Responsive display ads are a new offering that Google has been pushing advertisers to adopt. What’s unique about these ads is that they’re created in pieces. You upload up to 15 images, 5 headlines, 5 descriptions, and 5 logos. The platform then combines these pieces into varied ad unit combinations for every available size.

Responsive display video ads are also extremely simple. You just upload the video, logo, final URL, and headlines, then Google takes care of the rest.

Responsive Display Ad Specs

The formats, aspect ratios, and file sizes for the images are below (taken directly from Google’s ‘How to Create a Responsive Display Ad’ page):

  • Landscape Image Specs

    • Landscape images require an aspect ratio of 1.91:1 and be greater than 600 x 314.
    • The file size limit is 5120KB.
  • Square Image Specs

    • Your square (1:1) image should be greater than 300 x 300.
    • The file size limit is 5120KB.
  • Square Logo Specs

    • Your logo should be square (1:1) and should be 128 x 128 or greater.
    • The recommended size for the square logo is 1200 x 1200.
    • For best rendering, add a landscape (4:1) logo (512 x 128 or greater).
    • The file size limit is 5120KB.
  • Landscape Logo Specs

    • The recommended size for the landscape logo is 1200 x 300.
    • The file size limit is 5120KB.
  • Headline Requirements

    • Up to 5 short headlines up to 30 characters each.
    • One long headline up to 90 characters.
  • Description Requirements

    • 5 descriptions at 90 characters each.
    • One business description up to 25 characters.
  • You can use separate images for each aspect ratio

  • “This image doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for one crop ratio”

    • It’s because you only have one ratio selected.
    • Head to the bottom of the screen and hit “Select one ratio”. This will force the image to only show for that ratio.
    • You’ll need a different image to cover the opposite ratio. 
  • You can also add videos (30 seconds or under)

  • Logo Backgrounds

    • A transparent background is best, but only if the logo is centered
  • Avoid text

    • Text may cover no more than 20% of the image.
    • To fit in some ad spaces, your image may be cropped horizontally—up to 5% on each side.

Responsive Display Ad Examples

The below examples show a landscape image that Google Ads crops to both square and landscape specs.

Landscape image and logoHere are some examples of responsive display ads that will be created when you upload a 1.91:1 image and a square logo:

Responsive Display Ads ExamplesThis is the only image I could find that used my square image that I added later.

Square responsive display ad example showing on native placement

The Winners—The Little Guy

Users who advertise for their own services will love responsive display ads. They give the little guy an easy way to create a lot of ad units without needing a to spend a lot of time on producing imagery for each ad unit. Previously, display ads required images, logos, and text to be created and incorporated into one file for each ad unit. This was time-consuming and favored larger advertisers who had the ability to produce professional images at each size.

Now, users can simply upload their logo in several sizes and then customize images to two aspect ratios. They don’t need to make copy layout considerations for descriptions of each image. Instead, the advertiser can simply write out descriptions and calls-to-action within the platform itself.

The Losers—Agencies

Agencies have lost a lot of their competitive edge with the new format. The benefit of being able to create professional-quality ads for each ad unit has been significantly eroded now that only two images are needed. As you can see above, the prominence of the image has been given a backseat to the text and logo appearance. Now, anybody who has kicked a freelance artist a couple hundred bucks to design a decent logo can compete for every ad unit.

Moreover, this development creates more administrative work for agencies. In the past, we could create image ads with accompanying text and logos inside the image and upload it to various platforms. A 250 x 250 Google Display Network ad with the accompanying text could be blown up for use on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms. With the advent of responsive display ads, images will have to be broken out into their constituent pieces, and instructions will have to be included so that only certain pieces are used together.

It’s only a matter of time before other platforms adopt fully-dynamic ad generation. Agencies might end up focusing more on banner placements on single-vendor placements like digital offerings of print publications. These still require a full layout, and their status as a known commodity of high-quality impressions may be a safer bet when planning digital campaigns.

Moving Forward

For now, let’s see how things unfold. After all, the increase in ad units simply may grow the pie rather than cram it full with the chocolate chips of competition. Either way, one thing is for sure: responsive display ads are here to stay.

Play around with responsive display ads if you haven’t yet. Show your design team how they work and where images get put in the layout. Work 2-3 responsive-display-friendly images for each aspect ratio, and make sure you create a logo in the 4:1 format as well. Otherwise, you will find that your ads will not show, and your lead pool will dry up.

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