Jessica Heygate
Jan 19, 2024

Google layoffs escalate as automation replaces some roles

Tech giant has slashed hundreds of roles within its ad sales division after throwing more weight behind AI-powered ad products.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai (Photo: Getty Images)
Google chief executive Sundar Pichai (Photo: Getty Images)

Google has slashed hundreds of jobs in its advertising sales division as part of a wider workforce reduction to “create capacity” to invest in the company’s “big priorities,” chief executive Sundar Pichai said in a note to employees on Wednesday.

The technology giant has eliminated more than 1,000 roles across multiple divisions in the past week, including its core engineering group and teams responsible for Google Assistant and hardware devices Pixel, Nest and Fitbit.

Google’s video platform YouTube has also been impacted, with 100 roles across operations and creator management cut this week, the company confirmed to Campaign US. The restructure at YouTube, which will bring creator management teams together in each country, is not expected to result in any creators losing partner manager support, Tubefilter reported.

The company’s advances in artificial intelligence is thought to be a contributing factor behind the consolidation of its ad team, which includes those in account management roles, after Google threw significant weight behind its AI-powered ad products in 2023.

These products, such as Demand Gen and Performance Max, use AI to automatically generate copy and creative assets and place ads across Google’s inventory to meet advertisers’ goals. They require less human input both from Google and from media buyers since AI does most of the heavy lifting of scanning websites, pulling up tags and keywords, generating copy and selecting inventory.

Jeremy Goldman, senior director of marketing, commerce and tech briefings at Insider Intelligence, said many of the roles being cut in Google’s ad sales division are responsible for managing spend from major accounts—much of which can now be done through self-service tools.

“If you can imagine an account of a certain size, you used to have to reach out to a Google rep to do 20 different things. If you can automate half of those processes, then all of a sudden, each rep can handle twice as many accounts and then you don’t need as many reps,” said Goldman. “I think that that’s a large part of [the consolidation].”

Google’s layoffs, which have trickled out in batches since last Thursday, are not yet complete. 

Pichai, who is also CEO of Google parent Alphabet, told employees on Wednesday evening that more “role eliminations” are to come.

“We have ambitious goals and will be investing in our big priorities this year,” Pichai wrote in an internal memo shared by The Verge. “The reality is that to create the capacity for this investment, we have to make tough choices.”

He said 2024’s reorganisation was about “removing layers to simplify execution and drive velocity in some areas.”

The CEO promised layoffs will not meet the scale of 2023’s cuts, which impacted 12,000 jobs.

Google had 182,000 employees as of Sep. 30, 2023, according to its most recent earnings.

Goldman said Google’s cuts could be a “portend of things to come” as a growing list of technology firms initiate cost-saving measures to fund investments in new technologies like generative AI. 

“It's not entirely unsurprising because the market is going to look for companies to make cuts to justify these future investments in the name of profitability,” said Goldman.

Forrester principal analyst Christopher Gilchrist agreed that Google is reorienting investments to better position itself to take advantage of new opportunities, including AI.

“During these times of technological upheaval, like with AI, organisations presently bear the burden of operational dislocation and work displacement in pursuit of long-term value creation. Google recognizes that the needle has moved, and to stay competitive, the company must reorient and reconfigure itself at a requisite pace to maintain a competitive advantage—sustainable growth,” Gilchrist said.

Campaign US

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