Creating Urgency – How to Set Up Countdown Ads Using Ad Customizers

At the end of September, Google AdWords quietly rolled out Ad Customizers, a new ad format which allows advertisers to dynamically change ad copy by referencing a file uploaded to their account.

Once you start throwing around the phrase “dynamically changing ad copy”, you’ve peaked my interest! I decided to try out this slick new ad feature by testing the countdown Ad Customizer, which automatically updates ad creative with a countdown in days and hours for a sale, limited offer, or event. In this post, I’ll walk you through how the countdown Ad Customizer function works, how to set up countdown ads, and how this ad format performed in a test for one of Point It’s e-Commerce clients.


What is the Countdown Ad Customizer?

The Countdown Ad Customizer is a function that includes specific parameters that you can insert into your ad copy. By using it, you can dynamically count down to a specific date & time for an event. The text changes are all tracked within one consistent ad, making it easier for account managers to review performance trends across a single piece of copy rather than piece together data from various ads. The function also removes the additional work many advertisers did of scheduling multiple hourly countdown ad creatives using automated rules.

While this feature is brand new, don’t be surprised if you see many advertisers utilizing it for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Daily Deals countdowns this holiday season. Get a leg up on the competitors in your space and test it for your next sale or event!


How Do I Set Countdown Ads Up?

Create-Ad

  • Create ad messaging for your countdown ad. Include a countdown CTA like the examples below. Use an X as the countdown function placeholder in your ad.
    • Hurry, sale ends in X!
    • Sale ends in X!
    • Only X left!
    • Registration closes in X

Insert-Template

  • Insert the countdown function template into your ad

Edit-Function

  • Determine your event details by asking yourself the following questions below. Once you’ve got all of your details, edit the countdown function to match you parameters & insert the function into your ad copy. The example above is for an event that ends at 9PM on November 15th, 2014.
    • What day & time does your event end? Use the countdown function’s date & time format, which can be listed down to the second your event ends. Once the remaining event time is less than an hour, your ad will simply state that the sale ends in “minutes”.
    • Are you counting down to an event time that varies by time-zone? Or to a globally consistent event time?Google offers two available countdown ad customizers – the COUNTDOWN function or the GLOBAL_COUNTDOWN function. These are easy to mix up. Use the COUNTDOWN function if you want to countdown to a set time that adjusts based on the person’s time-zone. For example, a sale that ends at midnight that was searched for at 9PM EST would show to someone in New York as “Sale ends in 3 hours!” but to someone searching at the same time in Seattle would show as “Sale ends in 6 hours!” Use the GLOBAL_COUNTDOWN function if you want to countdown to a globally consistent set event time. Using the same example, this would mean your ad would say “Sale ends in 3 hours!” for both a searcher in New York and a searcher in Seattle.
    • What languages are you targeting? – If you are running these ads in campaigns targeting foreign languages, you can include a language code parameter in your function which will automatically localize the words days, hours, and minutes for you in that language. The list of language codes can be found in Google’s specs for ad customizers.
    • When would you like this ad to start running to countdown to your event? – The function uses a default of 5 days if no parameter is included.

  •  Be sure to check variations of your dynamic ad text to ensure your ad won’t be over character limits as it dynamically changes. Otherwise, it will be disapproved. This is especially important to check for ad text that is being translated by the function into different languages.
  • Check-Length

  •  Assign your countdown ad across your designated ad groups & bulk upload through the Google AdWords UI
    • Ad creation and upload of Countdown Ad Customizers is not yet supported in AdWords Editor
    • AdWords requires that you have at least one active standard (non-countdown) ad in any ad group in order to run countdown ads

  •  Lastly, once your ads are live, grab some screenshots to show what they look like in real time!
    Ad-1
    Ad-2


How Do These Ads Perform? Test Results from a Point It e-Commerce client

  • Test Details
    • Client: Beauty e-Commerce Client
    • Promotion: 2 Day Sale, 20% Off All Products Across Site
    • Network Targeting: Search only, running promo ads across all active campaigns
    • Language Targeting: French & German
    • Ad Set-Up: Ran Control Ad (calling out that sale is Friday & Saturday only), as well as Countdown Ad (using Sale Ends in X!). Set ads to rotate evenly.
  • Results:
    • Countdown Ads vs. Standard Sale Ads Saw:
      • +105% Higher Conv Rate
      • +40% Higher Revenue
      • +91% Higher ROAS
      •  Countdown Ads’ Conv Rate doubled on Day 2, while the Standard Sale Ads had consistent Conv Rate on Day 1 & Day 2, demonstrating that Countdown Ads drove more urgency

Have you tried out AdWords’ ad customizers yet? What do you think? Share your thoughts with us!

Maddie Cary About the author

Maddie Cary is the Director of Paid Search at Point It Digital Marketing in Seattle. Her role involves overseeing and developing an amazing team of PPC account managers, while also running the Global SEM Program for Point It’s largest client. In 2015, she won the US Search Award for “Young Search Professional”. You can find her speaking & learning at conferences like SMX, HeroConf, & PubCon, or writing posts for the Wordstream blog. Outside of PPC, her biggest loves are her family, friends, and her idol, Queen Beyoncé.

Comments:
  • Hello! What a great article. Well-detailed and spot-on!

    I would just like to raise a question about the template. I tried following all your steps but upon uploading the CSV file in AdWords, it says “This row is missing a required value: ‘Ad’.”

    Can you please help me with this? Do you have a template or do you know what that row is?

    Thank you so much and hope to hear from you soon!

    May 17, 2015 at 7:14 pm
  • Hello! What a great article. Well-detailed and spot-on!

    I would just like to raise a question about the template. I tried following all your steps but upon uploading the CSV file in AdWords, it says “This row is missing a required value: ‘Ad’.”

    Can you please help me with this? Do you have a template or do you know what that row is?

    Thank you so much and hope to hear from you soon!

    May 17, 2015 at 7:14 pm
  • Hi Dannuel,

    Great question! When bulk uploading to AdWords, the “Ad” column AdWords requires is synonymous with “Headline”. Therefore, you can replace the term “Headline” in your Headline column with “Ad”. Then that error should disappear when you do your bulk upload.

    Hope that helps!

    May 18, 2015 at 10:10 am

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