Big Tech Companies Announce Shift to AI-Enabled Advertising

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
Big Tech Companies Announce Shift to AI-Enabled Advertising
Evan Xie

This is the web version of dot.LA’s weekly newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.

AI-enabled technology continued creeping into every aspect of our daily lives this week. A viral TED Talk features an early prototype for a wearable AI assistant. Alphabet merged its internal “Google Brain” team with DeepMind, the company it acquired in 2014, to significantly accelerate progress on AI research. Meanwhile, Elon Musk took some time away from having the WORST. 4/20. EVER. to talk up his latest AI project, a bot called TruthGPT that will investigate the meaning of life.

Nonetheless, Google still somehow managed to find a new way to generate a few headlines with yet another new integration for AI technology. According to a report from The Financial Times, Alphabet plans to use generative AI to create new kinds of original advertising across all of its various platforms. The same Large Language Model (LLM) that powers the Bard chatbot, along with some of the AI features available in Gmail and Google Workspace, will now develop ads and even whole ad campaigns for the company’s various platforms, including YouTube, Maps, Gmail, and even search result pages.

We’re not talking text-to-video here, exactly. Alphabet won’t just be writing simple prompts and letting the software design an entire campaign from there. Instead, sponsors and clients will supply Google with “chunks” of content related to their product offering, including images, video clips, and written copy. The bot will then “remix” all of these materials into an original ad, customized and fine-tuned around various Alphabet platforms and services.

The new AI ads will be integrated into a mysterious Google beta program known as “Performance Max.” First introduced in late 2020, Performance Max is designed to maximize ad efficiency and reach across all Google platforms, and treats the company’s entire suite of products and services holistically, as a single advertising channel.

That means sponsors don’t decide whether they want their ads to appear on Google search pages or within Google Maps results or even ahead of YouTube videos. They just sign up, provide sales and CRM data, upload creative assets, lay out their budgets and the type of conversions they’re looking for, and allow Performance Max to do the rest. It’s something of a black box, focused on results but giving advertisers less granular control over their campaigns.

As Google executive Sean Downey explained to Digiday this week, Performance Max remains focused on “outcome and optimization,” giving advertisers fewer options because “too many constraints around their campaigns can actually hinder that goal.” Nonetheless, the addition of AI bots – which also work in mysteriously inexplicable ways behind the scenes – to an already obscured system is a bit like putting a black box inside another black box. Google is falling back on years of built-up trust from brands here.

AI and AI-like systems have long been employed by the advertising industry, which relies on a large amount of number-crunching to guess at what kinds of messaging are going to reach the most receptive audiences across various platforms. It’s nearly impossible for human analysts to compete with software when it comes to comparing so many variables – from audience to device to time of day, context, performance, and so on – across so many different platforms. AI-enabled systems are also more dynamic, and can respond to shifts in user behavior or traffic in real time, making them particularly useful for launching and maintaining ad campaigns and maximizing their effectiveness. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that companies like Alphabet plan to expand their integration behind-the-scenes.

The notable shift is in making this AI output public-facing. Rather than relying on bots to design and run ad campaigns written and planned out by humans, Google will now have the bots actually writing the copy and producing the finished videos themselves. It’s sure to save the sponsors money, down the road, and perhaps also increase efficiency, while likely also costing some human copywriters and marketing executives their jobs.

Google’s not alone, either, in exploring the various ways AI software can assist its advertising business. Earlier this month, Meta announced plans to use generative AI to create new kinds of advertising for its various platforms. Microsoft also has plans to utilize technology developed by its in-house division, ChatGPT creators OpenAI, to improve and fine-tune its ad business. The company has been testing ads embedded in Bing AI chatbot responses since February, though it has declined to report how many users have actually seen or interacted with the ads. (These links aren’t marked as ads within the Bing AI chat conversations, though an ad icon appears if a user hovers over the link.) Microsoft is also playing around with photo and video ads for Bing chats.

California startup is trying to bring a similar kind of system to independent video game designers. Founder and CEO Athar Zia explained to Forbes last week that, once a video game developer identifies an ad type that works well to promote their game, they then must invest a lot of their time producing “endless imitations and iterations” of that ad for various platforms and app stores. The company’s technology, on the other hand, analyzes successful gaming ads and then replicates them automatically for new products.

Whether there will be room in the AI-enabled advertising world for up-and-comers remains to be seen. Regardless, farming out some – if not all – of the work involved in mounting a campaign to digital ad managers seems all but inevitable at this point. The apps can keep an eye on progress across multiple platforms, 24 hours a day, and they go through a lot fewer bottles of whiskey and orders of Clams Casino than the Mad Men.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

LA Venture Funds

Download the dot.LA App

Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.


Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle

Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out

Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities

Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo

SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours

Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch

Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

LA Venture Funds

Download the dot.LA App