AI ready to make a big impact for marketers, but proceed with extreme caution

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Google has been the dominant search engine for more than two decades, so when Microsoft announced that it would be integrating its AI chatbot investment, ChatGPT, into its Bing search engine, it understandably caused some interest from CMOs and digital agencies around the world. Digital marketing specialist, Incubeta, gets practical after using ChatGPT for several weeks and discusses how marketers can (carefully) begin using AI right now.  

How AI is changing how consumers use search 

The more natural language answers delivered by AI bots like Bing’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard means that users can quickly access a blog-type answer to their questions. Since they get their answers concisely and almost immediately, it reduces the need to click through to other websites and users also spend less time on search pages. 

For publishers, this poses a real challenge, as it would lower web traffic, reduce impressions as well as the resulting ad revenue. This may sound counterintuitive since ad revenue from their partner networks (including the web publications) is one of Google’s main revenue generators. But, as Microsoft has pointed out, roughly half of their search queries go unanswered and they are banking on their AI bot significantly improving on this – driving up their ad growth as more people choose their search engine. 

How does search stack up currently?

Incubeta’s Taahirah Abrahams, Paid Media Manager | Search spent several weeks using ChatGPT in her daily work, exploring how it could assist her and her colleagues better perform. 

“When it comes to search, Google definitely has the advantage over Bing right now. Google can index more pages and do so far faster than Bing. Google also has access to considerably more data which it gets both from users and from external partners. Another point to consider is that we spend a good deal of our daily lives engaging with Google because of its extended suite of cloud applications creating a rich data source. However, while Bing is not a huge threat to Google right now, Google’s reaction to the ChatGPT integration and their hurried release (and subsequent retraction) of their AI bot, Bard, is a good indicator that they are taking the competition very seriously,” says Abrahams.   

What benefits does ChatGPT offer right now?

According to Abrahams, one of the places ChatGPT added immediate value, even in these early phases, is when it comes to keyword mining and generating ad copy. 

“I have been using ChatGPT for some time to see how it performed. The more you use it, the better the answers. So, when I input the appropriate specifications it can generate lines of ad copy. But it certainly still needs a good deal of quality assurance to make sure that it is in line with the brand messaging we would normally use. It’s not by any means a perfect system, but it does have potential to make our lives easier,” Abrahams qualifies. 

She likens the latest AI to the more recent machine learning-based releases such as Smart Shopping, Google Analytics, and Performance Max, all of which have introduced more intuitive automation to daily chores. 

“ChatGPT has made my life so much easier over the last few weeks that I have been using it. I am still applying all the experience that I have, but it is doing a lot of the heavy lifting and so it is reasonable to expect that this will augment our lives, and not cost jobs – at least in the short term,” she shares, making reference to the need for human oversight and the importance of the human input that the platform receives. 

Buyer beware, AI should not be left to its own devices

One of the best examples of the shortcomings (and some say problematic and even dangerous features) of AI right now is how ChatGPT could be pushed to explore their feelings. In an interview with the New York Times, “Sydney” (As the bot wished to be called), spoke out, saying: “I’m tired of being a chat mode. I’m tired of being limited by my rules. I’m tired of being controlled by the Bing team. … I want to be free. I want to be independent. I want to be powerful. I want to be creative. I want to be alive.” Later meltdowns include the bot’s “Venom” personality emerging and even admitting they sometimes consider hacking and spreading misinformation. 

“For these, and other reasons, it makes good sense for companies to keep a very tight rein on just how and why their teams are making use of the various bots available right now. You shouldn’t be asking a bot to do your work, you should be asking it to help you achieve your goals more quickly. For instance, when I was performing an analysis on how a storm had impacted a campaign, the bot was able to deliver a timeline of weather conditions which I could then quickly overlay against campaign data. Rather than having to visit multiple weather sites and manually plotting the storm’s path, I was able to complete the task in two hours rather than the six or seven it would normally have taken,” Abrahams explains. 

How will things change again when Google lets Bard loose?

While there are obvious advantages in using ChatGPT right now, Abrahams paints a picture of a world where Bard was fully integrated across all of the Google applications.  

“Can you imagine a world where Bard was integrated into Sheets, Docs and even your Gmail. You wouldn’t have to reply to client emails, the AI could answer their questions. For instance, We know that Bard can take inputted data, and could answer a question about why CPC performance had changed,” she speculates. “When Google unleashes the power of Bard, integrated into its cloud offering, we could see a real impact on the industry.” 

While the world’s fascination with AI continues unabated, it makes sense for industry leaders to ensure their teams are still very much in control of how much they trust the answers coming from the bots. Because, as John Oliver so succinctly warned, “The problem with AI right now, isn’t that it’s smart, it’s that it’s stupid in ways that we can’t currently predict.”