ad campaign before, the best strategy is to start out with a worldwide campaign – then eventually turn off spend in the countries that aren’t delivering for you, and reallocate that spend to countries that are performing better. So for your next campaign, you’ll have a better idea of the countries you want to target.

Choosing your creatives
Now for creatives. Likely you’ve already run a few video ads and playables on Facebook and know more or less which creatives perform best. The IPM you see on Facebook should give you a good indication of which creatives have a better chance at performing well on the network.

We’re going to talk a lot more about creatives later in the course – but to start out, we recommend using 4 creatives per campaign per country. Note that localized creatives aren’t mandatory – and you can always run with English ones across most geos to begin with.

Calculate your ROAS goal
Now for the ROAS goal. Chances are you’ve heard of ROAS, or return on ad spend; maybe you’ve read the ironSource glossary or watched the video where we cover it; but when it comes to actually calculating it for your game, you might not know exactly what you need to do. Sound about right?

Well, no more, because I’m gonna walk you through the steps to help you calculate your ROAS goal. And it’s pretty important you learn how – after all, this is the KPI you’re going to be optimizing your campaigns towards, and basically calculates how much money you need to make back, or recoup, from your ad campaign in order to be profitable.

I won’t lie, it is a bit complicated to calculate, so on top of what I say here, we’re gonna leave some blog posts and more in-depth webinars in the notes for you to check out later and read up on.

So, where do you begin? The first step in calculating your ROAS goal is figuring out your ARPU and LTV curve. Remember that ARPU is the actual money each user brings in, and LTV is the predicted revenue a user will generate from the time they download your app until they churn.

After you build your LTV curve, you need to choose your margins, or the percentage of ad spend you want to recoup. High margins means you recoup quickly and make more profit in the short term but have lower scale. While low margins achieve higher scale and potentially more profit in the long-term. If you’re on a tighter budget and need to generate cash or reinvest in your game asap, consider starting with a high margin strategy.

The margin you set will help you determine your breakeven day – which is the day you… well… break even on your spend.

Let’s look at an example. If your LTV is 50 cents and you set a 20% margin on your ad campaign, it means you need to recoup 10 cents of your ad spend – because 20% of 50 is 10 – so your break even day happens on the day the LTV curve hits 40 cents.

Now how do you actually calculate the ROAS goal from all this? First, it’s important to understand that we calculate ROAS goals according to specific days – we usually do day 3 or day 7. So basically we’re calculating how much spend we need to make back by a certain day.

Follow this formula – if your goal is for day 3, for example, then divide your ARPU day 3 by the ARPU value on your breakeven day. So let’s say your ARPU day 3 is 10 cents and the ARPU value on the break even day is 40 cents like we said earlier. That means your ROAS goal is 25%. Because 10 divided by 40 is 0.25. And that basically means you want to recoup 25% of your ad spend by day 3 of the user’s lifetime.

Determine your base bid
From that ROAS goal, now you can calculate your base CPI bid – or how much you want to pay for each install. Note that it’s a base bid – meaning it’s just how much we’re going to start out with. Optimizing it comes later on.

Your bid largely depends on your game’s LTV, and will always be a bit lower than it. For example, if your LTV is 1 dollar you can make your CPI anything lower than a dollar. That way, whatever you spend now to acquire a user, you know you’ll make back later on when that user starts watching ads and making in-app purchases.

We always recommend starting with a more aggressive bid on the higher side and then lowering it later on. That way you start off with as much scale as possible and can learn more quickly – remember, in principle high CPIs mean higher eCPMs which means more impressions for your campaign.

Once you have the creatives and your ROAS goal ready to go, here are few more things you need to know about setting up your UA campaign:

Setting up the campaign

Your mobile measurement partners’ dashboard is where you set up everything regarding attribution – and it’s where you need to set up your campaign’s attribution window. An attribution window is the amount of hours or days that an ad can get credited for an install after a user sees it. There are 2 main types of attribution: click-through attribution and view-through attribution. For view-through attribution we recommend a window of 1 day, and for click-through – 7 days.

But what exactly is view-through attribution? View-through attribution or VTA measures how many users install your app after viewing your ad. Enabling VTA ensures that you’re 1) measuring your UA campaigns properly, 2) crediting the right ad network for the install, and 3) increasing the IPM for that channel.

Lastly, be sure you’re providing your attribution partner with all your app’s post-install events so they can pass it to the ad network, and give you a deeper analysis on your campaigns’ quality performance. What are post-install events?

These are actions or events the user does after they’ve downloaded the app – that you pre-define in your game. The standard ones are complete tutorial, complete level, make an in-app purchase, view an ad, and rate the app. But you can make custom events too – like level attempt or level start. You’ll be able to see through your ad network how well the users coming from the campaign are monetizing well or progressing through your game.

How do you send post-install events to your MMP and ad networks? You have to set up something called a postback. Your MMP should have a ton of documentation on how to do that.

And that’s it! Once you have all that turned on and ready, your campaign is good to go. Press go live!

Optimizing your UA strategy

Remember at the start of the video I said there are three main parts of setting up campaigns on ad networks? Now we’re on the last part – optimization.

There are 2 parts to optimizing a UA campaign: first, optimizing your creatives towards increasing IPM, and second, optimizing your bids towards your ROAS goal.

Regarding IPM and creatives – each ad network has its own benchmarks and best practices, so be sure to read their documentation on optimizing them. We’re going to spend a whole class on creative optimization, because there’s A LOT to talk about. So head there to learn more.

Now for your bids – you can choose to optimize them manually, or use an automated tool if the ad network provides it, like the ROAS optimizer ironSource offers.

If you choose to manually optimize your campaigns, you need to be sure to place a different bid for each app source and geo – we’ll explain why in a second. Note that it’s best to wait until you have 100 installs before you start analyzing the app source’s quality. Once you reach that point, wait 7 more days to make any manual tweaks to the bids. Why at least 7 days? Because you need that time to cohort your data. A quick aside – a cohort is a group of users who all downloaded the app on the same day. That’s how we track retention and other metrics – through cohorts.

For example – let’s say you’re running campaigns across 100 apps. The top app on that list already has 100 installs and you see that while your Day 7 ROAS goal was 7%, your campaign is generating 8% ROAS. That means you can increase the bid a bit more because you’re above the KPI. On the other hand, if you see you’re generating 5% ROAS, which is below your goal, you need to decrease the bid.

Like I mentioned earlier, you also want to bid differently for each source and geo – as opposed to placing the same bid for all your sources. What do I mean by that?

Let’s say your LTV is fifty cents and you’re advertising on two apps – Fornite and Candy Crush. You decide to bid thirty five cents on both apps, and you end up receiving 10 thousand installs from each. BUT when you really look at it, your LTV on users from Fornite is 70 cents and on Candy Crush it’s 30 cents. That means the users you buy on Fornite are worth more than double the ones you get from Candy Crush. But … you’re paying the same for both of them. That’s a major waste. And you end up actually losing money.

BUT if you bid a bit lower on Candy Crush, like 21 cents and a bit higher on Fornite like 49 cents, suddenly you see you get 20 thousand users from Fornite and 5 thousand users from Candy Crush. That’s 25 thousand users in total compared to 20 thousand before. AND remember that you have more users with higher LTVs.

But figuring that out for a whole list of apps takes a lot of complicated work and calculations. You’re not only advertising on 1 app, you’re advertising on hundreds.

With ironSource’s ROAS optimizer, for example, you just feed the tool the ROAS goal you want to hit, and the tool calculates the perfect bid for all the apps you’re running on, and then automatically changes the bids for you across every single one. It saves a lot of manual work and time, and optimizes on a much more granular level than just country and app – which ends up delivering even better results.