Is Search Ready for Conversational AI?

Is Search Ready for Conversational AI?

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The brave new world of AI-powered search has hit a speed bump.

During the week of February 6, both Google and Microsoft announced they were developing new search capabilities that incorporate conversational AI, or chatbots that answer searchers’ queries with detailed, informative answers. This interface would provide an alternative to the search engines interface we are familiar with today, in which users need to click on to web links and read short snippets of content to find answers to their queries.

Microsoft said that its Bing search engine was using the same AI technology that powers the wildly popular ChatGPT chatbot created by OpenAI. (Microsoft has a multi-billion dollar investment in OpenAI.) Google said it was about to unveil Bard, a chatbot with similar AI-fueled capabilities. Bard was based on AI developed by Google for quite some time.

Both these Big Tech companies were responding to OpenAI releasing ChatGPT for public use on November 30, 2022. Since that date, ChatGPT had become the fastest-growing app in history.

Google didn’t outright release Bard – the company demo’d the product that week and said an independent party of reviewers was vetting the product before its ultimate public release. Microsoft started to make Bing’s chat interface available in limited preview mode.

At first, both companies received generally favorable attention for showing how rapidly two Big Tech companies could bring to market a new way to search. But then the problems began:

Definitely not a good look for conversational AI!

By February 16, things had gotten so bad that The Atlantic magazine was declaring “AI search is a disaster.”

In response, Microsoft said that these types of incidents are to be expected. Microsoft said, “The only way to improve a product like this, where the user experience is so much different than anything anyone has seen before, is to have people like you using the product and doing exactly what you all are doing. Your feedback about what you’re finding valuable and what you aren’t, and what your preferences are for how the product should behave, are so critical at this nascent stage of development.”

Microsoft also announced that it will begin limiting the number of conversations allowed per user with Bing’s new chatbot feature.

Meanwhile, Google has asked employees to improve Bard by rewriting answers for topics that employees know well – a human-in-the-loop approach in which people stay involved as supervisors of the development of AI products as well as the editing of AI-generated content.

So, what now?

Well, nothing really changes for businesses at the moment. Google has not rolled out Bard. Bing is still in preview mode. Clearly, there is work to be done. The bad press suffered by Google and Microsoft simply underscores how rapidly these companies are moving. From the standpoint of building public trust, it sure looks like they would have been better off taking more time before starting to take these products closer to market.

Conversational AI is coming to search. These products did not drop out of the sky. Sooner or later, this interface was coming. It happened too soon for Google and Microsoft to escape some reputational damage. But the big picture is that the industry is more aware now of how the search experience is evolving, warts and all.

As we’ve recommended in previous posts, we suggest that businesses watch the developments closely and experiment with conversational AI (as everyone is doing with ChatGPT right now). It is important to become familiar with the ways these tools function, including the way ChatGPT can generate content (known as generative AI). This is no time to ignore the phenomenon.

At True Interactive, we are staying in close contact with Google and Microsoft and will report developments as we learn about them.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Om siva Prakash on Unsplash

Google and Microsoft Go All-In with AI-Powered Search

Google and Microsoft Go All-In with AI-Powered Search

Bing Google Microsoft

On our blog, we speculated that Google would launch its own conversational AI assistant for search as a response to the popularity of ChatGPT. Well, within hours, we had our answer, and then some: not only did Google launch a new conversational AI tool for search — so did Microsoft.

What Google Announced

On February 6, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet, announced the launch of Bard, which he characterized as an experimental conversational AI service. Importantly, though, Pichai was careful to qualify how Google is moving forward. Instead of dropping the tool publicly as OpenAI did, Google is making Bard available to a team of “trusted testers” before making the tool publicly available “in coming weeks.”

This is a big difference in approach from OpenAI. Essentially Pichai was signaling, “We’re Google. We’re not going to risk our brand’s reputation by rushing something to the market until it’s ready.” By contrast, OpenAI made it clear that the company was going to crowdsource feedback from the public and make ChatGPT better – the “get to the market fast with an imperfect solution and make it better” approach that typifies Silicon Valley start-ups.

Google left start-up mode a long, long time ago.

According to Search Engine Land, the “trusted testers” vetting Bard are a demographically and geographically diverse group of people external to Google — an important consideration clearly designed to mitigate against bias – and bias is a problem that has vexed ChatGPT.

Bard is going to function as ChatGPT does now: synthesizing information to provide more complete, contextual responses to queries the way voice search has always promised to do. In Pichai’s words:

Bard can be an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity, helping you to explain new discoveries from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to a 9-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills . . . When people think of Google, they often think of turning to us for quick factual answers, like “how many keys does a piano have?” But increasingly, people are turning to Google for deeper insights and understanding — like, “is the piano or guitar easier to learn, and how much practice does each need?” Learning about a topic like this can take a lot of effort to figure out what you really need to know, and people often want to explore a diverse range of opinions or perspective.

And, he added that Bard will be incorporated into Google Search soon. Here’s a screen shot of how the interface might look, courtesy of Google:

This is quite an announcement, to be sure. As we blogged, it was known that Google had been developing conversational AI technology for quite some time – but the company was not ready to take it public. However, as a result, OpenAI was enjoying all the glory and credit for ChatGPT’s remarkable conversational abilities. On top of that, Microsoft invested billions of dollars into OpenAI and was reportedly incorporating ChatGPT into Bing Search.

Microsoft Drops an AI Bomb

And, speaking of Microsoft: on February 7, the company confirmed that indeed conversational AI was coming to Bing Search — not based on ChatGPT exactly, but a more powerful form of the tool. Microsoft shared a new version Bing, powered by an upgraded version of the same AI technology that underpins chatbot ChatGPT. The company is launching the product alongside an upgraded version of its Edge browser. This means that that the two will provide a new experience for browsing the web and finding information online.

The “new Bing” (in Microsoft’s words) offers a chat function, where users can ask questions and receive answers from the latest version AI language model built by OpenAI. Users can also create itineraries for trips. So, for example, you can ask it to “Plan a five-day trip to Mexico.” It’s available in preview mode at Bing.com.

Following the announcement, Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft Corporate Vice President & Consumer Chief Marketing Officer, shared more detail on the Microsoft blog. Among other things, he elaborated on how Bing’s chat functionality can help with ideation, whether writing content or planning something:

There are times when you need more than an answer – you need inspiration. The new Bing can generate the content to help you. It can help you write an email, create a 5-day itinerary for a dream vacation to Hawaii, with links to book your travel and accommodations, prep for a job interview or create a quiz for trivia night. The new Bing also cites all its sources, so you’re able to see links to the web content it references.

Here is a depiction of the experience from the post:

He also elaborated on how the Edge browser is being improved with AI, via chat and compose. With the Edge Sidebar, you can ask for a summary of a lengthy financial report to get the key takeaways – and then use the chat function to ask for a comparison to a competing company’s financials and automatically put it in a table. You can also ask Edge to help you compose content, such as a LinkedIn post, by giving it a few prompts to get you started. After that, you can ask it to help you update the tone, format and length of the post. Edge can understand the web page you’re on and adapts accordingly.

As we learn more about Microsoft’s announcement, we’ll share more.

Many questions remain, such as:

  • Whether a conversational AI will actually improve the search experience given nagging problems with providing wrong answers and biased information. As The Verge noted, “AI language systems like ChatGPT have a well-documented propensity for presenting false information as fact.”
  • How Google and Microsoft will incorporate conversational AI into Search without harming their core advertising business. As noted, conversational AI tools flourish by giving searchers concise responses instead of links to other sites. Google’s ad model depends on people staying engaged on Google Search clicking on links. Microsoft’s ad business, though nowhere near the size of Google’s, also depends on clicks and engagement.

For now, we suggest that businesses watch the developments closely and experiment with conversational AI. No doubt Google and Microsoft will provide more context on how the interplay with their ads will work. At True Interactive, we are staying in close contact with Google and Microsoft and will report developments as we learn about them.

Don’t change your ad strategy. We’re in early days.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Is a ChatGPT Killer Coming from Google?

Is a ChatGPT Killer Coming from Google?

Artificial Intelligence Google

It looks like the AI arms race is heating up.

Google is expected to announce soon the launch of a competitor to ChatGPT, the generative AI tool that has shaken the technology and business world.

ChatGPT is the product of OpenAI, the company that produced Dall-E, which uses AI to create images. ChatGPT is one of many chatbots designed to respond to queries from people by providing richer, more detailed, and more human-sounding answers than their predecessors. The incredibly slick bot uses AI to do everything from write copy to answer search queries to write code.

Some technology/business watchers have speculated that ChatGPT is a threat to Google Search. That’s because ChatCPGT responds to queries with a single answer that synthesizes information, which could upend how Google Search provides answers with links to information. Moreover, OpenAI is receiving deep funding from Google competitor Microsoft, which is incorporating the tool in its products, including, reportedly, Bing Search.

Well, Google has not taken the rise of ChatGPT lightly. Google’s parent Alphabet announced its quarterly earnings recently, and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said that Google is working on its own form of smart search. He said that “very soon people will be able to interact directly with our newest, most powerful language models as a companion to Search in experimental and innovative ways.”

Apparently “very soon” is almost here. On February 8, Google is hosting an event on YouTube, which will revolve around “using the power of AI to reimagine how people search for, explore and interact with information, making it more natural and intuitive than ever before to find what you need.”

Releasing an answer to ChatGPT is not far-fetched. Google has contended that it has been developing AI-powered search technology for quite some time but is not ready to share it publicly. Examples of Google’s AI-driven products include a chatbot language model called LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), an image-generation AI called Imagen, and MusicLM, which translates text to music.

But when OpenAI seized the narrative about generative AI by releasing ChatGPT in November 2022, reportedly Google went into “Code Red” mode and began fast tracking the development of various AI products.

Google has reportedly asked employees to test potential ChatGPT competitors, including “Apprentice Bard,” which makes it possible ask questions and receive detailed answers similar to ChatGPT. Details about Apprentice Bard’s functionality were leaked to CNBC, which reported:

Apprentice Bard looks similar to ChatGPT: Employees can enter a question in a dialog box and get a text answer, then give feedback on the response. Based on several responses viewed by CNBC, Apprentice Bard’s answers can include recent events, a feature ChatGPT doesn’t have yet.

Meanwhile, recently it was reported that Google has invested $300 million in AI startup Anthropic, which is testing a rival to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Anthropic’s language model assistant, Claude, hasn’t yet been released to the public, but the startup told Bloomberg it planned to expand access to the chatbot “in the coming months.”

One way or another, Google is gearing up to respond – although the impact of a chat-powered AI tool on Google’s paid search business remains unclear.

At True Interactive, we are following these developments closely. We already use Google’s AI-powered ad products. Based on our experiences with AI, we strongly advise that businesses experiment with these tools carefully.

We also recommend that businesses keep people involved in managing AI (or any technology). People are needed more than ever to ensure that AI does its job well. For instance, our experience has consistently shown that automated ads powered by AI underperform without people involved to monitor and modulate them when necessary. The same is true of generative AI. These tools sure sound confident when they present information, but they make mistakes, and they are notoriously biased. They are nowhere near the point of being self-sufficient.

We’ll follow the developments from Google and report back on our blog.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed in the ever-changing world of online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

2023 Advertising and Marketing Predictions

2023 Advertising and Marketing Predictions

Advertising

Gather around advertisers, pull up a comfortable chair, and take a look at our advertising and marketing predictions for 2023! We take on some big topics, ranging from the rise of AI to the impact of the economic downturn. Oh, and TikTok and Twitter, too. Check out our predictions, and let us know yours!

The Economic Downturn Will Present an Opportunity

— Kurt Anagnostopoulos, co-founder

This is a time for companies to make smart decisions about their marketing spend. We’re clearly in an economic downturn. Over the next six months, the downturn will intensify although not to the extent of the Great Recession of 2008. When downturns occur and uncertainty happens, inevitably some businesses scale back on their marketing spend. History has demonstrated time and again that during lean times, the cost cutters lose out to the businesses that continue to invest in their brands. Companies that stay the course will come out the other side of the recession ahead. If you are smart about how you market and price yourself, you can leave your competitors behind when times are tough. It’s not necessarily about doubling down on marketing, and it’s not about cutting at the other end of the extreme. It’s about spending wisely.

A mentality of spending wisely could hurt the major ad platforms such as Google and Meta. They’ve become more expensive. With advertisers seeking to spend more wisely in 2023, Google and Meta might price themselves out of the running in favor of platforms that deliver better CPCs and performance for the money. An agency such as True Interactive can help businesses navigate the landscape by leveraging platforms in a more cost-effective manner.

The water is too murky to see too far out beyond the next six months. We need to see how things are going to play out for the second half.

Artificial Intelligence Will Need People More Than Ever

— Mark Smith, co-founder

You cannot spend a minute on LinkedIn these days without seeing someone talking about ChatGPT, the generative AI tool that makes it easy to do everything from write content to code. It’s understandable that ChatGPT has gained so much attention. OpenAI released the tool publicly in November 2022 and made it easy for anyone to use it. The public responded. But ChatGPT is just one in a growing number of AI tools being used to do everything from manage customer queries to create royalty-free music. Right now, a number of executives are experimenting with these tools to do the heavy lifting for them – the writing, image generation, and so on. But soon, the novelty will wear off. And everyone will realize what we know already: AI cannot do your work for you. People need to be involved managing AI like any other technology. If you use Google’s myriad advertising tools as we do, you likely understand. Our experience has consistently shown that automated ads powered by AI underperform without people involved to monitor and modulate them when necessary. The same is true of generative AI. These tools are slick, but they make mistakes, and they are notoriously biased. They are nowhere near the point of being self-sufficient. In 2023, some businesses will learn the hard way that AI alone is not the answer to making smart investments in digital marketing. They’ll realize that people matter more than ever.

Google Ads Will Get Costlier

— Beth Bauch, director

2023 could prove to be challenging for businesses highly invested in Google Ads. I anticipate more automation by Google, resulting in less control for marketers.

One of the most common suggestions in the “Recommendations” tab in the Google Ads platform is to convert keywords to “broad match,” away from the more traditional “exact and phrase match.” Exact and phrase match keywords are meant to only match to searches that contain your keyword, making search queries highly relevant. Broad match keywords allow your ad to show on searches that are related to the meaning of your keyword and can include searches that do not contain the keyword terms.

While we have seen some success when testing broad match keywords with Googles automated bidding strategies, we have also seen some significant failures resulting in high spend and poor conversion rates. So, you need to proceed with caution when using broad match. One of the ways we improve the quality of search queries is by adding negative keywords to prevent our ads from showing on searches that are irrelevant.

However, whereas in the past we had access to view all search queries matching our keywords, Google now limits that visibility, only showing the top search matches. This makes it more difficult to block irrelevant traffic resulting in more spend on searches with low conversion rates.

And poor-quality traffic is very costly, especially as we have seen significant increases in the cost-per-click (CPC) of both brand and non-brand keywords in 2022 – as high as 50 percent increases for brand terms alone year over year. For some clients, we saw rising CPCs even though we were not seeing an increase in competition on brand keyword bidding when reviewing the Google Auction Insights report. This is an indication that Google has raised the base price for participating in a specific auction, regardless of competition.

As Google looks to rebound and increase its profits, I expect to see even higher advertising costs for Google Ads in 2023.

TikTok Will Extend Its Influence

— Bella Schneider, senior digital marketing manager

With the increasing popularity of TikTok, I predict that the brand will expand and improve its ads manager to be more comparable to Facebook Business Manager. Currently the platform is lacking in a few areas, and if TikTok is to compete with some of the larger social channels, then it will need to make adjustments to allow for easier advertising on the platform.

Meanwhile, thanks to TikTok, I predict the world of video will dominate the advertising space. More and more video content is starting to look and feel similar to the videos displayed on the TikTok native platform. Whether it’s dances, trends, or challenges, I predict that advertising will shift towards this style of video content.

Does Twitter Have a Future?

— Max Petrungaro, account manager

I have a difficult time seeing advertisers return to Twitter as long as Elon Musk is at the helm. When Musk bought the company, things immediately started poorly with most of Twitter’s top advertisers putting their ads on pause or stopping outright. In December 2022, the situation for Twitter deteriorated, with advertising spend being slashed by more than 70 percent. Twitter tried to combat this by offering incentives to the companies that would keep advertising, but I do not believe that this will be enough to overcome the polarization that Elon brings to the table.

With most of its revenue coming from advertising, and top spending advertisers not showing ads and/or slashing budgets, there may not be a Twitter by the time 2023 is over. As long as Elon is associated with Twitter, I believe that more advertisers will start to focus their advertisements on other popular platforms, like TikTok.

Customer Data Platforms Will Have a Big Year

— Héctor Ariza, senior manager

As the push for tighter data privacy in the digital world gains momentum, I expect 2023 to be a big year for customer data platforms (CDPs). With stricter data privacy regulations being imposed by governments around the world, and the imminent cookie-less era looming, companies and advertisers are already exploring privacy-enhancing technologies in their search of a more secure, yet accurate way of tracking user activity online.

Still, whatever the alternative to cookies and existing tracking methods may be, it will likely rely heavily on data aggregation/modeling. Thus, first-party data will become ever so more important in the digital advertising world. CDPs allow companies to manage what data is used, where it is used and how it is used more easily. These systems also help with data consistency across marketing/advertising platforms and reduce the risk of mishandling customer data.

Retail Ad Networks Will Lean into Mobile Even More

— Tim Colucci, vice president

One of the biggest stories in advertising in recent years is the rise of advertising networks managed by retailers ranging from Amazon to Macy’s to Walmart. Amazon’s own ad business has become so big that it is challenging the Google/Meta duopoly. These networks have succeeded because they tap into first-party data shared by people searching and shopping on their sites. The next phase of growth will happen when they more effectively integrate consumer shopping data from physical stores into the first-party data they use to sell targeted ads. This is why retailers that operate physical stores and ad networks will invest more into their mobile apps. With self-service mobile apps, in-store shoppers give retailers data about their interests in real time in a faster and more efficient way than they do by having their purchases shared via point-of-sale technology. Look for retailers to make it easier for consumers to search and purchase on their apps – and for advertisers to run ads via self-service such as sponsored listings. Walmart has an edge on most retailers in that regard. Given Walmart’s influence and resources, I expect the company will lean into its competitive advantage while Target tries to play catch-up.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed in the ever-changing world of online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Would ChatGPT from OpenAI Help or Harm Bing Search?

Would ChatGPT from OpenAI Help or Harm Bing Search?

Search

It looks like Microsoft is going all-in with ChatGPT, the generative artificial intelligence (AI) tool that is taking the business and technology world by storm. What are the implications?

News about Microsoft

ChatGPT is a chatbot powered by AI. It can provide answers to complex questions with lightning speed conciseness, and creativity – and in a very conversational way. ChatGPT is the product of OpenAI, the company that produced Dall-E, which uses AI to create images. ChatGPT is one of many chatbots designed to respond to queries from people by providing richer, more detailed, and more human-sounding answers than their predecessors.

ChatGPT caused a huge stir after OpenAI released a beta version to the public on November 30, 2022, so that people would use it and give feedback to improve the product. It proved to be so slick and so intelligent that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said ChatGPT achieved one million users in less than a week after its public launch.

As we have blogged, ChatGPT can answer queries so eloquently and completely that some industry watchers have speculated that it might disrupt online search – specifically the way search answers queries largely by linking to other sources of content rather than sharing answers directly to the query.

Google reportedly has issued a “code red” to improve its own AI capabilities as a result. But Microsoft has been celebrating. That’s because the company has been an investor (to the tune of $3 billion) in OpenAI since 2019. OpenAI’s success is Microsoft’s success.

The $3 billion has paid for the huge amounts of computing power that OpenAI needed to build the chatbot. The investment has also meant that Microsoft can rapidly build and deploy new products based on the technology. And, it sounds like Microsoft is ready to do just that. Microsoft is reportedly investing $10 billion in OpenAI to give the company even more computing power. In return, Microsoft is:

  • Exploring the use of ChatGPT in its Office software (including Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook) to improve efficiency and productivity.

This is pretty heady stuff!

Implications

Let’s take a closer look at why Microsoft might incorporate ChatGPT into Bing. Reasons include:

  • Making search easier. As I noted above, generative AI could potentially change the way search engines present answers in search. Requiring searchers to find answers to their questions by clicking on links is a more labor-intensive process than responding to search queries with a single answer that synthesizes information. And on top of that, a smart chatbot can answer more complex questions. Wouldn’t you love it if you could ask a search engine, “Please tell me the fastest way to drive to Chicago, and by the way what are the highest rated Airbnbs for under $200 a night and close to a great steakhouse that serves Kobe beef?” – and have a complete answer delivered to you in a few seconds? That’s what smart chatbots promise to do.
  • Competing with Google. Google is easily the most dominant search engine in the world, commanding 80 percent market share. The company has a generative AI app of its own. But Google isn’t going to release that for the public to toy with largely because Google doesn’t roll that way. LaMDA, the name of Google’s own chatbot,  is in R&D mode, and, as such, it makes mistakes. If Google were release a mistake-prone bot to the public, Google could undermine its own credibility. OpenAI does not have this problem. The company’s model is to test and learn publicly. OpenAI is willing to generate street cred by getting to market faster than Google. And Microsoft reaps the benefits as both an investor and early adopter, which is where Bing comes into play. As The Verge reported, “Both Google and Bing already surface relevant information from links at the top of many search queries, but Google’s knowledge panels are particularly widespread when it comes to searching for information about people, places, organizations, and things.  Microsoft’s use of ChatGPT-like functionality could help Bing rival Google’s Knowledge Graph, a knowledge base that Google uses to serve up instant answers that are regularly updated from crawling the web and user feedback. If Microsoft is ambitious, though, it could even go much further, offering many new types of AI-based functionality.”

But there are also potential downsides, such as:

  • A threat to Microsoft advertising. I recently discussed how ChatGPT could threaten Google’s search advertising business. Google needs people to click on ads that appear next to search results in order to make money – and those ads include sponsored results. What happens when someone’s search query is answered completely and perfectly without anyone needing to click on any links? This question also applies to Bing’s ad business. Bing generated almost as much advertising revenue as Twitter and Snap combined in 2021. It remains to be seen how Bing would incorporate ChatGPT while protecting its own moat.
Bing Advertising

What Businesses Should Do

  • Experiment with ChatGPT (or the chatbot of your choice). Understand how they work. Get comfortable with the conversational way that ChatGPT answers questions. If you’ve invested in voice search, you are probably doing this already. How might this conversational format affect your own approach to online advertising? A number of practitioners are publishing in-depth posts about using ChatGPT as a tool for search engine optimization. (Here’s an example.) Before you do, know the risks, including the ones we have discussed in this post.
  • Don’t change how you do business. ChatGPT is fraught with many other issues such as potential copyright infringement. It’s not ready for prime time by any stretch.
  • If you are a Microsoft advertising partner, watch events closely. (We are doing that for our clients.) If Microsoft does indeed roll out a version of Bing that includes ChatGPT, ask your account representative how they are managing against the downsides of this tool.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Is OpenAI’s ChatGPT a Threat to Google?

Is OpenAI’s ChatGPT a Threat to Google?

Google

Could a chatbot replace Google Search?

That’s what a lot of technology watchers are asking since the public release of ChatGPT, a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence.

ChatGPT is the product of OpenAI, the company that produced Dall-E, which uses AI to create images. ChatGPT is one of many chatbots designed to respond to queries from people by providing richer, more detailed, and more human-sounding answers than their predecessors.

ChatGPT caused a huge stir after OpenAI released a beta version to the public on November 30 so that people would use it and give feedback that will improve the chatbot. It proved to be so slick and so intelligent that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said ChatGPT achieved one million users in less than a week after its public launch.

It didn’t take long for journalists and pundits to test how well the chatbot would respond to the kind of challenging questions that people ask via Google Search. After all, for the most part, Google answers questions by providing links to other sources of information. This requires the user to do more work by clicking through the links for more detail. But ChatCPGT responds with a single answer that synthesizes information. Writer Parmy Olson wrote on Bloomberg:

I went through my own Google search history over the past month and put 18 of my Google queries into ChatGPT, cataloguing the answers. I then went back and ran the queries through Google once more, to refresh my memory. The end result was, in my judgment, that ChapGPT’s answer was more useful than Google’s in 13 out of the 18 examples.

“Useful” is of course subjective. What do I mean by the term? In this case, answers that were clear and comprehensive. A query about whether condensed milk or evaporated milk was better for pumpkin pie during Thanksgiving sparked a detailed (if slightly verbose) answer from ChatGPT that explained how condensed milk would lead to a sweeter pie. (Naturally, that was superior.) Google mainly provided a list of links to recipes I’d have to click around, with no clear answer.

That underscores ChatGPT’s prime threat to Google down the line. It gives a single, immediate response that requires no further scanning of other websites. In Silicon Valley speak, that is a “frictionless” experience, something of a holy grail when online consumers overwhelmingly favor services that are quick and easy to use.

But, wait a minute.

Doesn’t Google also have a chatbot? Yes, it does.

The Google LaMDA chatbot does what ChatGPT does. But Google isn’t going to release that for the public to toy with largely because Google doesn’t roll that way. LaMDA is in R&D mode, and, as such, it makes mistakes. If Google were release a mistake-prone bot to the public, Google could undermine its own credibility.

OpenAI does not have this problem. The company’s model is to test and learn publicly. OpenAI is willing to generate street cred by getting to market faster than Google.

And to be clear: ChatGPT makes mistakes and fabricates answers. It’s also under fire for providing biased information. But OpenAI released the tool publicly to unearth these problems in order to fix them, and no doubt ChatGPT will get better.

But Google has another problem: how does a chat interface get monetized? As writer Alex Kantrowitz wrote,

Even if chatbots were to fix their accuracy issues, Google would still have a business-model problem to contend with. The company makes money when people click ads next to search results, and it’s awkward to fit ads into conversational replies. Imagine receiving a response and then immediately getting pitched to go somewhere else—it feels slimy and unhelpful. Google thus has little incentive to move us beyond traditional search, at least not in a paradigm-shifting way, until it figures out how to make the money aspect work. In the meantime, it’ll stick with the less impressive Google Assistant.

The fact that Google is even developing a chatbot demonstrates that the company is looking beyond the current search interface. ChatGPT won’t “beat” Google. But it will likely accelerate Google’s embrace of chat as a search interface.

But how should businesses respond to all this?

  • First off, experiment with ChatGPT (or the chatbot of your choice). Understand how they work. Get comfortable with the conversational way that ChatGPT answers questions. If you’ve invested in voice search, you are probably doing this already. How might this conversational format affect your own approach to online advertising?
  • But don’t change how you do business. ChatGPT is fraught with many other issues such as potential copyright infringement. It’s not ready for prime time by any stretch.

The headline is this: if you’re all in with Google as an advertising platform, ChatGPT shouldn’t change your budget for 2023. But do spend time with it while you can do so for free. The time will likely come soon when OpenAI will turn ChatGPT into a commercial tool,

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.