Google rolls out AI-powered Ad space for Africa

Sunday February 25 2024

Data by digital marketing research firm Meltwater indicates that the number of internet consumers using search engines has dropped marginally since 2021. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


American tech giant Google is capitalising on the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence-powered large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT to revolutionise search engine marketing (SEM), and has now set its sights on small businesses in Africa.

With its new product, Gemini, which is seemingly positioned as a competitor to OpenAI’s GPT-4 (an improvement of ChatGPT or GPT-3), Google is tapping into the power of AI to change how businesses use its search engine to market themselves online.

This week, Google announced that the product, which was launched in the US last December, will now be available for African businesses, a move that could potentially revitalise search advertising on the continent, which has been dwindling.

The technology moves away from the traditional method of SEM, where vendors paid Google to simply list their websites on top of search results to particular keywords (chosen by the businesses), boosting their online visibility.

Read: Metaverse allure fades into the background as gen AI soars

With Gemini, Google will use AI to analyse website content, from which it generates relevant keywords, ad headlines and descriptions, and images to accompany the ads, the vendors only inputting the link to their websites.


Vendors won’t have to create search advertisements themselves as they previously did. They new innovation promises a ‘conversational experience’ in ad creation, meaning they’d simply chat with the Gemini LLM, and it will generate the ads they need.

Google’s Shashi Thakur, VP for search ads, said the innovation is inspired by the enormous time small businesses, especially, normally put into ad creation given its complexity. “Our new conversational experience helps businesses of all sizes tap into the power of Google AI to create successful Search campaigns with remarkable ease,” Mr Thakur said.

While Google touts this innovation as a gamechanger to SEM users, it remains unclear whether it will successfully revitalise search advertising even as more people increasingly ditch search engines for LLMs like ChatGPT for answers that were previously available only on search engines.

Data by digital marketing research firm Meltwater indicates that the number of internet consumers using search engines has dropped marginally since 2021, currently estimated at 80 percent, with the emergence of other search avenues such as ChatGPT and social media.

Money generated by search engine advertisements hit $279 billion globally last year, according to Statista, most of which went to Google, as its search engine is used for nearly 90 percent of searches globally.

Read: AI: Africa’s turn with planning and disaster response tools, centre

In Kenya, Statista projects that businesses will spend $18.9 million (Sh2.8 billion) on search engine advertising this year. But over the next few years, revenue from search advertising is forecast to significantly dwindle.

Gartner, a US-based technology research firm has projected that search engine advertising could decline by 25 percent by 2026, as users increasingly favour AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT and social media platforms over search engines.

A recent study by American tech firm Adobe also revealed that younger generation internet users or Gen Zs, mostly do searches for products on TikTok, instead of traditional search engines.