User acquisition is dead, creative is king

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“Don’t like the weather? Don’t worry — it’ll change soon.”

It’s an previous joke about New England weather, however it sums up the state of consumer acquisition advertising as we speak.

We’ve been given some superb new instruments and capabilities in the previous few years, however it’s additionally meant that we’ve needed to utterly remake how we construction and execute campaigns. And the current modifications are just the start. Because the advert platforms’ AI algorithms get smarter, like with Google and Fb, we anticipate the position of UA managers to evolve rapidly in the next few years.

So whereas the title of this article may need jarred you, the previous means of doing consumer acquisition actually is lifeless, or at the very least dying. Here’s a take a look at its subsequent reincarnation.

Why is consumer acquisition dying?

As Fb and Google’s AIs have grown extra efficient at media shopping for and bid management, the third-party adtech instruments a few of us used are not a competitive advantage. And managing campaigns is not greatest achieved by human beings. UA managers need to let AIs take over a part of their campaign and advert set administration.

Simpler stated than accomplished, though. It requires a leap of religion for any consumer acquisition manager handy a part of their work over to a machine, however you’ll finally be higher off. Letting the AI run your campaigns will improve ROI and scale back effort.

The levers of marketing campaign administration which were traditionally used by people at the moment are being systematically automated by AI. This truly is sensible — people had been doing the quantitative analysis of campaigns for a very long time. With sensible sufficient code, those tasks could be automated.

Now that the promoting platforms’ AIs are buying media and managing bids, creative has grow to be the first driver of performance.

At the least for now, AI can’t do creative, or can’t do it properly enough. Templates don’t work properly, either. Creative is still greatest finished by people, though we anticipate the development teams at Fb and Google will proceed to check that assumption.

Both platforms have taken steps towards automating creative testing — Google with its advert variations, and Fb with its Dynamic Creative. These new instruments are helpful, but they’re both just taking pieces of creative and re-assembling them into new variations. People are nonetheless creating the items and we anticipate that to continue to be the case… a minimum of for the subsequent couple of years.

What “UA is dead” actually means is that UA is evolving, a lot of the previous methods of intraday frequent modifications of adjusting bids, budgets, and pausing advert units are lifeless, and creative is your greatest hope for high-performance campaigns.

Our personal advertising technique on Facebook has radically shifted every six months for the final six years. It’s virtually definitely going to shift once more six months from now.

Should you’re nonetheless doing issues like frequent intraday bid or finances edits, you’re not making the most effective use of the platform.

There are three specific shifts that have changed how Fb UA, specifically, is accomplished:

  • AEO and Value Optimization
  • The “Best Practices” Replace and the idea of Vital Edits
  • Campaign Finances Optimization (coming September 2019)

Here’s a deeper dive into each of these points:

  • AEO and Value Optimization

The previous strategy for Fb promoting was to drive quantity — we chased Cellular App Installs (MAIs) and would handle 1,000+ campaigns in every account simply to realize scale. Audiences and placements can be set to drive high quality conversions as greatest we might, but actually we have been simply getting as many conversions as we might, and hoping that on common the worth of these conversions can be enough to turn a revenue general. We’d manage bids both manually or with a third-party software or our AdRules platform.

Our new technique is free of a volume constraint. Its objective is to drive internet revenue. We do this by way of AEO (App Event Optimization) and Worth Optimization marketing campaign administration, together with some careful manipulation of audiences where we tell the algorithm what to search for. As a result of we will have the AI optimize for specific events (like in-app purchases, registrations, or specifically, $20+ value of in-app purchases), Fb will deliver a far more precise viewers.

When utilizing AEO and VO, we additionally permit the AI to automate placement, bid administration, and the creation of audiences. This is exactly where that afore-mentioned leap of faith takes place: UA managers should now let the algorithm handle these key areas of their campaigns.

  • The “Best Practices” Replace and the idea of Vital Edits

Facebook rolled out its “Best Practices” update in February 2018. This adopted an analogous move by Google in late 2017, when Google moved all new app install campaigns over to Google’s Universal App Campaigns (UAC), whether advertisers appreciated it or not. Each shifts have been the official handover from people managing campaigns to AI managing campaigns.

This is also the move that kneecapped a lot of the third-party adtech instruments. In case you have been utilizing a third-party software to optimize your campaigns, all of a sudden that advantage was over.  The good news was that you might scale back the price of the adtech fees and transfer in the direction of very low value or flat monthly fees. The dangerous news was that instantly each advertiser had entry to the identical algorithm you probably did and the enjoying area was flattened.

Facebook has outlined how they want campaigns to be run of their Blueprint Certification. Everyone in UA in your staff should get licensed — even for those who outsource your advertising. It’s important info if you wish to outperform your rivals now, and even in the event you just don’t need to lose your shirt.

  • Campaign Finances Optimization (coming September 2019)

This third change is principally a shift from individuals making finances adjustments to machines making finances adjustments.

Should you’re not yet utilizing Campaign Finances Optimization, it’s time to adopt it. Facebook will require CBO in September 2019 for all newly launched campaigns. That’s simply five months away on the time of this writing. After that, the AI will change budgets and optimize bids, budgets, placement, viewers, language and creative testing. Humans gained’t be making these adjustments anymore.

Google’s UAC are already at this degree of “black box” administration by the AI, however Fb is arising quick.

The shift in the direction of creative

So now that AI has taken over a lot of the quantitative aspect of consumer acquisition advertising, and will take over virtually all of it after Q1 2020, what’s a UA supervisor to do?

Concentrate on creative

Focusing on creative has two key points:

  • Creative Evaluation. Each your personal and your rivals’

Fb’s new Advertisements Library makes it much simpler to track your rivals’ advertisements. It might not inform you how nicely those advertisements are performing, but when they’re operating the identical advert for more than every week, it’s in all probability working for them. So you may need to cherry-pick a number of attributes from that competitor’s ad and check it in your personal advertisements.

But you’ll even have to test if those new attributes make any difference. For those who’re going to create high-performance advertisements, you must know the important thing efficiency drivers. This is one of many first things we take apart once we work with new shoppers: Which creative attributes are actually making a difference? As soon as you recognize that, you’ll be able to prioritize your creative checks much more effectively.

  • Creative Testing. Utilizing the appropriate methods for testing and getting check results as effectively as attainable

In a way, whoever builds one of the best ad-testing and creative ideation system now will achieve a big benefit in performance advertising. However that testing system should be constructed to test and conceive of numerous advertisements (only one out of 20 advertisements will perform properly sufficient to scale) and it should check those advertisements quick sufficient to scale them before creative and viewers fatigue units in or rivals swipe them.

For Businesses — and shopper expectations

As a UA service, account administration has grow to be crucial. Shopper communication needs to be seamless and, if essential, on the spot. Shoppers need to trust their partners sufficient to let go of how they used to advertise (managing media shopping for themselves, for example, and those frequent intraday modifications).

Businesses will always have to work on enhancing processes with shoppers, with marketing campaign and staff administration, and above all, with creative analysis, improvement, and testing. Workflow optimization leads to higher ROI —  lots better ROI.

“Has User Acquisition advertising become easier, or more complex?”

This is a logical query to ask when you understand the size of the shift we’ve just experienced. But actually, whether or not acquisition is simpler or extra complicated depends upon the platform.

Fb advertisements are undoubtedly easier to handle than they have been before. The AI does a reasonably good job. But meaning we’ve all received more competition from other advertisers – other UA managers now have entry to all the identical cool instruments you’ve acquired.

Google UAC is slightly totally different. It’s perceived by some as being “set it and forget it.” Nevertheless, it is about to get much more complicated.

What to expect from User Acquisition advertising in the subsequent yr (or much less)

We consider Facebook is about to vary UA advertising once more.

Facebook has all the items for a UAC-style product that is more likely to be a mixture of CBO + DCO. (Campaign Price range Optimization + Dynamic Creative Optimization). That’s all a flowery method of claiming that Facebook is working on a new function that may optimize creative, creative placements, bids, and budgets for us. We anticipate this new capability to be out sometime in Q1 2020.

Google’s additionally acquired some new developments coming. Google Analytics for Firebase (an app measurement answer that lets UA managers get insights into app utilization and consumer engagement) can also be leveraged for selecting lookalike or comparable audiences (also called “LALs”).

With Firebase’s capability to report on and monitor up to 500 distinct events within apps, once that knowledge might be fed into the Google UAC advertising AI, will probably be arduous to argue towards the AI’s superiority over human management. The AI could have so much knowledge to interpret, and will obviously be capable of interpret that knowledge at such a velocity, humans gained’t have the ability to compete.

Four methods User Acquisition managers can evolve

We don’t consider UA managers are about to be out of a job. There will all the time be a necessity for a human at the helm of all these controls, even when the controls can principally run on their own.

But UA managers undoubtedly have to evolve. The job they will be doing in a yr (much much less two to 3 years) shall be *very* totally different from the job they’re doing now.

Listed here are 4 methods to organize for the modifications:

1. Understand Facebook greatest practices and ensure those greatest follow guidelines are adopted

Facebook modifications fast. You don’t have to be advised that. Staying present with the advertising platform is important. For those who and your group haven’t gotten certification from Facebook’s Blueprint coaching program, it’s time to fix that.

But that’s solely step one. In case you’re nonetheless promoting the same method you have been this time final yr, you aren’t changing quick sufficient.

Keeping up with UAC greatest practices requires constant studying. You must all the time be testing, all the time be pushing the envelope of what’s potential. Because — assured –your toughest rivals are pushing that envelope.

2. Everybody needs to get educated on Google’s App Campaigns (formerly referred to as Common App Campaigns or UAC)

A bit more than a yr ago, most of our partners have been spending perhaps 10-20 % of their price range on Google UAC. That’s utterly changed. Right now, most companions are splitting their budgets between Facebook and Google.

So for those who aren’t using Google’s App Campaigns, you’re missing numerous potential volume.

Do your self a favor. Earlier than you blow $10,000-$100,000 in ad spend, no less than, assessment Google’s training supplies for Google UAC packages.

three. Explore Apple Search advertisements.

Apple hasn’t been a main ad platform for most UA managers. That’s also about to vary. As competitors will get fiercer and fiercer on Facebook and Google, and UA managers wrestle to eke out even a sliver of a proportion point of extra return, it solely is sensible to seek out much less competitive areas. Apple Search advertisements are top-of-the-line opportunities rising this yr.

four. It’s a must to get refined about creative testing.

Construct (or borrow) an aggressive, systematic testing technique. Creative could also be king…..however testing is its right hand. Easy, remoted, unstrategic A|B split-testing isn’t sufficient in this surroundings.

When creating your testing strategy, it’s necessary to think about the following:

  1. Accommodate model tips in addition to potential, however with sufficient flexibility to not decelerate too badly.
  2. Accommodate the velocity at which creative fatigue sets in (this is a beast to manage, however it may be finished).
  3. Give attention to 10x or 100x wins, and don’t get fussy over the extent of statistically confirmed outcomes which might be designed to see minor incremental enhancements. You’re on the lookout for earthquakes within the knowledge — not little tremors. That really frees you up to play fast and unfastened with statistics in a means that traditional A|B split-testing guidelines wouldn’t permit.

As UA dies, what occurs to the UA position?

Listed here are two situations for what consumer acquisition managers might should cope with in the coming years.

If the machines optimize

  • Hire inexpensive staff. We anticipate this to return into play around Q1 2020.
  • Ad tech charges will drop to < 1% of spend or shift to flat rates.

If individuals create

  • Concentrate on quantitative creative testing to uncover which efficiency drivers meet or beat your group’s efficiency necessities.
  • Do every part you’ll be able to to help creative groups be knowledge vs model pushed.
  • Set up systematic methods to research rivals’ advertisements.
  • Work intently together with your ad companions to extend creative quantity and diversify financial danger.
  • Put together to manage more advert networks (FB, Google Apple, and so on…).
  • Embrace the problem of balancing left-brain versus right-brain talent sets and tasks.


Don’t worry the machines. Let the new algorithms handle the elements of your campaigns that they will manage properly. Prepare for them to discover ways to optimize creative, too. Q1 2020 might be right here in a blink.

Spend money on creative. It’s your last greatest competitive benefit. UA managers will profit by understanding the best way to:

  • Drive quantitative creative testing to uncover efficiency drivers
  • Help creative teams be data- vs brand-driven
  • Set up competitive advert analysis practices
  • Manage partners to increase depth, creative quantity, and diversify monetary danger
  • Handle networks (FB, Google, Apple, and so forth…)

Some businesses have already started to take notice: As an alternative of constructing adtech instruments, they’re constructing creative teams.

Just hold your expertise present and embrace the modifications. This is an thrilling, challenging time to be a UA manager.

Brian Bowman is CEO of

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