If you use Google Ad’s to promote your business – or your marketing agency does – then you will recently have received an email from Google telling you that they are replacing legacy display ads with responsive display ads. But what are they and what impact will this change have on your business?

History of responsive display ads?

Responsive display ads aren’t new, they were actually introduced back in 2016 as an alternative to the existing text ads. They became so popular that in the summer of 2018 they actually became the default ad type for people using the Google Display Network (GDN).

What are responsive display ads?

Responsive display ads are just Google’s answer to customer complaints that text ads don’t show enough and banner ads don’t say enough. Responsive ad’s were designed to incorporate both textual and visual creative assets.

When it comes to responsive ad copy, it is important to remember:

  • A short headline of around 25 characters
  • A long headline of around 90 characters
  • A description of around 90 characters
  • Your business name – up to 25 characters

Saying this though, Google will never show both your long and short headline – it will choose between them depending on the location your ad ends up in – and it may not show your description either.

Why is location so important for responsive ads?

Location of your ad is key actually, as it plays a pivotal role in the ad type. Google recently revealed it is using machine learning to test thousands of different combinations of your textual and visual assets in order to:

  • Find the message that resonates the most with your customers
  • Fill as much inventory as they can on the GDN

The ‘inventory’ they are trying to fill includes Banner, Native and Text ad spaces which means that Google has to choose different text combinations, truncate the text and scale the images in real time in order to deliver customised ads across the whole network.

As responsive display ads are eligible for a higher percentage of their GDN inventory, many advertisers in the past have run them in conjunction with more traditional display ads which often result in them seeing higher delivery numbers, higher spend and higher click through rates through their responsive ads.

What are legacy display ads?

In this article we have mentioned traditional display ads a couple of times, but what are they? Are they the same as legacy display ads?

Not really. Traditional banner ads that most advertisers use are not going anywhere. This is good news for many marketers who love the fact that they come in many different shapes and sizes such as banner, inline rectangle, half-page, leader board, and square to name just a few.

When we talk about legacy display ads being replaced, we are talking about two specific types of ads:

  • Legacy dynamic responsive template (ID: 491)
  • Smart display ads

So, if you know that you are using either of these two types of ads in your ad campaign, you need to be prepared for the fact that Google is going to remove them.

Exactly what is changing then?

Google themselves says:

Starting November 2019, responsive display ads will replace legacy display ads in Google ads…With this change, any campaigns running legacy display ads may stop serving unless there is an alternate display ad available in the community.”

Clear enough then?

If you are running any ad campaigns that are relying solely on legacy dynamic responsive templates or smart display ads, then these campaigns are either going to seriously underperform in November, or stop altogether.

This will have an impact on your spend of course. However, Google are mindful of this and have taken some steps to help advertisers to easily make the switch from these old ad formats to the new ones.

In fact, Google has gone so far as to create brand new responsive display ads for you, and so if you have either of these two old ad types running in your account you should see new ones appearing shortly. However, the new ads won’t start running until you turn them on.

What do you need to do? This is a great opportunity for you to take a closer look at your ads and work out what is and what isn’t working as well as ensuring your textual and visual assets are up to date.  You may also want to think about adding extra images, and tweeking your headlines, descriptions and logos.  This will help Google test more ad combinations across the GDN and give them (and you) a better idea of what is working and what isn’t.