Google Demand Gen Ads Demystified

google discovery ads

Google Discovery Ads launched in 2019, and they looked different than any other campaign type. Now, they are called Demand Gen ads. Google has a lot of properties where it can show ads, so it wasn’t a big surprise that it launched Demand Gen Ads with the goal of monetizing its inventory. Demand Gen campaigns are highly visual, and even though Google says they can boost sales, they are mostly used to reach new audiences and create brand awareness campaigns. Both of which rarely translate into a lot of sales. At least directly.

In this blog post, I’ll explore the key features of Demand Gen Ads, their benefits, and how to create and optimize your own Demand Gen campaigns to achieve the best results.


What is Google Demand Gen Ads?

Google Demand Gen Ads are a type of native ad format that allows advertisers to serve visually rich ads to users across three main Google properties: Google Discover, YouTube, and Gmail. Combined, they reach about 3 billion monthly active users. Since no one likes ads and most people quickly develop ad blindness, Demand Gen ads are designed to match the look and feel of the content surrounding them, making them less intrusive and more engaging for users.


According to Google:

“Thanks to Google’s audience and customer intent signals, this campaign type helps you deliver highly visual, inspiring personalized ad experiences to people who are ready to discover and engage with your brand…”


Usually, Google’s description of their own product sounds very attractive. But let’s get to know the three properties I mentioned above.


Why would you do Demand Gen Ads? When you talk about the entire user journey from finding your product to converting, Demand Gen ads are at the top. It’s a great way to find potential customers, guide them to lower funnels, and finally convert them.

You might be covering lower funnels with your Search Ads, but Demand Gen helps you expand the reach of your ads and get in front of the eyes of your potential customers.


Google Discover: If you have a Google app, you know what it is. It’s basically a content feed available on the Google app and mobile homepage. The content is based on the user’s interests and browsing history. Demand Gen Ads appear within this feed, seamlessly blending with other content. This is where your potential customers might be spending time browsing through the news.


google discover


YouTube: Demand Gen Ads are displayed on YouTube’s home feed, watch pages, and in the ‘Up Next’ section, reaching potential customers as they browse and watch videos. And don’t forget YouTube Shorts, a growing short video format. I’m sure you have seen plenty of ads while watching your favorite videos. Video ads can be and is a powerful way of reaching new customers.


youtube home page ads


Gmail: Google has 1.8 billion people using Gmail. Billion, with a B. Every 5th person in the world. Naturally they want to show ads there. Demand Gen Ads appear in the Promotions and Social tabs, allowing advertisers to reach users as they check their emails.


gmail ads

Key Features of Demand Gen Ads

Just by reading about it, you might have an idea of what Demand Gen is all about. Let’s review some of the features this campaign type offers.


Visual Focus: Google Demand Gen Ads rely heavily on high-quality images and engaging headlines to capture users’ attention. This can be a downside if you don’t have those assets. You will have to find a designer and produce everything from scratch. Not all businesses operate with high-quality, engaging images, right?  This visual focus makes them more appealing and noticeable compared to traditional text-based ads. We all know a saying that an image is worth a thousand words.


Search lift: With this campaign type you will get additional insights, like the Search lift. It shows how Demand Gen campaign might have driven additional searches related to your brand. Remember, people who see Demand Gen ads might be Googling more about you. That is extra traffic.

Brand lift. Companies usually use brand lift studies after TV campaigns. They show how people’s perceptions about your brand changed. Demand Gen campaigns might act like TV campaigns due to their massive reach. Google Ads has a brand lift feature in the account.

Conversion lift. It helps you understand your campaign’s impact on driving conversions. The conversion lift feature measures the increase in conversions that can be attributed to your Demand Gen ads. This valuable data allows you to optimize your campaign and improve your ROI.


Audience Targeting: Demand Gen Ads use advanced audience targeting options, such as custom intent, in-market, and affinity audiences, to reach billions of users who are most likely to be interested in your products or services. This is basically the Display campaign settings. You can choose an audience you want to target and create specific yet engaging ads that will be placed on the mentioned Google properties. What I like is that you can also target your existing audience. And this opens up an additional way to bring back customers who left.


Automation and Machine Learning: Classic Google is adding machine learning wherever it can. Don’t get me wrong, some of the features based on machine learning are good. For example, the new CPA (cost per action) bidding is a lot better than it used to be. However, even though everything is powered by Google AI to optimize your ads, you can’t choose any other bidding method. In fact, there are other things not available when you choose Demand Gen ads:

  • Manual bid strategies
  • Delivery method
  • Device targeting
  • Placement targeting (including exclusions)
  • Frequency capping
  • Ad rotation
  • Contextual targeting


For me personally, that’s a downside. I’m suspicious of all the features that work like a black box. Every business is different, and the approach to attract sales should be different. How should I customize my efforts if I can’t remove the device I don’t want to target? This limits my possibilities.

Basically, you give Google your budget and an audience, and it will take care of the rest. I shouldn’t even tell you that you should thread carefully and test everything.

Benefits of Demand Gen Ads

According to Google there are three main benefits of using Demand Gen Ads: visually rich ads, higher engagement, and automated targeting options. Well, the last one is not a benefit for me. All campaigns have automated targeting options, including manual as well. However, the first two are correct. Bellow I listed several of my own, some of them match Googles.


Increased Reach: Across all the properties Google owns, the reach is about 3 billion monthly users. With these numbers across Google Discover, YouTube, and Gmail, Demand Gen Ads can significantly expand your brand’s reach and visibility. Sure, it won’t be cheap, but you can get your ads in front of people who otherwise would have never found you. To do that, you need amazing visual, which brings us tot he next point.


Enhanced User Experience: By blending seamlessly with the surrounding content and focusing on visual appeal, Demand Gen Ads provide a non-intrusive and engaging experience for users. The key word here is “non-intrusive”. People can smell an ad a mile away. Here you have a chance to engage with users without them knowing it’s an ad.


Improved Ad Performance: As I mentioned before, this needs to be tested. It won’t work for all businesses, no matter how “smart” the algorithm is. Google’s machine-learning capabilities are great, and there is no doubt about it. But don’t forget that, in some ways, it is biased toward Google. Obviously, I don’t know 100% of this, but from all the campaigns I ran, most of them did not improve the bottom line. I would not recommend running this campaign with a small budget or expecting conversions. This is more of a branding type of thing.


All in one. With Demand Gen, you can use videos, images, and text to create a single campaign. Similar to Performance Max campaigns. This gives you more flexibility in engaging users.


Detailed Reporting: I like it when I can clearly see my campaign performance. Google does provide good reporting for all campaigns. Demand Gen Ads are not an exception. You can see your performance summary and check if the campaign drives conversions. Here’s a screenshot from the Demand Gen ads campaign, when I tested it. I even got 10 conversions. But considering that I had 4.5k clicks, 10 conversions seems very low.


discovery campaigns statistics

Creating Demand Gen Ads

I will assume you have Google Ads account and have created at least one campaign. I also assume, that you’re using Expert mode in the account. If not, you need to create at least one campaigns and then switch to Expert mode in the settings.


Back to Demand Gen Ads. Click to create a new campaign, select “without guidance,” and then select Demand Gen.



After you click on Demand Gen, you will have an option to select your conversions (please create one if you don’t have it) and enter your campaign name. Naming your campaigns is important, but they do not impact performance. Just enter the name that will inform you what you are actually advertising. Don’t leave the default name.


Next, you must choose targeting options such as country and language. I won’t get into details here, as this is pretty straightforward. Let’s move on to bidding. Here’s where things are a little bit different. Instead of a bidding strategy, you have to select a goal.


With Conversions, you will use CPA bidding with the option to set a target CPA. If you select Clicks, the strategy will be to Maximise clicks. And with Conversion value it will be ROAS bidding.


You won’t have a lot of bidding options as they are all automated. If you have conversions set up, select Conversions. As for the daily budget, I would recommend starting at least with $50. I would go a lot higher with several hundred, but you can start with lower budget and adjust later on. I told you that this is quite an expensive campaign.


Then, we move on to the most important part – the audience.



If you have already created audiences, then they will be available as soon as you click to add an audience. Otherwise, you will have to create one. But it’s OK, as you can do it within a campaign. But what you should have before is the idea of what audience you need to target. So make sure you think about that before you start creating Demand Gen campaign.


And the last step, which is the second most important part, is the ads. Similar to display, these ads contain images and texts. You can input several headlines and descriptions. Below, I have added an iPhone 14 link with some images for you to see how it looks.



You can upload several images, and Google will adjust its size. The more images you add, the better. Make sure they are different, not only highlighting the product but also showing emotions using the product (if possible, of course).


Here’s what you will need on the creative assets front:

  • Image assets (landscape 1.91:1, logo 1:1, portrait 4:5, square 1:1)
  • Text (headline, description, final URL, business name, CTA)
  • Video assets (landscape, portrait, square, vertical)
  • Carousel ad (headline, description, final URL, business name, CTA, logo 1:1, 2–10 image cards:
  • Landscape 1.91:1, portrait 4:5, square 1:1


One cool thing is that you can preview how your ad looks on different properties (Gmail, YouTube, Discover). Just click the drop-down next to Preview.

And you’re done. After you launch your campaign, it might take some time for the ads to be reviewed, but if you did not violate Google’s policies, you should be fine.

Advanced Audience Targeting Strategies

Effective audience targeting is essential for the success of your Demand Gen Ads campaigns. By narrowing down your target audience, you can ensure that your ads are being shown to users who are most likely to engage with your content and convert.


Here are some advanced targeting strategies to consider:

Custom Audiences: I love custom audiences. They recently made some changes, but I think it’s for the good. Use custom audiences to target users who have shown recent interest in specific products, services, or topics related to your business. You can create custom intent audiences by adding keywords and URLs related to your offering. You can create any type of audience you want, and it’s a huge advantage. Trust me.

My personal favorite is using competitor websites to create these audiences. Takes a while to test them out, but once you find that one competitor whose users are willing to switch it’s a gold mine.


Remarketing: I’m sure you are familiar with remarketing. You can target users who have previously interacted with your website or app. Before running Demand Gen Ads, you should set up a Display campaign with remarketing. It’s a great opportunity to drive sales. Back to Demand Gen campaigns with a remarketing audience. This can include users who have visited specific pages, added products to their cart, or completed a purchase. Remarketing allows you to re-engage with users who have shown interest in your brand, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

Ad Creative Best Practices

Demand Gen Ads rely heavily on images. I think you got that by now. You either have them because you use high-quality images on your website or in other ads, or you will have to make them. Don’t save money here. The success of your Demand Gen Ads campaign relies on the quality and relevance of your ad creatives.


Here are some best practices to follow when designing your ads:


Use High-Quality Images: Choose images that are visually striking and represent your brand, product, or service effectively. Ensure that your images meet Google’s specifications and are properly optimized for different devices and screen sizes. Don’t forget about Google Ads policy.


Repurpose your social campaigns. If you have great social media posts on various platforms, you can repurpose that content and use it in Demand Gen ads. You already know that content is performing well.


Write Compelling Headlines: If the headline does not grab users’ attention, then the rest is a waste. Craft headlines that grab the user’s attention and highlight the unique value proposition of your offering. Keep your headlines concise and focused on the benefits your product or service provides.


Include Clear Calls-to-Action: Ensure users know what you want them to do. Encourage users to take the desired action, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading an app, by including a clear and compelling call-to-action (CTA) in your ad copy.


Test Different Creatives: You should test everything, always. Create multiple ad variations with different images, headlines, and CTAs to identify the best-performing combinations. Use A/B testing to compare different ad creatives and optimize your campaign based on performance data. Try different video ad formats.


Using product data feed in Demand Gen campaigns

Combining your product feed with Demand Gen campaigns is a really cool thing. You will need a Merchant Center account to do that, but it’s free and easy to set up.

Instead of displaying images, you can show off your products. This is better than just images, as people see exactly what they will get if they click. And if the product is not interesting to them, they won’t click, and you won’t waste your money on people who would have never bought anything.


Please keep in mind that this is still a broader targeting option than Shopping ads or Search ads. So, the results might not be as good as those of the mentioned campaigns. And you should consider this only if you have exhausted other options.

Your products will show up on various Google properties. This is an example on YouTube:



In this instance, I searched for cosmetics, I got some videos, and as soon as I clicked on one, I got this feed of products. Do I want to buy it? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe I just wanted to see some reviews.


Your products can be shown under videos even if you haven’t searched for something. Just by viewing your favorite videos, Google might decide to show products because it thinks you might be interested.


Ongoing Optimization Tips

I say that a lot and will repeat again – there are no campaigns in Google that you can set and forget. So, to get the most out of your Demand Gen Ads campaigns, it’s essential to continuously monitor and optimize your campaign performance.


Here are some tips for ongoing optimization:

Analyze Performance Data: Regularly review your campaign performance data to identify areas for improvement. Pay close attention to metrics that are important to your business. Usually it will be conversions. But you might look at click-through rate (CTR), cost per acquisition (CPA), and return on ad spend (ROAS). The last one is quite important. Make sure you’re not spending more than you earning.


Refine Audience Targeting: Since you can create a lot of audiences you should monitor how they are performing. Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your audience targeting and make adjustments as needed. You may need to expand or narrow down your target audience based on campaign performance data.


Update Ad Creatives:This is a no-brainer. Visuals are your bread and butter with Demand Gen ads. Regularly refresh your ad creatives to prevent ad fatigue and maintain user engagement. Try different content formats, like short-form videos, portraits, square images etc. Use performance data to identify which creative elements resonate most with your target audience and update your ads accordingly.


Utilize Seasonal Opportunities: Adjust your campaign strategy to take advantage of seasonal trends, holidays, and special events. Create tailored ad creatives and offers to capitalize on these opportunities and drive increased engagement.


Optimize Landing Pages: As you know, everything starts with a click but ends with your landing page. You have to make sure that when users enter your website, they have everything they need to perform a desired action. Your landing pages are optimized for conversions and provide a seamless user experience. They are mobile-friendly, have fast loading times, and feature clear CTAs.


Implement Conversion Tracking: You would be surprised how many accounts don’t use conversion tracking. It’s probably the biggest mistake you can make. Set up conversion tracking in Google Ads to accurately measure the success of your campaigns. By tracking conversions, you can gain valuable insights into user behavior and optimize your campaigns based on data-driven decisions.


Be careful with Max clicks bidding. If you don’t have conversions set up, you might be tempted to try to optimize for clicks. This AI-powered bidding could work, but at the same time, you have to watch your spending and check other metrics as well to understand if your ads resonate with people. It’s very easy to get a lot of clicks. That doesn’t mean they are valuable to your business.


Frequently Asked Questions


Is the Demand Gen campaign better than Shopping ads or Performance Max?

No. Demand Gen has a broader reach, which means lower intent and fewer sales. I would not recommend starting with Demand Gen if you haven’t tried Shopping ads or PMax. Always think about your advertising goals. Don’t just run after a new shiny toy.


Do I need a product feed to run Demand Gen campaigns?

No. You can use images or videos.


Do I need a video to run Demand Gen?

Also no. All you need is images and some text ads, similar to Search ads.


Do I need a video to run Demand Gen?

Also no. All you need is images and some text ads, similar to Search ads.


Do I need conversions to run Demand Gen?

Not, but highly recommended. Demand Gen campaigns can be used for awareness or driving new traffic. But it will be a costly campaign.


Can I exclude certain properties from Demand Gen campaigns?

No. Your ads will be shown on all properties, similar to PMax campaigns.


Is the Demand Gen campaign similar to PMax?

They seem similar, but they are not. PMax campaigns rely more on AI to show ads to people and focus more on conversions. Demand Gen campaigns are more of a top-of-the-funnel campaign and have more granular targeting options.


Do Demand Gen ads run on YouTube?

Yes, YouTube search, YouTube home page, Watch Next, YouTube Shorts, YouTube In-stream ads, Infeed. Basically, all of YouTube.

Is Demand Gen Better than Meta Ads?

They might be. Of course, I don’t have proof, but based on the broader reach of Demand Gen campaigns, they have the potential to provide more exposure and reach a larger audience compared to Meta Ads. People reasearch products on YouTube far more often compared to other social media platforms. However, it ultimately depends on your specific advertising goals and target audience.

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