By Luke Navickas2/21/2023

Open AI: The Beginning or The End, or Somewhere In-between?

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Over the last few months, digital marketing experts have been buzzing about the potential of open-source AI bots taking over their jobs. As paid search experts, we see how consumers are trying to explore this new way of getting useful information, so we have been investigating how these new AI services can add to our capabilities rather than eliminate the need for digital marketers altogether. To fully caveat our point of view, it will most likely evolve, and like AI technology, it will change over time as we learn more about the capabilities and use cases. 

At Brunner, we believe that it’s highly unlikely Microsoft-backed ChatGPT and Google’s Bard AI will replace the need for paid search experts and campaigns. However, we do believe that these AI models have the potential to greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of paid search campaigns. 

In testing AI resources for basic paid search needs, much more is desired. Based on our observations, the output resembles that of a first-year employee, but like AI usually does, we know it will learn and improve over time. Once the full services are launched, we anticipate significant capability improvements.  

With that said, we predict that the need for paid search experts will persist as AI will not replace the need for human input and decision-making in advertising. Setting campaign objectives, determining target audiences, selecting keywords, writing copy, and monitoring performance to ensure campaign success will still require human expertise and creativity. AI models like ChatGPT and Bard AI can provide valuable support, but just as we’ve found with any automation, cannot fully replace the human expertise and creativity that are essential to successful paid search strategies. 

From a consumer’s point of view, we see this as being another path to conversion but at the highest point of their decision journey. AI tools will be used for initial information gathering before making a purchase or selecting a service. The AI sources provide a lot of “lists” when asking questions like, “what are the best breweries in Pittsburgh?” Or “what is the best truck rental company?”. Similar to voice assistants, we feel that the AI sources are working more as single-answer engines. Until these AI resources link out to other websites and allow users to decide which responses are creditable, there really isn’t a direct path to conversion (yet). 

Will search campaigns experience a decline in total search volume when Bard AI and ChatGPT are fully launched? We anticipate a temporary dip…but for how long? Traditional search has weathered previous advancements. Despite voice search and social media being used by consumers similarly to search engines, Google and Bing remain the top choices for information gathering. We feel strongly that nothing will completely replace traditional search, at least not in the very near future.

If the “search giants” face a loss of revenue, they will find a way to evolve the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Most likely through updates to Google’s Performance Max campaigns, Bing’s Multi-Media ads, or some other campaign type that will be created (and possibly powered by AI). Forced automation has been at the forefront of Google’s most recent updates, and these ad types are only a step in that process.

While ChatGPT and Bard AI have the potential to shake up the paid search space, we simply see this as the next step in the world of paid search marketing. As digital marketers, we are always prepared for change, but to date, we’ve never found anything that can completely replace the human touch. Search engines have been pushing automation to the brink, to where we feel like we are sitting at the Alamo. Detective Spooner said it best in the movie “iRobot”… where AI took over everything. “Does thinking you’re the last sane person on earth make you crazy? If so, maybe I am.” 

As the Associate Director of Paid Search, Luke Navickas leads a team of SEM professionals who manage a diverse range of clients across a variety of industries including retail, e-commerce, B2B, higher education, finance/insurance, healthcare, legal, and home improvement. With over 10 years of experience in digital performance marketing, Luke has fostered a team known for developing SEM strategies focused on delivering maximum business results while building strong relationships with clients.