Image Source: Search Engine Journal
Microsoft is “exploring” inserting advertisements into Bing Chat answers, its new search agent powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4. While these sponsored replies are clearly labeled as such, it begs the issue of how far we’ve progressed from the traditional paradigm of search engine advertisements.
In a blog post published today, Microsoft acknowledged that this is happening, although in an experimental version.
Bing Chat now has Ads!
It’s going to be fascinating to see how the unit economics of Ads in language models will unfold and affect search advertising.
— Deedy (@debarghya_das) March 29, 2023
Others pointed out that the adverts have been present since the beginning, although not for all users.
The more serious negative effect is that advertising like these cannot be banned using current techniques. That’s not to suggest they can’t be stopped – picture an uBlock Origin that substitutes chatbot replies labeled as advertisements with a request for another response. But, the paradigm of advertisements as fundamentally predictable products in specified locations is certainly coming to an end.
On the one hand, well… excellent! Everyone despises advertising, even if they help to fund the internet (including, unfortunately, this page). On the other hand, it is a new and possibly more subtle and subversive kind of advertising that may be more difficult to distinguish and ignore.
Even with “commercial” markings, making the user question if the chatbot was paid to say what it said is a wonderful method to delay or undermine trust. One has to ask how honest these corporations are about their arrangements. Why shouldn’t they have a premium ad tier that has an impact but isn’t labeled? It’s entirely consistent with ad business antics.
While no one expects Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Meta, and the rest to run these expensive and computationally intensive language models out of the goodness of their hearts (assuming they have hearts and are good), it would be nice to see a little more thought put into how advertising can be better integrated.
Since the entire model is changing, the easy answer — which is similar to the one you used in the past — is unlikely to be the best. Yet following through reveals the company’s priorities, which may lead to suspicion and cynicism.