Responsive Display Ads vs. Image Ads

Responsive Display Ads vs. Image Ads

In 2016, Google launched a new ad service called responsive display ads, which are like image display ads but have different uses and results. Klü Digital implemented the ad formats soon after responsive display ads launched. We evaluated each format over many campaigns to determine strengths and drawbacks. Let’s start with the strengths.




1.    Responsive display ads are easy to create and update.

There’s no doubt Google made responsive display ads easy to implement—simply upload image assets and logos then provide ad headlines and descriptions. Marketers quickly type read text into the ad interface instead of uploading blurry text in an ad image file. Then, Google compiles the assets into one ad and creates different asset combinations. Responsive ads remove the need to create multiple ad sizes.  


2.    Responsive display ads are great for tight campaign budgets and ad schedules.

Since Google assembles responsive ads automatically, a designer is unnecessary in theory. However, assets must come from somewhere, and that aspect typically requires a designer familiar with asset production. Therefore, digital marketers can create responsive display ads without relying on someone else. Especially in an agency setting, this can prevent bottlenecks delaying ads from running. And it saves time by not needing a variety of ad sizes. Since Google assembles responsive display ads, you can skip this step. You save time and money. For responsive display ads, something is better than nothing.


3.    Responsive display ads have extended reach.

Google can format responsive display ads in nearly any size possible. With image display ads, advertisers must consider all the sizes they need, reorganize the call to action and assets to fit each size, then prepare multiple ad sizes. Usually, that means that picking several sizes that perform well instead of spending time creating all ad sizes only to discover some ad sizes have diminishing returns. Google can assemble assets into whatever size necessary to fit space on websites your target audience uses through responsive display automation. Usually, this means your ad appears in front of more people. Who does not want that?


4.    Responsive display ads are mobile-friendly.

Just as websites moved from desktop-first to mobile-first with increased mobile use, display ads are doing the same. Creating all the sizes is time-consuming, with more mobile screen sizes than we can count and even more mobile placement sizes when considering websites, apps, and YouTube. However, responsive ads conduct the task with ease.


5.    Responsive display ads are excellent for dynamic remarketing.

Repeatedly showing someone the same ad is not as effective as showing them a new ad for the same product, so dynamic remarketing is one of the most exciting uses for responsive display ads. Without fresh messaging, this is another area we see the Law of Diminishing returns besides frequency blindness, which makes viewers numb to your message. To pierce the user’s psyche and stand out, advertisers must present their brand in multiple ways to land the conversion. Google repeatedly shows (remarkets) responsive ads with a fresh look using the campaign’s asset library. Why create new ads to show on new platforms when Google already does it for you?


6.    Responsive display ads are video inclusive.

While marketers can animate image ads to draw attention, responsive ads can link to 30-second YouTube videos. These videos are considered another asset in the responsive display ad’s repertoire. Google uses machine learning to predict when the video will have better results when assembling ads. We will see video become more prominent in 2022.


7.    Responsive display ads offer positive results.

Responsive display ads repeatedly offer lower cost-per-click and higher click-through rates, although there’s speculation as to why: people may respond better to responsive display ads; they may be intrigued by the ad’s appearance; Google-built ads may appear less spammy, or they may appear part of the app or website itself. For whatever reason, responsive display results outperform image ads and speak volumes. 




1.    Responsive display ads give digital marketers less control.

Since responsive display ads are automated, advertisers have less control of ad design. Google does all the final creation, so the digital marketer can only see which assets are performing well and which are not. In addition, there is no way to change the responsive ad layout. 


2.    Responsive display ads can break brand standards.

Image ad design is more on-brand by giving the designer complete creative control. The image, logo, and messaging may all align in a responsive design ad, but there is often awkward white space. In addition, Google’s layout options often force responsive ads to break brand standards.


3.    Responsive display ads limit creativity.

Google responsive ads are very structured, with only so many ways that Google can assemble various assets. With the right idea and time, you can create more creative ads for your business without using responsive display ads.


Do we recommend responsive display ads?

We experience better performance, and usually, it makes sense for businesses and marketing agencies to use responsive display ads for ease and efficiency. But should we exchange for ease? It depends on the campaign, and it requires testing. While there are reasons to create image ads from scratch to maximize creativity, consider trying responsive display ads in your next campaign to view performance potential.

Creative. Media. Strategy

Never Miss an Update

Never Miss an Update

Cookies & Privacy

This website uses cookies to create a positive online experience that is informative and personal while providing additional user-functionality. By continuing to use this website, you agree to our use of cookies as described in our Privacy Policy.