Google has spent the past few weeks promoting generative AI tools that can summarize search results for users, help them draft essays, and swap out overcast skies for sunshine in otherwise perfect family photos. Today it’s showing off what similar tools could do for its core business—selling ads.

New generative AI systems for advertising clients will compose text on the fly to play off what a person is searching for, and they’ll whip up product images to save them time and money on design work. The features add to the swelling ranks of AI-based text and image generators that have been introduced to online services over the past few months, since the abilities of ChatGPT and its image counterpart DALL-E inspired global excitement about generative AI.

As the world’s top seller of online ads by revenue, Google has been using AI programs for years to help clients target users, as well as helping them design ads, like by automatically editing the size of images. Now, with more powerful AI models capable of tasks like generating photo-realistic images, it hopes to show that its ad business, which accounts for 80 percent of its total sales, can be more compelling to advertisers too.

The recent onslaught of AI-related announcements by Google has rallied shares of its parent company, Alphabet, suggesting that fears have diminished about the advent of ChatGPT-style web search crippling Google’s search and ad businesses.

Google is offering the new features to advertisers for free, but they could increase its revenue if AI-generated text and images encourage businesses to place more ads, or can draw more clicks from consumers. Google’s dominant role in online ad sales means the industry could be one of the first to broadly incorporate generative AI into their workflows. “We’re able to deliver more relevant, beautiful ads to users, offer more creative freedom for advertisers, and deliver better performance,” says Jerry Dischler, the vice president overseeing Google Ads. He declined to discuss specific financial prospects for generative AI in ads.

As anyone who has experimented with an AI chatbot or image generator knows, their output can be unpredictable and even distasteful. And they have raised public concern over whether their development benefited from copyright infringement.

Dischler says the company will be “diligent” in monitoring the quality of images and text generated by the new features, some of which are available to advertisers in beta form already. Google is launching some of them more broadly than its top rival, Meta, which announced earlier this month that it was initially inviting select advertisers to try out its own generative AI features. 

Offering generative AI in ads is likely expensive, because the computing costs to operate text- and image-generating models is sky high. At a conference last week, Meta AI executive Aparna Ramani said generating an output from those kinds of models is 1,000 times more expensive than using AI to recommend content and curate users’ News Feeds. 

One of Google’s new features out now adapts the text of English-language search ads based on what a person typed into the company’s search box and Google’s data on the advertiser. Previously, each time a person searched, algorithms would have to select text to display from a collection an advertiser had manually written in advance.

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