The Power of Google’s Smart Display Campaign

"Picture of a paid search campaign being powered by Adwords Smart Display tool "

At KATANA, we like to try new tools, strategies and media mixes to see what brings impeccable results. Lately, we’ve been using a tool called Smart Display, a newly implemented Google Adwords feature. Due to it being a fairly recent addition to GDN (Google Display Network), performance results are somewhat limited, but to date, we’ve seen great opportunity with it! Check out our insight into this new and improved campaign feature.

What is it?

“Smart Display” utilizes Google to assess the behavior of users in order to make smarter decisions about targeting, bidding and creative execution. It can create unique ads in different sizes and choose the best performing combinations of images, logos, headlines, and descriptions. First, marketers must set up the location and add the maturity level of the content within the campaign. Since the creation, testing, and management of ads are automated, you simply have to load a handful of creative assets and the tool does the work for you. Targeting and bidding are also automated features. Smart Display analyzes the historical conversion data, what interest areas or topics leads came from, and what converted customers have in common, i.e. genders, demographics, etc. Then, audiences are targeted according to these similarities. The difference between smart display and regular display tools is that the former can test which combination of targeting methods work best for generating conversions at your target cost-per-acquisition (or CPA) level. This is also the case with bidding; you feed your target CPA into the campaign and the algorithm will bid to generate conversions at your target CPA.

Prior to the release of this feature, we’ve utilized the In-market and Remarketing campaign features. In-market is meant for users who are in the prospecting stage. This means they haven’t shown interest in the brand, but have shown interest in the services based on their online behavior. These types of users generally have a higher CPA because they have not shown a direct interest in the brand yet. The latter describes typical remarketing campaigns, where we target users who visited a site but did not convert. These campaigns tend to have lower CPAs.

How has it helped our clients?

While this feature has just recently been updated, we recognize that more utilization and testing will be necessary to get a longer-term perspective on its performance. So far, KATANA has found this feature helpful for decreasing target CPAs as it allows for reaching a broader audience.

The use of Smart Display helps marketers understand which advertisements, image types, interest areas, devices or demographics are producing high success rates. KATANA observed Smart Display outperforming In-market and Remarketing campaigns in conversions, CPAs, and CPC. For Use Case 1, our client saw CPAs lower than in-market campaigns by 40.22%, with CPA’s lower than retargeting campaigns by 11.79%. For Use Case 2, we have managed a 40% improvement in CPA compared to In-market for our client. Though In-market and Smart Display are both prospecting campaigns, Smart Display showed higher performance. In multiple cases, Smart Display also beat Remarketing campaigns. Within our initial testing period, campaign ROI with Smart Display has shown to be promising. We are able to optimize campaigns quicker with this tool’s ability to categorize advertisement assets based on their quality, with the categories being “best,” “good” and “low.” They’re ranked based on how well they’ve generated conversions. Low assets are removed and new ones are tested for optimal campaign performance.  

Currently, we’re putting our efforts into adjusting our CPAs as low as possible without losing conversion volume. We’ve found that giving Google more freedom by broadening location targets has lowered CPAs. One downside to Smart Display that we’ve discovered is that marketers have less control over which creatives are shown because it is an automated tool. Taking this into account, KATANA makes sure to review all possible combinations that could be made with the assets we upload to the campaign before launching.

Follow us on Medium at Katana Media to read what tools we are using and what our unique approach to each feature is:

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Also published on Medium.