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The Future of Google Ads Display Campaigns


The PPC community has extensively discussed the potential “death of the keyword” in Google

Ads.


But with the launch of Demand Gen and Video Views campaigns — plus Performance Max and Discovery campaigns over the years (to name a few) — I wonder if something else might be brewing: the end of Display-only campaigns.



Display Campaigns

Quick Display Campaign Refresher


First, a quick overview of some of the non-Search campaign types currently available in Google Ads and which networks their ads are eligible to show on.


Display:

serves ads on the Google Display Network, a collection of 2 million+ websites

and apps.

○ Standard Display campaigns give you more control over settings and targeting,

while Smart Display campaigns offer more automation.


Performance Max:

Serves ads on all networks but offers little to no control over where/how ads are shown.


This includes Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, Discover, and Maps.


Discovery:

Serves ads on the Discover, YouTube, and Gmail networks.


Demand Gen:

One of Google’s newest “AI-powered” campaign types; serves ads on YouTube, YouTube Shorts, Discover, and Gmail.


Video:

Serves ads on YouTube and Video Partner sites.


There are a number of subtypes within this overall category. However, one that stands out is another of Google’s recent product launches – Video Views campaigns. These serve on in-stream and in-feed videos, as well as YouTube Shorts.


Reasons for a Change

So why would Google want to make a move away from Display campaigns?


For starters, they don’t have the best reputation in terms of performance. Yes, every account

performs differently, and I’ve seen Display do really well for some clients. Examples include a

Smart Display campaign with pay-per-conversion bidding or a Remarketing campaign through

Standard Display.


But I’ve also seen plenty of times where it doesn’t do well at all, particularly for Standard

Display. A lack of results is tough to overcome for small businesses or accounts with limited

budgets, as they can’t afford to spend resources on testing/optimizing something that might not be successful.


Google’s continued shift to automation is another reason they may transition away from Display campaigns. It’s no secret that Google wants us to hand over the reins regarding where, how, and when ads serve. They’ve already started to fold multiple features into Performance Max (RIP Local campaigns) or other new campaign types as well. Display-only campaigns are a way for advertisers to maintain more control, which usually isn’t Google’s favourite idea.


Lastly, if you go to the Google Ads website, there’s very little mention of Display campaigns. In

fact, they promote pretty much every campaign type other than Display. If Google no longer

highlights one of their leading solutions for brand awareness, reach, and engagement, I don’t

think that bodes well for its future as a standalone product.


For example one section of the site is related to Goals. Under Brand Awareness, there’s

no mention of Display at all – only YouTube, Discovery, and PMax (screenshot below).


Screenshot of Google’s suggestions for Brand Awareness goals

Where Things Are Going

As outlined above, advertisers can now reach people on Display through several different

methods, like Performance Max campaigns. The recent announcement of Demand Gen

campaigns isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for Display campaigns either.


Considering the main benefit of Display should be the ability to generate awareness/demand, I think this could be Google’s first hint at a more significant shift. Display-only campaigns are

becoming somewhat redundant, especially if other campaign types perform better.


There are a couple of plausible ways this could roll out too:

  1. Google expands the reach of Demand Gen or Discovery campaigns to include the Display Network as those campaign types mature over time.

  2. Google has decided to transition Standard Display campaigns into Smart Display. From there, it’s not hard to picture a future where Smart Display is phased into PMax like Local campaigns were.

  3. They could also do it the other way around by transitioning Smart Display to be part of PMax first and then sunsetting Standard later.

However it might go down, it wouldn’t be surprising to see changes that take advertisers further down the path to a fully automated account.


Conclusion


Of course, a lot of this is speculation, but Google hasn’t hesitated in the past to sunset existing

campaigns in favour of new, more automated campaign types.


I should also specify that I don’t believe the Display Network is going anywhere. But how

advertisers reach people on that network is changing, and Display campaigns as we know them might be impacted sooner than we realise.


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