Google Is Already Jamming Advertisements Into Its Crappy AI

'Ad Enough

It was bad enough that Google decided to include "AI Overviews" in search results, watering down useful links with amalgamated garbage. But now, the tech monolith is cranking up the slop machine into another gear.

On Tuesday, Google announced that those AI Overviews — already the subject of ridicule for mishaps like recommending people change their car's blinker fluid — will start including shopping ads, in one of the company's first attempts to monetize its AI offerings while trying to protect its biggest cash cow, search ad revenue, against the rising tide of chatbots.

The scale of the rollout is unclear, but here's what you can expect to see, per a Google blog post. When you ask a question like "how do I get wrinkles out of clothes," the search engine will generate an AI Overview that is shown above all the conventional search results. This section contains a heavily summarized paragraph addressing your query — and beneath it, a lineup of all the wonderful sponsored products to suit your needs.

Chatbot Conundrum

Of course, sponsored ads on Google are nothing new. But what is new is that this key feature of Google's lucrative business model is under threat perhaps more than ever.

Should large language models like ChatGPT prevail, people will rely more on chatbots to get their answers instead of search engines, thus leaving Google with no one to shovel ads to. And there's a staggering amount of money on the line; in quarter four of 2023 alone, Google made over $65 billion from ads.

So to stay ahead of the competition, Google's AI Overviews unites chatbots, search engines, and sponsored ads in an unholy triune. Diminishing the quality of search results, it would seem to Google, is a sacrifice worth taking if it means a shiny AI badge will keep people using its search engine.

Business As Usual

And good news for businesses: Google maintains "there's no action needed from advertisers," as the AI can simply use their existing promotions.

On top of that, Google says it's developing tools to help advertisers create ad content with AI. In one example, a product ad for clothes is so in-depth that shoppers can use an AI-generated virtual "Try-on" to cycle through how the clothes look on different body types and sizes without ever having to leave the search page.

It could be a boon to have their products show up in AI Overviews, but as Search Engine Land notes, there's also the possibility that these AI summaries will divert people away from clicking through their websites.

None of this sounds great for those of us trying to find answers on the internet that haven't gone through a blender of ad algorithms, corporate copywriting, and heavens forbid, a large language model. Alas, the age-old trick of adding "reddit" into a search query will simply have to do — oh wait, except that Reddit is getting polluted by AI slop too.

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