The Death of Gmail & The Rise of Discovery Ads

The Death of Gmail & The Rise of Discovery Ads

February 18, 2021
Push Perspective

If you were a fan of Gmail Ads, you’ll be sorely disappointed with Google’s news back in January.

From the 1st of July, standalone Gmail campaigns will now become read-only and no longer be able to be edited or new ones made, as they are now being absorbed by the Discovery campaign format.

What were Gmail Ads?

Put simply Gmail Ads are interactive ads that showed up in the promotions and social section of your inbox on Gmail. Once you clicked on these ads, they expanded open just like a regular email which could include images, videos and other embedded forms.

Targeting wise, it works very similarly to a Display campaign, using a wide variety of different audience options to show your ad, including:

  • Affinity and in-market audiences
  • Custom audiences
  • Customer match
  • Demographics
  • Remarketing

Currently, there are two types of Gmail Ad formats available:

Single business: Ads that only show one business at a time
Multi – retailer ads: These feature multiple products and offers in the ad body, with each offer showing the product image, price, ratings and other information that a user may want to see.

Ads that appear in Gmail for a user are “the most useful and relevant” as those served are based on their online activity, keeping them as personalised as possible, with no personal information given away or sold to other users.


What is their replacement, Discovery Ads?

Having come out of Beta back in 2019, Discovery campaigns essentially take Gmail campaigns and add so much more. Not only can you reach users via Gmail through discovery campaigns, but also via Youtube and the Google discovery feed that can be found on android devices, meaning you can now potentially reach 2.9 billion consumers across Google’s feeds.




Setting up Discovery campaigns is extremely easy to do so as well. When creating a new campaign in the Google Ads UI, simply select your goal (or no goal if you’d like) and you’ll find the Discovery ads format as an option to choose from.




You can set up either single image ads or a multi-image carousel ad format, along with the use of automatic targeting to expand your reach to more potential users.

Benefits of Discovery Campaigns

There’s no doubt Gmail Ads still are relevant and have their place amongst advertisers, especially with about 3.9 billion users on email from 2019, set to grow to 4.3 billion by 2023.

So why phase them out?

1. They’re not actually disappearing

Gmail Ads are not disappearing, they’re simply just being added to a richer campaign format that gives you access to a lot more Google inventory at the same time. Now they’re becoming part of a richer network of users that you can reach, along with new ad formats to give users a better experience and make managing multiple assets across different channels significantly easier for the advertiser

2. Smart Bidding and better targeting

As mentioned earlier, you can reach potentially 2.9 billion people, but it doesn’t make sense to go for every. However with that large of a user base, Google collects a huge amount of data to categorise those users appropriately based on what they’re in the market for and their interests are, making it easier for you to reach the users you want at the correct stage of the buying process they’re in. With the addition of smart bidding via machine learning, it takes away the leg work of manual bidding making it even easier for you to achieve the targets you want, such a specific CPA using tCPA or maybe maximise the number of conversions you can get for your budget

3. Visually rich ads for a positive user experience

With the new ad formats available, you can now test multiple different image assets you already own and machine learning will self optimise that content to serve to users, finding the most relevant content they’re more likely to be interested in. All of this is served natively so it’s integrated well, regardless if a user is seeing it on Gmail or through their phones discovery feed.

How to successfully evolve from Gmail to Discovery

1. Use the correct audience

It seems obvious but it can be overlooked quite easily. Check the targeting style you’re already using on your Gmail campaigns and try to match it as closely as possible. If using keywords, see the top converting terms (aim for at least 10), as well as other terms relevant to your audience and use those to craft a custom intent audience. Since this is data you know works, the chances of people taking action and converting is increased.

2. Set realistic targets and give your campaign time

Unlike your Gmail campaigns which have most likely been running for a while if you’ve been doing them, your Discovery campaigns will need to go through their learning period, which can take between 2 – 3 weeks. At this time the system is gathering data and learning in order to achieve your targets, so you may see higher spend and CPA than the target you set, try to avoid making any changes to the campaign in this time not to hamper its learning.

CPA targets need to be set as a realistic target as well. See what your current Gmail campaigns are attaining and try setting a target at a similar level to those.

Here at Push, one of my colleagues tested Discovery campaigns for clients that deal in pregnancy and baby advice. Initially, when testing Discovery in December using pay per conversion with a low target, it didn’t achieve CPA targets for a 2-week runtime and was switched off. However, after reactivating it in January with a more realistic target and letting it run for the recommended period, it started achieving CPA levels lower than Display campaigns also being run.

3. Use all the assets you can!

In single image ads alone, you can have 5 headlines, 5 descriptions and 20 images. This is a lot of assets you can use, and it’s recommended to use up all of them to give machine learning as much material as it can to optimise your ads to your most relevant users.


Gmail Ads won’t be going, but just becoming part of a wider campaign format with updated ad formats and richer ways to target your audience. The change won’t happen until July, but this makes it the perfect time to start transitioning over to them now and testing how well they can work for you.

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