Google Search’s New AI Overviews Will Soon Have Ads

Last week Google introduced a radical shake-up of search that presents users with AI-generated answers to their queries. Now the company says it will soon start including ads inside those AI Overviews, as the automatic answers are called.

Google on Tuesday announced plans to test search and shopping ads in the AI summaries, a move that could extend its dominance in search advertising into a new era. Although Google rapidly rolled out AI Overviews to all US English users last week after announcing the feature at its I/O developer conference, it’s unclear how widely or quickly ads will start appearing.

Screenshots released by Google show how a user asking how to get wrinkles out of clothes might get an AI-generated summary of tips sourced from the web, with a carousel of ads underneath for sprays that purport to help crisp up a wardrobe.

Google’s AI Overviews are meant to keep users from shifting to alternatives such as ChatGPT or the startup Perplexity, which use AI-generated text to answer many questions traditionally thrown at Google. How and when Google would integrate ads into AI Overviews has been a significant question over the company’s ChatGPT catch-up strategy. Search ads are the company’s largest revenue generator, and even subtle changes in ad placements or design can spur big swings in Google’s revenue.

Courtesy of Google

Google shared few details about its new Overview ad format in its announcement Tuesday. Ads “will have the opportunity to appear within the AI Overview in a section clearly labeled as ‘sponsored’ when they’re relevant to both the query and the information in the AI Overview,” Vidhya Srinivasan, Google’s vice president and general Manager for ads, wrote in a blog post.

AI Overview will draw on ads from advertisers’ existing campaigns, meaning they can neither completely opt out of the experiment nor have to adapt the settings and designs of their ads to appear in the feature. “There’s no action needed from advertisers,” Srinivasan wrote.

Google said last year when it started experimenting with AI-generated answers in search that ads for specific products would be integrated into the feature. In one example at the time, it showed a sponsored option at the top of an AI-generated list of kids’ hiking backpacks. Google says the early testing showed that users found ads above and below AI summaries helpful. Google’s much smaller rival Bing shows product ads in its Bing Copilot search chatbot, but in tests on Monday, WIRED didn’t trigger any ads in Bing’s competitor to AI Overview.