Case study: RON test campaigns CPC or CPM?

Campaign test period: 1 August – 25 August 2020

Offer: Game

Ad formats: Native

Ad network: ExoClick

Traffic source: RON (run of network)



With every new campaign it is imperative to run a test campaign for a good length of time to generate enough data to be able to make informed decisions when you launch the full campaign.

The results of the campaign will give you the following information:

  • See if it gets conversions/leads
  • See if it is profitable to get those conversions/leads
  • Identify good converting ad zones so that you can build up scale
  • Block non-converting ad zones so you don’t waste money targeting them
  • Seeing what targeting options should be fine tuned to focus on finding end user clicks

When running a full campaign advertisers tend to use Smart CPM in order to win the traffic, but what about test campaigns on RON, is it better to use CPC or Smart CPM?

So I set up an experiment with two identical campaigns but each one using a different bidding model so I could test out my theory using a mobile game offer. I chose Native as my ad format because there are large volumes and prices are low. 



Case study

As Native ads look like the content of a website there are no CTAs or texts on the image, the image is supposed to invite clicks because the user assumes it is content and not an ad. The creative was a caroon style image, I used the title as a question to gain interest and a challenge style description to spark further interest for the end user to click.

Title: Who is Eva Elfie?

Description: Play with her and get to know her!

For more creative tips that work well for Native check out this blog post: Native advertising: Tips to get creative


Campaigns set up

I launched both campaigns on 1 August with exactly the same targeting settings.

Browsers: All 

Mob devices: All 

OS: Android

GEO: United States 

Banner distribution: Automatic on conversion

Capping: None

Bidding: The initial bids were set at 0.005 CPC and 0.005 Smart CPM. The Bidder was enabled with a basic rule: bid optimization only based on the target CPA. By only using the Bidder tool, my goal was to see after the test period whether CPC or Smart CPM would get me the most conversions, therefore no other optimizations were carried out on either campaign except blocking 3 traffic sources on both campaigns due to traffic quality issues on 20 August. Now let’s look at the results:


CPC campaign stats

Daily stats overview CPC campaign

CPC statistics 1

Zone stats of CPC campaign

CPC statistics zones

Smart CPM Campaign stats

Daily stats overview Smart CPM campaign

CPM statistics 1

Zone stats of Smart CPM campaign

CPM statistics zones


Results comparisons


  • So as you can see, a testing period of just over 3 weeks (including weekends) created a large amount of data and gave me an insight into what was working on Native promoting a Game targeting Android in the US
  • By using the Bidder, I could let the test campaigns run, while it worked for me finding the best converting ad zones and blocking non-converting zones
  • Despite both campaigns being exactly the same, they got traffic from different sources as you can see in the Zone stats because ExoClick’s Native algorithm takes the CTR into consideration, along with the CPC/CPM bid
  • Both campaigns gained several leads but the CPC campaign generated double the amount of leads at 503 compared to the SmartCPM’s 242.
  • The CPC campaign got way less impressions (16.7M vs 45M) but the CTR (0.25% vs 0.02%) and clicks (42k vs 9.6k) are much higher than the Smart CPM campaign.
  • The CPC campaign was profitable, as the average CPA is below the target (0.97 USD), whereas the Smart CPM campaign is not (1.41 USD).



  • Using CPC made for a more successful test campaign, with enough margin to make me think the offer was generating good leads with Native and would be profitable if I scaled up, in fact it should work for any ad format, not just Native
  • My next question is, for scaling up the campaign, should I continue to use CPC or switch to Smart CPM? Now that I have identified the good converting ad zones gained using CPC, it would make sense to switch to Smart CPM for the full campaign because I could reduce my costs with Smart CPM targeting those good converting zones, and see if I can improve the ROI for these specific zones.


I will carry out a future case study to test out this theory, why don’t you test this out too!

Oscar Amores