Performance Max vs Discovery Ads: How are they different?

  • 9 min read
  • Performance Max might seem similar to the Discovery campaign, but in fact they’re two completely different campaign types.
  • Performance Max focuses on driving conversions and maximizing reach for products, suited for webshops and e-commerce businesses.
  • Discovery Ads are designed to capture attention, generate interest, and increase brand awareness during users' exploratory moments on platforms like YouTube, Discover, and Gmail.
  • Performance Max reaches various Google platforms, including YouTube, Display Network, Search, Shopping, Discover, Gmail, and Maps. Discovery Ads primarily appear on YouTube, Discover, and Gmail.

In today's digital landscape, businesses strive to connect with their target audience and maximize their online advertising efforts. With a plethora of advertising options available, it's crucial to understand the nuances of different ad formats to make informed decisions and achieve optimal results.

In this article, we delve into the world of Performance Max and Discovery Ads, exploring their unique features and helping you grasp the key distinctions between these advertising solutions. While both options offer powerful tools for reaching potential customers, they differ in their approach, objectives, and targeting capabilities.

So, let's dive into the distinctive characteristics of Performance Max and Discovery Ads, unraveling the potential they hold for your digital advertising efforts.

What are Google Performance Max ads?

Google Performance Max is a campaign type introduced by Google Ads in 2022 that combines machine learning with multiple ad types. Unlike the previous approach of managing separate campaign types such as search ads, shopping ads, display ads, discovery ads, and local ads, Performance Max allows advertisers to potentially work with all of these formats within a single Performance Max campaign. 

By leveraging machine learning, Performance Max dynamically determines the best ad placements for a campaign in real-time, optimizing its performance as it progresses. This groundbreaking update presents advertisers with a more streamlined and efficient approach to achieving their advertising goals.

Control your PMax ads! Get a FREE mapping roadmap to optimizing your product feed for profitable PMax Ads.

Performance Max concept

Google’s ad network is huge, but until PMax came along, it seemed confusing and complicated. The goal with Performance was to make it much simpler. This campaign type offers a wide range of placements and all you need to do to get started is set bidding, audience signals and add as many high-quality creative assets as you can. Then you just let Google's algorithms do their job and make sales for you.

By utilizing this campaign option, you contribute to the system's learning process regarding the characteristics of a successful advertisement. Therefore, the more you use it, the more it improves.

Performance Max ad examples

What sets Performance Max apart from other campaign types is its unique ability to integrate smart bidding and targeting features within a single campaign designed to achieve specific goals across the entire Google Network. This comprehensive campaign reaches a wide selection of advertising channels, ensuring maximum exposure for your brand:

With Performance Max you can try out all of these forms for advertising:

  • Search and Shopping ads (text ads and ad banners displayed in search results).
  • Display ads (shown to users all over the internet - unless they have ad blockers enabled)
  • Discovery ads (popular placements that can reach wide audience: YouTube, Gmail and the Google mobile app)
  • Local ads (placements such as Google Maps, great for businesses with physical stores that want to run local campaigns). 


Examples of PMax ads in different placements | Google

The Benefits of Google Performance Max

Performance Max is a fantastic advertising tool from Google that comes with several benefits for businesses.

Easier optimization

It makes managing ad campaigns much simpler. Google automatically adjusts your budget and bids on different advertising platforms, helping you reach your goals faster than with regular campaigns. You just need to set your budget and objectives, and Google's smart technology takes care of the rest.

Reaching more people and finding new customers

Performance Max allows your ads to be shown to a larger audience across Google's entire network. This means more potential customers can see your ads and learn about your products or services. With Performance Max, you can target new groups of people who might be interested in what you offer. Google understands what users are looking for, so your ads reach the right people at the right time.

Saving time

Google handles most of the campaign work, so you don't have to spend as much time managing it yourself. This frees you up to focus on other important aspects of your business.

Creative ads

Your ads will never be boring! Performance Max creates different combinations of your content, keeping your ads fresh and engaging for your audience.

Google Performance Max campaigns are a perfect fit for you if:

  • You want to target customers on many various social networks and platforms at the same time.
  • You aim to drive eCommerce sales.
  • You want to have the ability to quickly scale your advertising campaigns.
  • You don’t have much time for controlling specialized campaigns.

What are Google Discovery ads?

Google Discovery ads are a visually captivating ad format that is displayed on YouTube, the Discover feed, and Gmail. With the deprecation of Gmail, Discovery campaigns have taken over its ad format placements along with additional placements. 

These ads can consist of single images or carousels, with the latter allowing users to interact by dragging their finger across multiple images.

Discovery campaigns are specifically designed to connect with individuals during their discovery moments, when they are actively exploring and gathering information about new products and services.

Discovery ads were created to increase brand awarenessgenerate customer interest, while also encouraging user actions


Discovery ads shown on different Google placements | Google

Google Discovery ad examples

Google Discovery Ads placements offer advertisers a powerful way to engage with potential customers across various platforms: Gmail, YouTube, and the Discover feed.

Gmail Feed

Discovery ads have the potential to be displayed in Gmail, particularly within the Promotions or Social tabs. These ads mimic the appearance of emails and, when clicked, expand to reveal details about the brand's offerings. 

YouTube Home Feed

Discovery ads are also present within the YouTube app. As you navigate through the Home tab, you might encounter advertisements distinguished by a yellow Ad indicator.

Google App Discover Feed

Finally, Discovery ads can also show up in the Google App feed. You’ll identify it as such by the small “Ad” text in the lower corner:


Various Discovery placements | Google

The Benefits of Google Discovery Ads

With Discovery campaigns, you unlock the opportunity for your brand or business to broaden its exposure to wider audiences. Google highlights several key advantages that you can expect to gain from Discovery ads, including:

Expanded reach across YouTube, Gmail and Discovery feed with a single ad campaign

With a single ad campaign, you can expand your reach across multiple Google platforms. By leveraging the capability to connect with up to 3 billion individuals monthly through YouTube, Discover, as well as the Gmail Promotions and Social tabs, you have the opportunity to engage with a broader audience. Users spend lots of time browsing these popular Google properties.

Relevant advertising to drive more engagement

Google's deep understanding of customer intent allows you to display ads that are highly relevant and meaningful to people at a time when they are most interested in learning more about your product.

AI powered visually rich ads and automated bidding

Google utilizes AI to seamlessly create and display your assets across various devices in front of consumers engaging with their preferred content and experiences on Google platforms. 

To achieve your objectives you have the flexibility to utilize bidding strategies such as Maximize Conversions, Target CPA (Cost per Acquisition), or Target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend). The bidding is automated in Discovery campaigns.

This streamlined approach of taking advantage of AI minimizes the effort and time required from your end.

Google Discovery ads will be a perfect fit for you if:

  • You want to get to new customers. Through the distribution of visually captivating and inspiring brand content across various feeds on Google platforms, Discovery campaigns can assist in capturing the attention of potential customers during their receptive moments of exploring new brands. 
  • You aim to re-engage with your most valuable customers (remarketing). Discovery campaigns offer more opportunities to engage with those who already know and like your brand (they have made a previous purchase, engaged with your YouTube channel, or visited your website. Discovery campaigns help renew their engagement.
  • You aim to achieve more conversions through your media and require a supported marketing objective. By running a Discovery campaign, you can effectively generate sales, increase newsletter signups, or drive more traffic to your website.

Performance Max vs Discovery Ads: which one to choose for Google Discover?

When it comes to advertising on Google Discover, you may find yourself facing a decision between Performance Max vs Discovery Ads. At first, they might seem similar but in fact both options offer unique advantages and cater to different marketing objectives.

Read on to find out what are the key differences between Performance Max and Discovery campaigns.


Performance Max or Discovery Ads: differences

Different aim

When comparing Performance Max vs Discovery ads, it's essential to understand that they serve different purposes. While Discovery ads are primarily geared towards introducing and familiarizing potential customers with your products or services, PMax focuses on driving conversions, such as sales and leads.

PMax Ads

Discovery Ads

Work to convert that interest into concrete actions, e.g. sales

Capture the attention of users during their exploratory moments and generate interest

Given their distinct aims, it can be beneficial to actually utilize both PMax and Discovery ads simultaneously. By doing so, you can leverage the strengths of each approach and create a comprehensive advertising strategy.

Control level

By running dedicated campaigns for Google Discovery, Display, or YouTube, you gain increased control over various aspects such as audience targeting, ad format, and valuable feedback on performance

PMax Ads

Discovery Ads

Less control. Google’s AI technology determines how your campaign is run and how your ad looks like

More control. You can decide on ad format, audience targeting, etc

The specialized campaigns (such as Google Discovery Ads) allow you to optimize your advertising efforts based on the specific platform or network. With more control and insights into what resonates well with your audience, you can make data-driven decisions to increase the effectiveness of each specific, individual campaign and get better results from each one. Performance Max gives you less control.

Ability to analyze the results

When you gain more control over your campaigns, there is a possibility that it may negatively affect your performance. 

Performance Max generally tends to perform better than specialized campaign types and its management is much more simplified. However, a significant challenge is tracking where the conversions are coming from. It becomes difficult to determine if the conversions are from Discovery, Display, Video, from branded searches (maybe exclude them?). 

PMax Ads

Discovery Ads

Fewer insights into where your budget is being spent

Full insight where the conversions are coming from

So, while Performance Max is more convenient and can yield better results, the lack of detailed insights into conversion sources poses a considerable drawback. It becomes crucial to carefully consider the balance between control, performance, and the ability to accurately attribute conversions when deciding between Performance Max and specialized campaign types.


If you intend to run remarketing campaigns, it's important to note that direct campaigns are the only option available to you, as Performance Max (PMax) does not support remarketing (except for dynamic remarketing specifically designed for your shopping feed). This limitation means that if you want to specifically target and re-engage with users who have previously interacted with your brand or website, you need to choose a specialized Discovery campaign.

PMax Ads

Discovery Ads

Mostly focuses on new customers. Doesn’t support remarketing (only dynamic remarketing designed for your shopping feed)

Remarketing campaigns available

Suitability for eCommerce

Performance Max campaigns can be seen as an advanced version of Shopping Campaigns. Unlike Discovery Campaigns, Performance Max has the capability to handle product feeds, making it an ideal choice for advertising products directly from your webshop. 

PMax Ads

Discovery Ads

Ideal for eCommerce

Good for eCommerce but even better for creating brand awareness

Bidding and audience settings are automated in Performance Max, streamlining the campaign management process. Additionally, Performance Max allows your ads to appear on the Display Network, expanding your reach across various websites.

If your goal is to advertise products from your webshop and you also want to target the Google Display Network with straightforward audience settings, Performance Max is a highly suitable and user-friendly campaign type. It provides an effective and efficient solution for generating impressions and maximizing exposure for your products.

Control your PMax ads! Get a FREE mapping roadmap to optimizing your product feed for profitable PMax Ads.

Performance Max vs Discovery Ads – the case studies

Two powerful advertising strategies: Pmax and Discovery ad campaigns can work wonders for companies, bringing impressive growth and boosting brand recognition. See just how impactful they can be for businesses:

PMAx success stories:

1. Studio Cappello, a WMR Group company, wanted to make their Google Ads better using CRM data. They decided to put more money into the best performing products. To do that, they uploaded the CRM data to DataFeedWatch, segmented it and created relevant custom labels. 

The outcomes demonstrate the success of implementing the feed optimization tool and aligning the Google Ads strategy with the eCommerce approach. Surprisingly, despite a mere 7% rise in PMax ad spending, revenue skyrocketed by an impressive 80%!


Read the full case study.

2. MoneyMe offers quick and convenient personal loans to consumers, along with a digital credit card option. They wanted to use Google Ads to expand their business fast and attract new customers who apply online and get approved for loans, all at their desired cost per acquisition.

After using a Performance Max campaign for six weeks, MoneyMe experienced a 22% rise in conversions, earning over $800K in revenue from newly funded loans. Additionally, they managed to cut down their overall cost per acquisition by 20% across their account. MoneyMe now runs Performance Max alongside their other marketing campaigns with a continuous strategy.


Read the full case study.

Discovery Ads success story

Ted Baker, a popular British fashion brand, faced a big drop in offline sales because of COVID-19 lockdowns. Their previous Google Ads strategy mainly centered on Search and Shopping campaigns, but now they explored new options like Discovery ads to boost their business.

Ted Baker made use of automation to handle their bids, creative design, and data from their customers, like their lists of previous shoppers. They cleverly reconnected with people who visited their website before by using the same pictures from their social media campaigns in a carousel layout for Discovery ads. 

They also tested out target return on ad spend (tROAS) bidding for their Discovery ads. After that Ted Baker noticed a remarkable 62% boost in ROAS and an impressive 70% increase in revenue. These outstanding results have convinced the fashion brand to roll out Discovery ads on a global scale, making it a central part of their continuous advertising strategy.


Read the full case study.


In conclusion, Performance Max and Discovery Ads offer distinct approaches to advertising on Google, each with its own strengths and advantages.

Choosing between Performance Max and Discovery Ads depends on your specific marketing goals and requirements. If you aim to drive conversions, particularly for product-focused campaigns, Performance Max is a compelling option. Its integration of bidding and targeting features provides extensive reach and automated optimization.

Meanwhile, if your objective is to spark interest, engage with a wider audience, and create brand awareness, Discovery Ads offer a powerful solution. They enable you to connect with users during their browsing experiences on various Google platforms, leveraging visually appealing ad formats.

What are your experiences on running these types of campaigns? If there’s any topic you’d like us to expand on, propose it in a comment down below!


What are Google Discovery ad specs?

Google Discovery ad specs are specific guidelines for creating Discovery ads that appear on Google properties like YouTube, Gmail, and the Discover feed. They include:

  • Headline (max 40 characters)
  • Description (max 90 characters)
  • Image (1200 x 628 pixels, landscape)
  • Logo (1:1 square, 128 x 128 pixels)
  • Business Name (25 characters)
  • Relevant Landing Page URL
  • Engaging Ad Copy
  • Call-to-Action (several predefined CTAs, should much your campaign goal)
  • Visual Richness (single image or carousel format)

Where do Google Discovery ads show?

Google Discovery ads appear in the YouTube home feed, Gmail promotions tab, and the Google Discover feed. These placements allow Discovery ads to reach a wide audience and engage users as they browse content on these platforms.

Where do Performance Max ads show?

Google Performance Max ads can be displayed across the entire Google Network, including various platforms like Google Search, Display, YouTube, and Discover. Google Performance Max ads have a wide reach, so they can connect with lots of different people on various platforms. This helps you reach potential customers at different times while they're online.


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