January 25, 2023

GAM vs. GAM 360: What’s the Difference and When Should You Level Up?

It’s no secret that Google Ad Manager (GAM) has cornered the market among publishers running digital campaigns. It’s a one-stop shop for selling, managing, and tracking ad inventory across the web.

Still, there are nuances about Google Ad Manager that businesses should know if they want to make the most of the platform. 

Namely, there are two different versions to choose from: the free, base version of Google Ad Manager (formerly known as DoubleClick for Publishers or GAM Small Business) and Google Ad Manager 360, a paid and premium version. 

Here, we’ll break down what each option entails, the main differences between the two, and what you need to know before leveling up to GAM 360.

What is GAM?

Google Ad Manager is Google’s solution for publishers that want to sell ad inventory and run placements across their digital properties, including websites and apps. With Google Ad Manager, they can manage and measure a range of video, native, and custom ad campaigns from one platform. Google Ad Manager is also synced with Google’s product suite, including AdSense, AdMob, and the Ad Exchange marketplace. Publishers can use these integrations to run programmatic and direct campaigns.

Since this base version of Google Ad Manager is free, it’s popular among small- and medium-sized publishers, though any business can use it to start launching campaigns and driving revenue.

What is GAM 360?

GAM 360 is the paid, premium version of Google Ad Manager. It includes all the features of Google Ad Manager plus additional advanced capabilities for businesses with larger budgets, sales teams, and audience reach.

GAM vs. GAM 360: How do they compare?

Here’s a closer look at the key differences between Google Ad Manager and GAM 360:


First, for the most notable difference: Google Ad Manager is free while GAM 360 will cost you. How much? That varies by business depending on your needs and revenue. Publishers that want to get started with GAM 360 will work directly with a Google sales rep or certified Google Ad Manager reseller to negotiate a contract.


GAM 360 users have direct access to Google Support teams. Meanwhile Google Ad Manager users may have to troubleshoot on their own or with guidance from a reseller. To help, Google offers a robust knowledge base of FAQs and training guides. You can also tap into a community message board for assistance from fellow users.

Special ad units

With GAM 360, you can classify inventory as “special,” so it has to be explicitly targeted. 

If you’re running a monetized email newsletter, for example, you can designate ad units as “special” so they’re only populated with creatives that are built for email. In other words, you can avoid accidentally running any placements that don’t work within the email template, like Javascript creatives. 

While you can make this happen on the base version of Google Ad Manager as well, you’ll have to go in and manually change line items, which can take a lot of time.

Creative-level device targeting

On GAM 360, you can set up a range of device-specific creatives for one piece of inventory. For example, that inventory might have the dynamic capability to run ads of different sizes: 728×90 for tablet, and 320×50 for mobile, and 970×250 for desktop. With that one line item, you can designate three different creatives for three distinct devices, improving ad distribution and customer experiences.

Ad formats

Google Ad Manager (GAM) supports many types of ad formats: responsive, native, and video ads. GAM 360 offers all of these with two key additions: in-banner video ads and rich media. Meaning, they provide publishers with advanced options for running video ads, which can be valuable in an increasingly video-centric online landscape.

Levels of building ad inventory

GAM offers two levels when building ad inventory while GAM 360 offers five. Basically, that means 360 users have many more options for customizing how they target and distribute ads.

Penske, for instance, might use their first ad layer to parse out inventory by publication: Rolling Stone, Variety, and Hollywood Reporter. Then, they could use the second level to designate distribution sites: homepages, content pages, and mobile apps. Then, for the third level, they could specify page placement and formatting: top banner, side bar, ad size, etc. 

That’s only three layers, but the publisher could use all five to build customized inventory that improves performance and delivers comprehensive reporting.


Google has previously set minimum and maximum impression thresholds for Google Ad Manager and GAM 360, but those requirements have changed over time. They can also vary depending on the type of business, location, and campaign needs. It’s best to discuss impression thresholds with your reseller or Google for more information.


Google Ad Manager is known for providing in-depth campaign reporting and analytics. Publishers can track ad performance by many factors, including location, device type, traffic source, and audience demographic. 

GAM 360, however, offers more options for granulated reports, including future sell-through forecasts and invoiced impressions. GAM 360 can also be linked with Google Data Studio, which generates shareable dashboards and visualizations of campaign results.

When should you level up to GAM 360?

You might consider making the switch from GAM to GAM 360 — or just getting started with the premium version right away — if:

  • You’re a large or enterprise publisher
  • You generate tens of millions of impressions per month
  • You have the budget to invest in a paid platform
  • You plan to use a special ad units and creative-level device targeting
  • You want to launch in-banner video ads and other rich media
  • You need to access more in-depth reporting and granular metrics

Of course, GAM isn’t the only option out there. Publishers might also seek alternative solutions  like Sizmek, OpenX, or Level. Whichever platform you choose, it’s important to do your research and find the option that’s right for your business needs.

How do you get started with GAM or GAM 360? 

So, you’re thinking of getting started with GAM or leveling up to GAM 360. Where do you go from here?

You can try going to Google directly, but it might be quicker — and more cost effective — to work with a certified GAM reseller like Operative or YourBow. They often provide discounted rates and more one-on-one support. 

Ready to find the right partner for you? Jeeng has relationships with the top resellers and we’d be happy to introduce you. 

Contact us to start making the most of GAM and find the option that works best for your business needs.