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New Google search ads resemble AI assistant apps

New Google search ads resemble AI assistant apps


The keynote at Google's Marketing Live event introduced new AI-powered visual search results that feature ads that engage users within the context of AI-assisted search, blurring the line between AI-generated search results and ads.

Google Lens is a really helpful app, but it's unconventional in that it blurs the line between an assistant that helps you and an assistant that directs you to your shopping cart. This new way to engage potential customers with AI is so novel that the presenter didn't even bother to call it advertising, let alone use that word.

Visual search traffic opportunity?

Sylvanus Bent, group product manager at Google, will begin the presentation by outlining the next version of Google Lens visual search, which helps people surface information and find places to buy things.

Sylvanus explained that this new way of searching creates opportunities for websites to gain traffic.

“…Whether you're taking a photo with Lens or searching for something in your social feed, visual search gives you a new way to find what catches your eye. We recently announced a new redesigned visual search results page.

“Soon, we'll surface a wider range of results beyond just visual matches, including images, videos, web links, and knowledge graph facts, giving users the helpful information they need and creating new opportunities for site discovery.”

You don't know if this will bring search traffic to your website, and what the quality of that traffic will be. Will users stick around to read the article? Will they be interested in a product review?

Visual Search Results

Sylvanus gives the fictional example of someone falling in love with someone else's bag at the airport baggage claim area, explaining that all they have to do is take a photo of the bag and Google Lens will take them directly to shopping options.

He explains:

“No words needed, no problem. Just open the lens, take a quick photo and you'll instantly be presented with purchasing options.”

And for the first time, shopping ads will appear at the top of linked search results, helping businesses give consumers what they're looking for.

This makes it easy for customers to purchase the products that catch their eye.”

These are image-heavy shopping ads that appear at the top of search results, and while they may be intrusive, they're a far cry from the “next level” ads Google is introducing to its search ads, where the company will present paid promotions within the context of its AI assistant.

Interactive Search Shopping

Sylvanus then talks about AI-powered advertising directly within search. But he doesn't call it advertising — he doesn't even use the word. He suggests that this new form of AI search experience is more than just an offer: “It's an experience.”

He's right not to use the word “ads” because what he's describing goes far beyond advertising, blurring the lines between search and ads in the context of AI-powered recommendations, paid recommendations.

Sylvanus explains how this new form of shopping experience works:

“And now, imagine a world where every search ad is more than just an offer. It's an experience. A new way to engage more directly with your customers. And we're looking at search ads with AI recommendations across a range of verticals, so we're excited to show you some examples coming soon, and you'll see more examples in shopping.”

He gives the example of someone who needs to store furniture for a few months and turns to Google to find a short-term storage location. He explains that a search for local short-term storage locations turns into a “dynamic ad experience” that encourages searchers to add packing supplies to their shopping cart.

He explained how it works:

“When you search for short-term storage, you see an ad for extra space storage. Now you can click on the new dynamic ad experience.

You can choose and upload photos of different rooms in your home to show how much furniture you have and extra storage space with the help of Google. AI will generate a description of all your belongings for you to review. It will suggest the right size and type of storage unit and even the amount of packing materials you'll need for the job. Then all you have to do is visit the website and complete the transaction.

And this takes the definition of helpful advertising to the next level. It does everything except physically pick up the object and move it. This is great.”

Step 1: Find short-term storage

The screenshot above shows an ad that, when clicked, takes users to what appears to be an AI-assisted search but is actually an interactive ad.

Step 2: Upload photos for “AI Assistance”

The image above is a screenshot of an ad shown in the context of an AI-assisted search. Hiding ads within a different context is the same principle behind advertorial ads, which hide ads in the form of articles. Phrases like “let AI do the heavy lifting” and “recommended by AI” create an AI search context that hides the true context of the ad.

Step 3: Select an image to upload

The screenshot above shows how a user can upload an image to an AI-powered ad within the context of an AI-powered search app.

The word “app” hides the fact that this is an advertisement

Above is a screenshot showing a user uploading a photo to an AI-powered interactive ad within the context of a visual search engine. The use of the word “app” further strengthens the illusion that the user is interacting with an app rather than an ad.

The upload process hides the ad context

The phrase “Generative AI is ” fosters the illusion that this is AI-assisted search.

Step 4: Verify the upload

Step 4, the “app” ad, is to confirm that the AI ​​has correctly identified the furniture that needs to be stored.

Step 5: AI “recommends”

The screenshot above shows what appears to be a search result: “AI Recommendations.”

Recommended ad units

These recommendations are actually advertising units, and clicking on them will take the user to the “Extra Space Storage” shopping website.

Step 6: Searcher visits advertiser's website

Blurring the boundaries

What Google keynote speakers are describing is the integration of paid product suggestions into AI-assisted search. This kind of advertising is so outlandish that Googlers don't even call it advertising, which is understandable since it blurs the line between AI-assisted search and advertising. At what point does helpful AI search become just a platform for using AI to provide paid suggestions?

Check out the 32 minute keynote

Featured image: Shutterstock/Ljupco Smokovski




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