In late 2022, OpenAI released the generative AI tool ChatGPT, immediately delighting users and garnering headlines in both tech and mainstream press. In fact, public adoption of the platform grew faster than any other in history, with chat.openai.com seeing an estimated 1.8 billion visits per month by March of 2023.
But public sentiment towards generative AI isn’t uniformly positive, and only 10% of people in a February poll believed its output to be “very trustworthy.” Professionals worry about how it will impact their careers. Government officials are concerned about the possibility of a tide of uncontrollable disinformation. Teachers fear students will use it to cheat. Since March, there’s been a significant spike in negative sentiment on generative AI chatbots in the media, and the technology is now more often mentioned alongside controversial topics than positive ones.
To better understand how this emerging technology is perceived in the media and on social platforms, we examined five major tech companies that jumped on generative AI early, and how those bets impacted their brand reputation.
OpenAI: First-mover (dis)advantage
As one of the first companies with a commercial generative AI product, OpenAI is the brand most heavily associated with AI chatbots. It has also taken the biggest beating in the press. In March, when negative media sentiment surrounding the company was particularly high, Italy banned ChatGPT outright. In April, The Guardian reported on concerns about lack of oversight at AI companies, with OpenAI cited as the lead example. In May, Bloomberg reported that Samsung banned the use of ChatGPT internally after uncovering a data leak, and El Pais published a story titled “The danger isn’t artificial intelligence, it’s OpenAI.” And in June, Bloomberg reported that the Biden Administration will meet with the EU to discuss regulatory policy around AI.
Mentions of OpenAI in the press, positive or negative, peaked in May, and have declined since.
Google: Weathering the storm
Despite recent missteps and scandals, the press tends to view Silicon Valley companies favorably. Even with “normal” bad news in the industry – like layoffs, for example – negative sentiment rarely rises above 15%. But after Google rolled out its AI search tool, Bard, in March, negative media sentiment connected to Google and generative AI rose to 25%.
On March 22nd, The Verge wrote about the misinformation in Bard’s query results. On April 19th, Alphabet employees told Bloomberg about how the company’s AI rush led to ethical lapses. In May, The Guardian wrote a story titled “AI machines aren’t hallucinating, their makers are,” citing Google CEO Sundar Pichai as an example. Also in May, The Washington Post published a story calling out the “constant lying” seen within AI chatbots like Bard. More recently, several outlets reported that EU regulators are asking brands like Google to label AI-generated content.
Meta: Skillfully navigating choppy waters
Meta had a bit more success maintaining a positive brand association with generative AI. Like other firms, Meta faced its fair share of critical press, but it quickly recovered thanks in large part to its transparency on critical issues and responsiveness to stakeholders.
The company worked with EU regulators on their concerns about generative AI, and positioned people like Yann LeCun as thought leaders to help the public and officials understand the risks and rewards of generative AI. Meta’s strategy has clearly gained traction, as the company has seen a significant decrease in negative coverage. Meta boasts an impressive 60% positive perception on generative AI, with negative mentions hovering at only 8%.
As the world’s leading manufacturer of AI chips, Nvidia has emerged as an early winner in the AI race. Its GPUs underpin many of the latest generative AI tools, including OpenAI’s ChatGPT – said to run on more than 20,000 Nvidia chips. With few chipmakers capable of producing comparable hardware, Nvidia has seen its market value push past $1 trillion. While this has been great for the company’s stock, the conversation hasn’t all been positive.
The Washington Post recently questioned whether Nvidia’s dominance in AI chips was holding back the broader AI industry. Its stock dipped following a June report suggesting that the U.S. was considering further technology export bans on China. And The Financial Times took a critical eye to a potential security vulnerability in Nvidia’s AI software that can be used by bad actors to reveal private information.
Adobe: Coming out ahead
Among its peers in the tech industry, Adobe has taken a comparably measured stance when it comes to generative AI. It’s difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison since Adobe does not offer a chatbot like Bard or ChatGPT. Instead, the company has incorporated generative AI capabilities into existing products like Photoshop.
After first introducing its “Generative Fill” feature in May, Adobe faced a wave of unflattering press stemming from concerns over deepfakes and misinformation. But by promptly reiterating the safety and ethical precautions it had built into its generative AI offerings, Adobe was able to course-correct before the negative narrative could snowball into a reputational liability.
Among the major entrants in the generative AI sector to date, Adobe’s reputation has held up the best, and is the only brand whose name isn’t mentioned negatively in the context of “ethics.” It goes to show that landing the highest volume of media mentions isn’t always the strongest strategy. Often, the best path to positive sentiment is to focus in on a core differentiator and message against it aggressively.
Signal AI recently launched the Tech Reputation Index, tracking more than 40 companies from Big Tech to Consumer Tech and Enterprise Tech. This exclusive AI-powered index compares their performance across 100 industry-specific topics, ranging from Generative AI to Content Moderation, Regulatory Compliance or Racial Equality. To learn more about the Index and Signal AI’s curated insights reports, schedule a demo request today.