This or That, Advertising Edition: Responsive Display Ads vs. Uploaded Display Ads

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, the right image on your Google Display Ad is worth a thousand clicks. But before you choose the right image, you must first decide the right image ad.

There’s it’s 11 am, and I haven’t a sip of water yet today thirst, and there’s thirst you get when you see a commercial that shows an ice-cold soda being poured into an ice-cold glass, with condensation dripping, bubbles fizzing, and the best looking ice you’ve ever seen. And you don’t even drink soda. 

That’s the power of visual advertising. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, the right image on your Google Display Ad is worth a thousand clicks. 

But before you choose the right image, you must first decide the right image ad. 

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Types of Image Display Ads

You can choose between two types of image ads on the Google Display Network: there are standard Uploaded Display Ads (what we call “custom ads” or “static ads”), and then there are Responsive Display Ads (what we call “dynamic ads”).

What are Uploaded Display Ads?

Uploaded Display Ads allow you to upload fully customized graphics for your display ads and have complete creative control of how the information in your ad will display to users. You can have static AND interactive and animated graphics. 

Your static ad options include JPG, PNG, and GIF files. Static ads are widely accepted across ad networks and easily displayed across devices. While they are a cost-effective option, they do not allow interactive elements. 

Your animated options include GIF, HTML5, and In-Banner Videos. You can get more creative with animated ads, increasing user engagement. However, these benefits come at a higher price.

What are Responsive Display Ads?

Responsive display ads require assets—a short and long headline, a description, business name, marketing image(s), and a logo—and use an algorithm to create automatically sized and formatted ads to fit into spaces across the Google Display Network. These can turn into text or image ads. 

The marketing images should have a 1:1 or 1:1.91 ratio, and the logo images should have a 1:1 or 4:1 ratio. 

When is it Best to Use Uploaded Display Ads?

Google clearly shows a preference for responsive display ads, as every article on their platform about image ads or uploaded display ads includes a disclaimer about why responsive display ads may be a better solution. They may be a little biased, but we’re here to give you the facts. Google knows many things, but you know which ad option will be better for your business. 

So, are responsive display ads always the better option? 

One article by Search Engine Journal cites that although responsive display ads sometimes outperform uploaded display ads with their clients, it is not always the case. However, when they do outperform, the differences can be significant. 

If you or your client prefer maximum creative control over your ad(s), uploading a well-designed custom display ad may be the best solution. If you design these ads with a clear purpose in mind, they can be as effective as responsive display ads.

Uploaded display ads also give you Brand design control. You cannot remove text ad options on responsive display ads. See the image for an example of a text ad. 

Example of a Text Ad


Not the best looking, right? You can still have compelling copy, but how these display on some advertiser sites looks very poor compared to the website they’re on, which could reflect on your Brand. These text ads won’t ruin your campaign, but you won’t have to worry about a less-than-ideal Brand representation with the control uploaded display ads offer. 

When is it Best to Use Responsive Display Ads?

Responsive display ads are fast and relatively easy to create, even without access to a designer. These ads perform just as well, if not better than uploaded display ads. Google creates many ad versions automatically instead of requiring you to resize your graphics manually. This can save you a lot of time during setup. This also allows for your ads to be placed on more platforms across the Google Display Network, which gives your ads more reach. But you still want to be strategic where you place your ads. When we set up these ads for clients, we exclude over 100 source categories to ensure quality traffic!

Another benefit is these ads allow you to display video with sound, which is a feature uploaded display ads do not currently offer.


Example of a Responsive Ad

Creating Your Ad 

Deciding which display ads you want to run for your campaign is an important decision, but not the only thing you need to consider when setting up Google ads. Here are a few more  factors to keep in mind:

Once you get the hang of it Google display ads can be a powerful tool for connecting to new leads and converting leads into customers. 

How do you know they’re working? Check out this blog on attribution models!

Managing Your Google Ad Campaigns

If you have questions about getting started with Google ads or needing help managing your campaigns, we can help! Not only are we Google Ads certified (read: we have mastered all aspects of Google Ads), but we’ve also created converting ad campaigns for dozens of clients. Contact us to learn more.

Writers: Gabrielle Mingus, Brianna Jelks, Michael Kline
Editor: SK Vaughn

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