Things are changing on Google’s Display Network.

Last fall Google announced their new responsive display ads (RDAs), rolling them out in several markets. Standard ads have gradually been replaced by these new responsive displays, and they are now the default type of ad for the network.

But this change has flown under the radar for a lot of companies. And marketing teams have to catch up quickly if they want to take advantage of some of the benefits of responsive display, mitigate the potential downsides, and leverage the advantages of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

The Upside of Responsive Display Ads

In a nutshell, advertisers can now load both text and visual assets – logos, images, even 30-second videos) into their campaign. Google does the heavy lifting, automatically adjusting the assets to fit available ad space on their Google Display Network.

“Just provide a few simple inputs about your business-up to 15 images, 5 headlines, 5 descriptions, and 5 logos,” notes this Google update. “Google uses machine learning to test different combinations and show the ads that work best. On average, advertisers see 10% more conversions at a similar CPA when using multiple headlines, descriptions, and images with responsive display ads (versus a single set of assets).”

So far so good, and it seems fairly straightforward. And the addition of video assets is a plus, too. According to Google, 60% of people have said that video ads have impacted them or inspired them to buy a product, and they are more likely to respond to a video ad rather than a static ad, writes Bannersnack’s Heleana Tiburca.

“So the fact that Google will allow you to submit up to 5 thirty-second videos is amazing because we know that this can impact conversion rates significantly and you’ll have improved performance due to these video assets,” she notes.

The other upside is your ad assets can be adapted on the fly to fit whatever space is available, so you’ll have more opportunities for your ads to appear in more places.

“For example, a responsive display ad might show as a native banner ad on one site and a dynamic text ad on another.” Google continues. It also has some built in testing controls, so you can view possible combinations in advance, and see what’s working best for you as the campaign rolls out.

The Possible Downsides

Because this flew under the radar for a lot of marketing teams, they may be unaware of this change. Even if they know about, they may not fully understand the implications of letting Google design your ads for you.

A good ad designer knows that every element of the display ad – from logo position to copy size to image sizing – is important to conversion. And while I’m sure Google’s algorithm is robust, they use the same algorithm for every campaign. These examples from Google show some potential problems:

Image source: Google

It’s easy to see that brand consistency is lost is this format. And the ability to strategically place the right copy with the right image to enhance the brand and draw the response is gone. This has some advertisers choosing to avoid the risk and upload their own finished ad assets as their images.

“Although RDAs are fantastic and pretty easy to create and maintain, sometimes they don’t turn out so well. Sometimes the text doesn’t look good with the image or vice-versa,” Tiburca notes. “And most times, your ad won’t stand out of the crowd because your competition has the same access to Google responsive ads as you do.”

In other words, your sushi restaurant ad could look just like your competitor’s, because they were created with the same algorithm and similar assets. You lose the ability to stand out and enhance your brand.

RDAs … or Your Own Display Ads?

There is a way to leverage display ads on the Google Network without the branding pitfalls.

“When you create your own ads, you have complete control over how your ads appear,” according to Google. “You can develop these ads yourself using templates to decide how best to combine your different images, text, and logos. You can link these ads to a feed for dynamic remarketing.

“Uploaded HTML5 ads can also be made responsive by specifying how you want your ads to be resized across the Google Display Network,” the post from Google continues. There is a caveat – because these ads are created outside of the network, they may not be able to appear in all areas of the network.

For many brands, consistent and well-designed imaging is more important than the potential reach. Either way, whether you choose to go with RDAs or use your own complete ads, invest the energy to create fully branded images that can stand alone.

If you don’t have a designer (or the budget) to create fully formed display ads to use as your images, try a tool like Bannersnack that helps you create them quickly and easily. (Pro tip: they can also create HTML5 video ads for even more engagement.)

Start with one basic size; let’s say a rectangle size in horizontal format. Then design your ad, either from scratch, or choose a template if you’re using an ad design program:

Image source: Bannersnack

Once you’ve got your template ready, add images, text, etc. and get the ad exactly as you wish. Once you’ve got your layout complete, it’s time to resize it 14 times, so you can load the maximum 15 images into your asset library. If you’ve created your images by hand, this is a time. Some ad design programs have a Smart Resize option that will speed things up and avoid the reformatting headaches.

Image source: Bannersnack

Once you’ve got your 15 image assets, work up five new headlines and five descriptions (try some short and some longer, up to 90 characters) and start loading them into the system. Google will walk you through the process, show you how sample ads will look and help you decide on all the details of your campaign.

Where AMP fits into all of this

Lastly, Google’s new AMPHTML technology allows for faster ad serving and loading on websites. AMP (accelerated mobile pages) is a web component framework designed for a great, speedy user experience when loading web pages or ads.

“AMPHTML ads are a faster, lighter and more secure way to advertise on the web,” notes Google on their AMP project website. “Although AMP pages support traditional HTML ads, these ads can be slow to load.”

To deliver these fast and secure AMPHTML ads on your Google account (or in any other indirect channel you use like ad exchanges, etc.) you’ll need to create them according to the AMPHTML ad spec. It’s a lot to sort out, with a number of specific rules for your creatives.

It’s well worth the effort; you want your RDAs to appear quickly and fluently, especially for mobile users. While you can certainly learn to code these ads yourself (here’s a great AMP ad tutorial if you want to try it), you don’t have to.

Bannersnack leverages the AMP open source technology to serve ads that load instantly (six times faster than a normal ad), and also are more secure because it strips out all the junk from its code.

Here’s how it works:

1. First create, resize and save your ad set as you normally would, using your own design or a Bannersnack template.

Image source: Bannersnack

2. Then, choose AMP to download your entire banner set in AMPHTML; your ads will be ready to load into your Google account with no coding work needed.

Image source: Bannersnack

Google RDAs can be a great thing for your campaigns, if you approach it strategically. Your ad will potentially have more reach, get better engagement, and appear on a larger number of possible outlets. If you decide to go this route, just be sure you keep control of your brand image by making sure your image files can stand alone as complete ads.

And make sure any ads you run are optimized for Google’s AMP technology to maximize the user experience and drive even more engagement.