Google launches more tools for advertisers, including new formats for AI-generated search

In addition to a number of other ad-related updates, Google is testing new ways to serve ads above, below, and within automatically generated summaries of query results pulled from different sources. AI Overview ads, which use advertisers’ existing search, shopping, and Performance Max campaigns, debuted Tuesday during Google Marketing Live.

At a press event in New York, Google executives declined to reveal how many advertisers and users are part of the AI ​​Overview ad tests. However, the search giant gave an example of showing Downy and Bounce ads from retailers like Instacart and Walmart when users ask how to remove wrinkles from clothes. Another new search format allows users to upload images and various criteria to find products based on their purchasing needs.

“It helps you have a really personalized recommendation before you get to the point where you need to do the process on the website,” Rachel Melgaard, Google’s director of global search ads, said in the press preview. “It’s a really exciting experience from start to finish for the consumer and allows the advertiser to work with the consumer before the purchase occurs.”

AI Overview ads were just one of many new ad formats and features announced Tuesday. Others include:

  • AI-assisted brand guidelines tools for Performance Max campaigns;
  • AI image editing tools to remove or add parts of an image ad;
  • image creation tools using reference photographs;
  • advertisements animated from still images;
  • visually focused brand profiles with product images, videos and reviews;
  • expanded access to Ad Data Manager for all advertisers;
  • and expand existing formats, such as virtual test ads and 360-degree rotating product ads.

Google isn’t the only company rapidly rolling out new advertising features powered by generative AI. Others include Meta, which recently launched its own set of AI-generated ad formats for image creation and optimization through its Performance Max rival, Advantage Plus. Meanwhile, Microsoft, which hosted its own keynote for its Microsoft Build conference yesterday, is also developing new generative AI tools for advertising. Another upcoming player is Perplexity, a startup that plans to introduce ads for its generative AI search platform later this year. Other online platforms that have generative AI tools for advertisers include Snap, TikTok, Reddit, and Nextdoor.

Despite all the innovations, there are also many concerns. Publishers, advertisers and digital rights experts are concerned about how overhauling search with generative AI could hurt media companies, small businesses, creators and advertisers with less traffic and less revenue. Google is still in the middle of an antitrust trial related to its search business and has another antitrust trial for the advertising business scheduled for September.

The goal of the new tools is to direct Google’s generative AI to create more creative brand assets, according to Brendon Kraham, vice president of global search and commerce advertising solutions at Google. Google will also provide more recommendations to advertisers to help marketers make creative decisions based on their creative assets and campaign goals. However, he said advertisers still have control and final approval of creative.

“Certainly that depth and breadth of creative assets (is) kind of a hub, in addition to the objective marketing side,” Kraham told Digiday ahead of Google’s announcements. “But we also know that having creative that works well is not enough: it has to be on brand.”

Google’s latest AI integrations mark a “transformative moment in the evolution of digital marketing,” said Jim Lecinski, clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He also cited other updates like Google allowing marketers to optimize search campaigns for profit instead of just clicks or return on ad spend.

“I’m particularly impressed by Google’s strategic focus on improving creativity, personalization and user engagement through AI,” Lecinski said. “These innovations mean a paradigm shift towards more efficient, personalized and attractive advertising, setting a new standard in the industry.”

During Tuesday’s Google Marketing Live press preview with Google and brand executives, Mike Jacobs, Etsy’s vice president of growth, said he’s excited about using generative AI in marketing, especially as marketers can add more data signals. Jacobs recognizes the potential of generative AI and has seen good results. For now, he sees it as a workflow tool and not something ready for prime time, at least not yet. He also noted the importance of ad creation formats being implemented at scale.

“We have 120 million products, all with different images, so the permissions of working with our sellers for what we’re allowed to do, whether it’s our brand or someone else’s, controls all of that,” Jacobs said. “Technology is definitely getting there… Will we get to a point where we are willing to give up that power? “I don’t think the industry is there yet, but I do think Google is an important part of leading that way.”