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Google Gets More Visual & Aspirational With Gallery Ads & Discovery Ads

Google made a flurry of announcements at Google Marketing Live 2019. The volume of updates makes it difficult for retailers to sort through what exactly these new developments mean for their businesses. Over the next few weeks, Sidecar will take a deeper dive into the most significant updates to Google Ads and explore how they might impact retail marketers. For those looking for an overview of the most important updates, check out our Google Marketing Live recap here.

In this article, I’ll dissect Google’s two newest ad formats–Gallery Ads and Discovery Ads. With the launch of these ad formats, Google is placing increased importance on visual, top-of-funnel marketing and is competing with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Google hopes to expand its footprint in the discovery phase of the consumer journey by using more robust data to match ads with targeted search intent. Both ad formats help Google achieve these goals and reach consumers even earlier in their searches.

Gallery Ads

Google has been testing images in text ads since late 2017, particularly in the automotive vertical where high quality images are readily available.

Google wants to take the success of Google Shopping and image-based advertising to industries outside of retail. Many businesses heavily invest in paid search ads, but in a world where consumers increasingly prefer images, it’s time for a change. Google is giving industries like food and travel a chance to deliver more compelling ads on the search engine results page (SERP), while keeping pace with competitors like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

In the short term, Sidecar doesn’t foresee Gallery Ads taking the place of Shopping Ads or Showcase Ads in retail product searches. Rather, these image ads are a way to enhance existing paid search ads and will likely appear for more general queries. Google does like to keep us guessing, so depending on the success of Gallery Ads, these ads may eventually appear for product searches.

Here’s the essential facts about Gallery Ads and their upcoming release.

What are they:

Gallery Ads are a new ad unit for search campaigns. The ad consists of a headline, display URL, four to eight carousel images, and a 70-character tagline. The ad unit allows for up to three headlines for testing.

Where are they served:

For now, these are mobile-only ad units. Google serves Gallery Ads at the top of the SERP, meaning these ads will dominate the mobile SERP when they appear. This is important because competition is high on the mobile SERP, and creative will be the key to setting yourself apart.

How are you charged:

These ads will be a combination of a cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-engagement. An advertiser will pay when a consumer clicks or swipes through two-plus  images.

When will they be available:

Currently, these ads are in a closed beta and set to be released later this year. Google has not announced an official launch date yet.

What is the value and the business implication of Gallery Ads?

Sidecar recommends testing Gallery Ads alongside traditional paid search ads to understand performance differences.

Text ads have been around for a long time. They have evolved over the years, adding elements that communicate richer information like site links, ad extensions, and callouts. But as media consumption has become instantaneous, consumers have lost their patience. Reading news has given way to watching online video clips, typing has given way to speaking to voice assistants, and similarly, advertising is moving away from communicating value through words to images.

With change comes work. Developing creative is expensive and time consuming, and businesses that don’t have creative built into their process now are already behind. Retailers need to make top-quality creative a priority if they want to remain competitive on Google Ads.

Luckily, this not a daunting new platform marketers need to learn; it’s just a new ad format in a very familiar channel. That being said, marketers need to value consumer interaction with Gallery Ads properly to truly understand their impact. Sidecar recommends testing Gallery Ads alongside traditional paid search ads to understand performance differences, and in particular to see how costs shift when paying for a click in addition to image swipes.

Discovery Ads

In keeping with the theme of product discovery and platform expansion, Google also announced the launch Discovery Ads at Google Marketing Live. Google will deliver these ads on the Discover Feed based on cues like past site visits, app downloads, videos watched, and map searches. This is a significant shift from keyword-targeted ads. The goal is to deliver the most relevant ads to consumers based on their past behavior.

What are they:

Retail marketers upload copy and creative assets to a Discovery Ad campaign, and Google will automatically test and optimize ads using machine learning, similar to Dynamic Search Ads. These ads are triggered based on audience and behavior metrics, not keywords.

Where are they served:

The ads will be served on the Discover Feed, the YouTube home feed, and the social and promotional tabs within Gmail.

The Discover Feed is the content displayed on the home screen of the Google app or the mobile version of the Google homepage. You will notice the content delivered in that feed closely matches previous browsing behavior.

As an example, here is a screengrab of my Discovery Feed. I am a digital marketer in the retail and e-commerce space, I am a Philadelphia sports fan, and I’m an avid Notre Dame football fan. The relevance of the content is strong, and if Discovery Ad targeting follows suit, the channel could be a powerful mechanism for ad delivery.


How are you charged:

Google sells these ads on a CPC basis.

When will they be available:

Similar to  Gallery Ads, these ads are also in a closed beta and set to be released later this year with no official launch date.

What is the value and the business implication of Discovery Ads?

Marketers who advertise on Discover can benefit from participating in a less competitive channel than the SERP and reach consumers earlier in their shopping journey.

Google claims more than 800 million people use Discover monthly, and its targeted, customized feed has earned consumer trust. Google has designed the new ad format to fit seamlessly into the feed. If Google’s targeting is strong and ads are relevant, Discovery Ads will be a great way to engage customers in an effortless way.

The most interesting aspect of these ads is that a large portion of users that hit the Discover Feed are about to execute a search or purchase a product. Many will scroll through the feed before moving on to their intended activity. Marketers who can capture that click via Discover with a tailored ad, based on previous behavior, stand a better chance of capturing the sale. What’s more, they can benefit from participating in a less competitive channel than the SERP and reach consumers earlier in their shopping journey.

On a related note, Google also announced at Google Marketing Live the expansion of shopping ads to other Google channels like YouTube and Discover. As of July 15, 2019, retailers’ Shopping ads (both regular Shopping ads and Showcase Showcase Shopping ads), will be eligible appear on these channels, unless retailers opt out. Retailers should consider strategically testing whether this update positively impacts their Google Shopping performance.

Understand the information available now about Gallery and Discovery Ads so you can be better positioned to strategically test them once Google makes them widely available. Start strengthening your creative resources if needed, and start thinking about how these ads can contribute to the customer acquisition funnel. Increasingly, Google is connecting consumers with messages earlier in their buying journey. Rather than capturing the last click before purchase, Google wants to inspire consumers to shop so that the shopping journey begins and ends on Google. Gallery and Discovery Ads are a significant part of that effort.

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