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Google Display Ad Builder - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Google Display Ad Builder - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Leslie Van Zee
Tired of text ads? Want to put a little more sparkle into your marketing? When it comes to branding your business online, banner ads have a lot of advantages over search marketing.  But good creative is a key ingredient in a successful display ad campaign. Google offers a tool as part of the AdWords platform called the Ad Builder.  Here is a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of using the Ad Builder to make a simple banner ad.

The Good: Anyone Can Use This

As long as you want to just use a template to create an ad, the Ad Builder is pretty simple to use. For those that have a strong idea of what you want the ad to look like it is possible to start with a blank slate.  Personally, I am not a strong visual person so I find it beneficial to start with a template as a guide.  There are a lot of templates to choose from, although many of these are somewhat cheesy.

The Bad: Limited Control

The animation controls are where the tool is most limited. On most templates, you can set how each element appears by selecting an appearance effect such as fade in, float in, fly in, zoom in, shrink in, and drop in. Controls on these are duration, delay and direction (left, right, top and bottom).  The Ad Builder does not offer control over exit animations, so once an element plops in it stays to the end. So what this allows is the gradual buildup of a final image by adding elements over a short period of time.

There is no way to create your own slide show or other serial image presentation other than through the templates that have it built in, like the “Product Showcase” templates. Also, there are no drawing tools, so you would have to make any extra objects that you want- like edge frames, arrows, or boxes – in another program like Photoshop and upload them as separate images. Lastly, the animations are simplistic, which could be very frustrating to the more graphically inclined user.

The Ugly: Graphics

No matter what tool you use to build your banner ads, good graphics are key.  Google offers stock photos, but this has a tendency to make your ad look rather generic. There is no quick replacement for having strong visual assets designed just for your brand. The ad builder tool offers the ability to upload images from your computer, use stock photos, or it will fetch images from your website. I like this last option.  If you have already put a lot of resources into making a great website, you can quickly put that to use. Ads that match the destination site are shown to be more effective. However, the graphics that you develop for your website don't always meet the demands of a small format like a banner ad.

It would be really helpful if Google provided data on how each element performs. For example, the call to action buttons – what happens if you change the size, the color, the drop shadow effect, etc?  I was not able to find information on the number of ads built using this tool, but they surely have a sizeable amount of data that could provide insights on creative optimization.

Final Thoughts

Possibly the greatest shortcoming of the Ad Builder is that it does not offer any way to save an ad that you have created yourself and use it as a template for new ads. It is possible to take an ad that you created for one campaign and copy it over to a new campaign.  Once you do so, you can make a few tweaks to update the ad for the new objectives.

What can you do with your ad once you have built it? You can run it on GDN (Google Display Network), of course. But you can’t exactly download the final files and Google does not give you the tags that would identify where to locate the ads on its ad server. At Vantage Local, we run campaigns on many networks besides just the GDN so the display ad builder is not really a good solution for us. Plus our creative team finds the animation options far too limiting.  Lastly, using a DIY tool like this is never going to give you the benefit of professional expertise and experience in crafting both good creative and a well-planned campaign.

Leslie Van Zee is passionate about entrepreneurship and understanding what makes small businesses successful.  An avid fan of lean startups, she makes sure to get out of the building as much as possible in her role as manager of marketing...

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