Google takes on ChatGPT with Bard launch: what performance marketers need to know

Move could shake up search marketing forever with an assistive AI chatbot that can generate text for many regular tasks, such as translations, Q&As, computer coding and Excel formulas.

After a beta test in the USA and UK, Google has launched its new AI chatbot ‘Bard’ during its annual I/O conference, as it looks to make up for lost ground to Microsoft and OpenAI in the generative AI race. 

Similarly to ChatGPT, Bard uses AI to provide human-like conversational responses when prompted by a user. The chatbot will be soon available in English across 180 countries and will support 40 languages.

The 'Search Generative Experience' - which will be part of Google - will craft responses to open-ended queries, the company said. However, the system will only be available to a limited number of users and is still in "experimental" phase.

Shaking up consumer search behaviour

Introducing conversational AI into the biggest search engine ecosystem could completely change the way consumers use search beyond traditional keywords - a fundamental pillar of performance marketing. 

Some people might use AI chatbots in place of a Google Search, especially since the added abilities of asking follow-up questions and generating text make it more functional for some use cases than a search engine.

For example, a user could ask a question in English about a restaurant in Italy, and the system would be able to search the web for Italian responses, yield an answer, translate the answer into English, add a picture of the location – and then follow up with a code snippet to create a database entry for the restaurant.

The company said that it will introduce new ways to integrate the capabilities of Google apps such as Docs, Drive, Gmail and Maps.

Image source: Google

In the coming months, Google will integrate a number of third-party plug-ins, including Adobe Firefly, Adobe's family of creative generative AI models.

The tech giant is also working to connect Bard with helpful Google apps and many more partners, including Kayak, OpenTable, ZipRecruiter, Instacart, Wolfram and Khan Academy. 

Introducing PaLM 2

Powering Bard is PaLM 2, a “next-generation language model” that the company says outperforms other leading systems on some tasks. Like other “large language models” such as OpenAI’s GPT, PaLM 2 is a general-purpose AI model, which can be used to power ChatGPT-style chatbots but also translate between languages, write computer code, or even analyse and respond to images. 

Forging differences with ChatGPT

Google has faced pressure to respond to the runaway success of rival chatbot ChatGPT, which is funded through a partnership with Microsoft.

An initial launch event ended in embarrassment after it emerged that Bard had answered a question incorrectly during a live demonstration. Since then, Google has been keen to find ways to catch up with its leading rival in the generative AI space. 

Unlike ChatGPT, which has only been trained on information available up to 2021, Bard can access Google's search engine and it has access to the entirety of the web in its current data. 

"We are reimagining all of our core products, including search," said Sundar Pichai, the boss of Google's parent company Alphabet.

The company also said the chatbot would soon be able to respond to prompts with images as well as text.

Meanwhile, rival Microsoft is deploying ChatGPT technology into its search engine Bing, after investing heavily in the company that developed it, OpenAI. This week, it announced a new ad solution with ads appearing within user’s AI chatbot conversations on the platform. 

The ‘ads for chat API’ tool lets publishers, apps and online services customise user’s experience with ads through paid ads on Bing. 

Under the new scheme, advertisers using Microsoft Advertising will show up in chats based on the same outcome-based metrics that serve ads to other Microsoft assets such as search and video games. 

Chinese tech giant Baidu also has a chatbot, called Ernie and Alibaba has launched its own version, dubbed ‘Tongyi Qianwen’ – which roughly translates to “seeking truth from a thousand questions'.