Your guide to Unity bid strategies

Unity Ads offers several bid strategies that are tailored to different types of campaigns. Depending on the targeting of your campaign and whether you want to focus on getting installs, return on ad spend (ROAS), or retention, you can determine which strategy is best for you. This article describes how to use your advertising goals to choose your bid strategy. It covers the advantages and downsides of each bidding strategy and how those strategies can affect your overall UA campaign performance.


Why is the strategy you choose important?

The bidding strategy you choose determines how Unity manages the cost per result and spends the budget accordingly. Your goals are the determining factor for what bidding strategy to pick when it comes to launching your UA campaigns, as this will boost the efficiency of your campaign, your advertising ROI, and ultimately your profitability.    

With Unity Ads being a bidding platform, the exposure of your ad campaign depends on its eCPM (effective cost per thousand impressions), which is determined by the CVR (video conversion rate from impression to install) and CPI (cost per install) of your campaign. The higher your campaign’s eCPM, the more exposure it receives.

We have three goal-based campaign types paired with different bid strategies: 

  Install campaigns ROAS campaigns Retention campaigns
Description The most basic type of campaign, it focuses on getting people to install your game. Optimizes an install campaign for ROAS by targeting users predicted to generate revenue through in-app purchases or watching ads. Optimizes an install campaign for user retention by targeting users likely to remain in your app at least seven days (D7) after installation.
Main KPI Cost per install (CPI ROAS: ​​The revenue a player generates in their first seven days playing your app, divided by the cost to acquire these users. CPI and retention past D7: Predicted user behavior determines a user’s potential to come back to your game past the seven-day mark.
Bidding strategies available Manual or automated. Dynamic bids to acquire users at the best price. Dynamic pricing based on your base bid.



Bidding for install campaigns

With Unity, you can choose between two bidding strategies for iOS install campaigns: Manual and automated.


Manual bidding allows you to set a bid that works within a certain price range. You might also know this as tCPI or Static CPI campaigns. This allows you to control your bid to get the most results possible while staying within the benchmark cost per action. If you choose this strategy, you can set the CPI bid you would like to pay per install. 

Unity works to optimize the bids to achieve an average CPI. This means that sometimes the CPI can be higher or lower than the bid amount.



Automated bidding a.k.a budget-based buying, allows you to achieve the most results without exceeding your budget as our system limits your spending. This bidding strategy is a new beta feature for iOS install campaigns designed to optimize budget usage concerning the campaign goal.

With an automated bidding strategy, you can maximize installs for budget-constrained campaigns and optimize budget usage throughout the day. 

You can add the maximum bids for each country you target with the campaign and the system will automatically maximize the amount of installs with your daily budget without exceeding your max bids. Max bids give you control over how much you pay per install and the results will not be charged over this price. The actual price will be somewhere between zero and the max bid. 

Using relatively high max bids even with small budgets ensures that the budget can be used and the actual cost is only slightly more than the second-highest bid.

For best practices around automated bids, check this article.


Bidding for ROAS and retention campaigns

With Unity, ROAS and retention goals can be achieved with Audience Pinpointer, a powerful user acquisition service that uses machine learning to help you find players most likely to have value beyond an initial app install – users who are most likely to continue playing your game.  

The pricing that Audience Pinpointer uses is dynamic, which means that the price paid for impressions or installs depends on the predicted value of the user in your app. This allows you to bid more for predicted high-value users and bid less for users who are likely to not continue playing your game after the installation.

The way Audience Pinpointer predicts the value of a user is by deploying a real-time user valuation at the time of an ad request. Our algorithm determines a bid for each user based on individual valuation. The system updates constantly based on user behavior and the preferences of millions of users across Unity’s platform.

The way to set a bid for retention campaigns is by setting a base bid (otherwise known as a CPI, or cost-per-install bid) that the Audience Pinpointer can adjust based on the individual user's expected value, along with a max bid. For ROAS campaigns, only a max bid is needed.

For retention campaigns, the user’s value is determined by predicting each user's expected day seven retention in your app. Unity determines this percentage after receiving at least one session event from the user within a 24-hour window starting 168 hours (or seven days) after the install event was recorded. Keep in mind that to run retention campaigns in a specific geo, you need to have a minimum of 10 retained users in that geo over the 30-day cohorts (learn more on our knowledge base).

For ROAS campaigns, the prediction is based on user behavior concerning in-app purchases (IAP) or revenue generated by ads, and you can set your campaign to optimize for either of those values. 

Whether specifying an ad revenue or in-app purchase optimization type, revenue-based campaigns help you achieve your return on ad spend (ROAS) campaign goals. In order to run ROAS campaigns, you need to meet certain requirements. Take a look at the requirements in our resource center.


Being in control of your ad spend

Whether you run install campaigns with Unity, or go for revenue-based campaigns with our Audience Pinpointer, the key benefit of your bidding strategy is being in control of your budget. 

Allowing our algorithms to optimize your budget for you, pacing the rhythm of your campaign, and targeting the users that will bring the most value to your game, gives you the peace of mind that you are investing where and when you are supposed to. 

To know more about bids in Unity and our Audience Pinpointer tool, visit our knowledge base.



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