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Google Artificial Intelligence Gemini

Google unveils new AI ad tools for search, including new formats & animations


By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

May 21, 2024 | 7 min read

The company is competing with other major tech giants like Meta, Adobe and Microsoft to deliver new, AI-powered features to marketers.


New AI-powered features for advertisers were unveiled today at the annual Google Marketing Live conference. / Adobe Stock

At its annual Google Marketing Live (GML) conference on Tuesday, the tech giant unveiled a handful of AI-powered features that enhance its search and ad capabilities. The new tools are geared towards helping marketers build ads that are both more attention-grabbing and visible throughout the online search process.

Among the announcements is the news that Google has begun testing ads that appear above, within and below the results surfaced by Search Generative Experience (SGE), Google’s experimental program that uses AI to summarize responses to search queries in natural language, rather than providing users with a long list of links.

Users might soon see, for example, ads for stain removers or laundry detergent if they search for the best way to clean a red wine spill out of a sweater.

“As we move forward, we’ll continue to test and learn new formats, getting feedback from advertisers and the industry,” the company wrote in a blog post.

Google made clear at today's event that wider integration of generative AI across the company’s advertising services has become a key priority.

Another new feature unveiled today, for example, allows advertisers to create brief and simple animations from a single, still image – whether a photograph, an illustration or an AI-generated image. The tool is part of Google’s Product Studio.

In a demo at Google’s Pier 57 offices in Manhattan this morning, Jeff Harrell, the company’s senior director of shopping, showed reporters an example of this feature in action: an image of a boot sitting on a rocky beach was placed adjacent to an animation of the same boot, with the ’camera’ panning from right to left and waves moving – albeit blurrily – in the background. According to Harrell, the company has data to support the notion that animated ads tend to perform better on Google than still ads, though no exact figures were provided.

All AI-generated assets created on Google platforms will be watermarked as such.

Another upcoming feature to be rolled out via Performance Max – the company’s AI-powered ad campaign management platform, launched in late 2021 – will make it possible for advertisers to incorporate brand-specific fonts and color schemes when creating ads.

The company also announced that it is currently testing a new search feature that will, according to the announcement, “help guide people through complex purchase decisions.” At the press event this morning in Manhattan, Google’s director of global search ads, Rachel Melgaard, walked the audience through the example of somebody who was renovating their home and shopping for storage facilities.

The new feature, Melgaard explained, would leverage Google AI to analyze a photo of a room, determine the dimensions of each individual piece of furniture, and then provide a storage unit size and pricing option.

Credit: Google

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When asked if there were any other practical examples of this new feature at this point, Melgaard said these were “early days” and that there wasn’t any more that she could share at this point.

The news arrives at a time when many major tech companies are launching generative AI-powered ad capabilities. Earlier this month, for example, Meta introduced a suite of new image- and text-generating features for marketers. Meanwhile, AI-powered marketing was the topic du jour at the annual Adobe Summit in Las Vegas in March. Around the same time, Microsoft rolled out trials of its AI assistant Copilot to a broader set of advertisers who are testing the platform.

The introduction of ChatGPT in late 2022 sparked a race between Google and Microsoft – the two leading players in online search – to incorporate the technology into their search engines. Microsoft has become the primary investor in OpenAI and is now using GPT-4 in its search engine, Bing.

Google, meanwhile, has been racing to catch up. In December, the company introduced a multimodal AI model called Gemini, which now powers its SGE program.

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