When Should You Use Responsive Display Ads?

by Mary Davin | September 2, 2021

A big challenge for marketing leaders is knowing when to invest in certain activities, and when to conserve valuable budget dollars. When it comes to digital advertising on Google’s display network, it’s easy to burn through cash quickly without any return. So when should you use responsive display ads? 

What are responsive display advertisements (RDAs)?

First, responsive display ads (RDAs for short) are automatically created in Google Ads based on content you provide—images, videos, headline and description text. Then, Google tests various combinations of these inputs through machine learning to find what performs the best.

What is the difference between traditional and responsive ads?

According to Google, responsive display ads are replacing traditional ads as the default ad type for the Display Network. Aside from optimizing ad performance, this allows Google to fill as much inventory on the Display Network as possible. The main difference is RDAs aren’t as manual and time-consuming as traditional ads.

When should businesses use RDAs?

Ultimately, when to use responsive display ads depends on your digital marketing objectives. For instance, you may consider RDAs if your objective is to increase the number of customers. On the other hand, if your objective is to increase margins by narrowing your customer focus, RDAs may not be a worthwhile investment.

If it aligns with your objectives, responsive display ads can be used at every stage of the marketing funnel. They can be used to reach interest-based audiences to help aid prospecting efforts. Or, they can be used to re-market previous visitors and draw them back to your site to complete the conversion cycle. 

Here are a few scenarios where it may be a good time to use RDAs:

  1. You’re already running standard image or HTML5 ads, but want to test new ad types and measure impact on performance. Earlier this year, we tested performance between traditional and responsive ads. We found responsive ads significantly outperformed traditional ads. Listen to the podcast below to hear more specifics about the test.
  2. You don’t have the design resources to create standard image ads. One major benefit of responsive display ads is they require no design skills. Supply the images and text and Google does the rest.
  3. You’re not seeing great performance with standard display ads. We often see that RDAs outperform traditional display ads. This isn’t always the case. However, more often than not, RDAs do yield stronger results due to the flexibility and broader inventory that they can fit.

What content do you need for RDA campaigns?

Traditional display ads came in a variety of sizes. Sizing images to meet Google’s specifications was time consuming for advertisers. Below is an example of various ad sizes and formats that previously needed to be uploaded manually. Responsive display ads automate this manual process.

An example of various ad sizes and formats on the Google Display Network

Imagery is a critical part of responsive display ads. Plain images work best, with minimal or no text overlay. Companies can also upload their logos. And for companies with strict brand guidelines, there’s an option to specify a main and accent color that will get incorporated into the designs.

Google allows up to 5 headlines and 5 descriptions, with 1 additional “longer description” field. Here are the copy fields Google requires for responsive display ads:

  • A short headline (25 characters)
  • A long headline (90 characters)
  • A description (90 characters)
  • Your business name (25 characters)

What kind of reporting is possible with RDAs?

With responsive display ads, you can report on asset-level performance. This means that you can see which combinations of images and text perform best. This is really valuable as a marketer because these reports can be analyzed to find underperforming assets and replace them to drive stronger performance.

How can companies get started with responsive display ads?

While Google makes it easy to set up a campaign, it can be a lot to manage for in-house marketing teams. Especially considering Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies by 2023, which will impact targeting options. Instead of relying as heavily on re-marketing and cookie-based audiences, marketers should focus on building and scaling a first-party data strategy to fuel lookalike audiences.

Free ebook: How to Build & Scale a First-Party Data Strategy

If your business is ready to start using responsive display ads, request a digital marketing consultation with an expert to learn more.

Mary Davin

Mary is an data-driven digital marketer with a background in paid media. She’s an Appalachian State University alumni and enjoys hiking, baking, and music.

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