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GDA vs. DV360: Comparing Google's Display Platforms

Being aware of the opportunities and variations across Google’s display offerings will enable you to make an informed decision on the platform in which your display activity is run. The Google Display Ads (GDA) is Google’s ad network accessed via Google Ads, whereas Display & Video 360 (DV360) is Google’s Demand Side Platform (DSP) providing the technology that allows advertisers to bid and buy inventory directly from publishers or from ad exchanges outside of Google’s own network. This blog will outline the key benefits to each platform, then will hone in on a comparison between their audience targeting, ad options, and automation functionalities.

GDA Pros:




CPC Bidding

With Google Ads, you only pay when a user actually clicks the banner. It’s as simple as that!

New features rolled out to Google Ads first

As Google’s solely owned advertising platform, Google Ads is the ideal proving ground for new features - especially audience products such as the fancy new Consumer Patterns (users who habitually complete certain actions e.g. regular department store shoppers) and Life Stages (such as those who are about to get married or just bought a home).

Smart Display Campaigns

Google Ads is all about automation and ease of set-up; and this is Google’s fully automated Display format. Advertisers simply upload up to five of each image, headline and description assets and set a target CPA. The algorithms then do the rest. Creative is automatically optimised based on click through rate and bids are automatically optimised to reach the target CPA goal. Audience targeting is even set, based on a combination of your pre-existing website audiences and users exhibiting similar behaviour - this targeting is then automatically optimised based on performance.

Gmail Targeting

Another benefit of being Google’s own direct marketing platform - Google Ads gives advertisers access to show users relevant marketing messages directly in their inbox; both on the web and in the Gmail app. More detail on the format can be found by searching Gmail in our blog section. In short, you can see great results by reaching your customers in that consideration mindset.


DV360 Pros:




Efficiently and Safely Reach Users At Scale

One of DV360’s strengths is its large-scale reach across over 80 exchanges. If your display activity is looking to find new users through branding and insights-driven engagement, then DV360 should be your preferred choice. In response to industry-wide needs for greater control over viewability and brand safety, the platform allows for improved granularity of both. Viewability targeting, through Active View measurement, is available as a targeting option to improve efficiencies of ad spend, whilst post-bid blocking provides peace of mind and avoids your brand serving next to inappropriate content. For an additional fee, DV360 can sync all major third party verification tools to further improve brand safety and ad fraud.

Extensive Audience Buying Capabilities

Inventory buying options in DV360 have acknowledged the desire for advertisers to appear against premium content on well-known publisher sites. Private Marketplace (PMP) and Programmatic Guaranteed (PG) deals can be negotiated and setup all within the interface, providing a viable alternative to direct media buying. There’s even a handy troubleshooting feature offering a high degree of flexibility in terms of its targeting capabilities. GDPR compliant third party audience lists are available in the interface, allowing brands to target the right person at the right time based off a variety of online and offline data sources. Similarly, the PMP and PG deals permit publisher’s own data to be overlaid for more accurate audience targeting.

Insights-Based Reporting

There are some fantastic reports available through DV360 if your display activity is all about gaining insights and understanding your target segment. Audience composition and audience performance reports allow you to understand how third-party lists are performing in comparison to current activity, and indexing against your first party data. Reach reports provide additional insights into the number of viewers reached by your display campaigns, and the number of times they have been served an impression.

Consolidated Workflow Across Google’s Marketing Platform

Google’s decision to consolidate the DoubleClick stack products within one unified marketing platform (GMP) best reflects the value of all platforms being used together. For example, there are significant workflow benefits when integrating features from Campaign Manager, Google’s ad-serving technology (formerly DCM), and Studio, Google’s creative workflow tool. Specifics mentioned in the sections below.

Platform Comparison:



Image source: e-dialog


When reaching users through Google Ads, advertisers can access a range of audience targeting options, including (but not limited to) their website remarketing lists (collected using the Google Ads retargeting pixel) and Analytics remarketing lists - imported through linking your Analytics and Ads accounts. When reaching users on Gmail, Google Ads website remarketing lists can also be used, along with 1st party audience lists comprised of CRM data uploads (known as Customer Match) for targeting purposes. Similar User lists are automatically generated off the back of all these pixel types, prioritising greater similarity.

DV360 relies heavily on floodlight pixels for tracking and remarketing, built in Campaign Manager. There are a great number of opportunities for granular data extraction through u-variable setup. Once platforms are linked, floodlights and audience lists seamlessly push through for conversion tracking and first-party targeting. A particularly exciting feature is the ‘similar audiences’ that Campaign Manager automatically creates when your first-party lists exceeds 500 users. These can be targeted in prospecting activity with an option to prioritise greater similarity or greater reach. GA360 integration allows audience lists to be pushed through to DV360 as well.


Google Ads gives advertisers access to Image and Expanded Text Ads across the network, along with the exciting Responsive Ads feature. This provides simple-to-create, easily editable creative requiring only 1 image, logo and up to 140 characters in text. The format automatically resizes depending on placement size and device, making them the quickest route to launching display advertising based off minimal design resource requirement.

Creative opportunities within DV360 are hugely varied and innovative, allowing you to create engaging, interactive display ads across a variety of sizes. Through streamlined processes with Studio, rich media formats are available to select from templates or build from scratch in the platform. Trafficking processes via Campaign Manager then allow for more advanced creative testing capabilities, and reporting functionality through a long list of metrics available.


The whole Google Marketing Platform is geared to offer advertisers the ability to review and adjust bidding based on segmentation such as location, device and time of day. Google Ads offers advertisers a number of bid adjustment options for these, allowing for upweighted bids (+900%) and negative bid adjustments (-90%) for any one segment. It is possible to split each day into a maximum of six segments of as little as an hour, giving access to very granular ad scheduling options.

As automation is one of the key features of Google Ads, advertisers can enable Enhanced Cost Per Click bidding which will up/down-weight a manually entered bid based on auction-time signals in order to maximise conversions.

It is also possible to activate full automation of bids in order to target a set CPA (cost per acquisition) or ROAS (return on ad spend) based on Google Ads conversion value tracking. These features are a huge win for eComm brands especially, wanting to drive direct-response display activity with strict ROAS targets. Again, all automated bidding adjustments are made based on a number of different intent signals including location, device and search behaviour on an auction-by-auction basis.

DV360 bidding has come a long way in recent months, offering slightly different automated options to that which is available through the GDN. These especially allow for more of a branding focus and includes meeting or beating a CPC/CPA goal, not exceeding an average CPM, and optimising towards viewable CPM bids. Whilst bid multipliers are an option, they can only be applied when fixed bidding is selected. These allow for upweighting bids between 0.1 and 10 times for six target areas (apps and URLs, audience lists, demographics, geo, data and time, device types). An exciting feature for DV360 allows advertisers the flexibility to opt into (and out of) an enhanced automation pool. This anonymously shares data, allowing advertisers to apply bid automation that leverages huge amounts of historical learnings.


There are many ways of running display activity, with pros and cons across both GDA and DV360 to take into consideration. Making an informed decision on what is right for your brand’s marketing objectives is no simple feat. When determining the best platform to use, you must consider the wider picture in terms of campaign objectives and your brand’s digital direction; the features alone are just part of the puzzle (summarised in the table below). If you want to chat through the options with one of the team, we’d love to help you to make the best choice.

Feature Summary


 Google Display Ads

Bid Manager via DV360


  • Google ads retargeting pixel
  • Analytics remarketing lists
  • Customer match (CRM data uploads) for Gmail
  • Similar audiences, prioritising greater similarity
  • Campaign Manager floodlight pixels (with u variable granularity)
  • Analytics 360 remarketing lists
  • Similar audiences option to select greater similarity or greater reach


  • Image ads
  • Expanded text ads
  • Responsive ads
  • Rich media creative
  • Testing through Campaign Manager integration


  • Bid adjustments (upweight +900% and downweight -90%)
  • Automated bidding:


    • Enhanced CPC
    • Target CPA
    • Target ROAS
  • More granular time of day bidding options
  • Bid multipliers (upweight between 0.1 and 10 times)
  • Automated bidding:


    • Meet/beat CPC or CPA
    • Max CPM
    • vCPM
  • Enhanced automation pool opt in/out


  • CPC bidding
  • New features rolled out to GDN first
  • Smart Display Campaigns
  • Gmail targeting
  • Customisable targeting options
  • Efficiently and safely reach users at scale
  • Extensive audience buying capabilities
  • Insights-based reporting
  • Consolidated workflow across the GMP

For a more detailed comparison of YouTube TrueView activity across DV360 and Google Ads, watch out for Ashley’s blog post to be published soon.