AI that writes copy? Bring it on.

1st August 2018

Sarah Compton

As a copywriter, I’m told nearly daily that I should be afraid right now. Make that afrAId. Because an army of AI copywriters is on the way, hellbent on taking my job. It’s true that AI can write better and faster than me, while tapping into inhuman data-crunching capabilities. So, should copywriters be cowering at their keyboards, wondering if this pay packet/cheque/BACS transfer/bitcoin payment is their last?

The scaremongering headlines are good clickbait. (Something AI copywriting is good at.)    

Headlines range from the questioning…

            ‘Will AI really take over copywriting – and if so, what can we do about it?’

To the confident…

             ‘Yes, a robot can write your advertising copy’

To ‘The end is nigh’ hysteria…

             ‘Code eats copy for breakfast: Human copywriters are doomed’

A bit like those religiously-afflicted, A-board wearers shouting at shoppers, people proclaiming copywriters are doomed are delusional. (Or have shelved their better judgement in favour of paid work.)

It’s true there are AIs out there that write highly effective ads.  

Alimama, the digital marketing arm of ecommerce platform Alibaba, has an AI-enabled Chinese language copywriting tool that can produce 20,000 lines of copy a second.

(I’m fast, but even with coffee I can’t do that.) This AI copywriter is easy to use. Simply paste in a link to a product page and click a button to get your copy. You can adjust the length and tone to suit the brand, with options like ‘functional, fun, promotional or heart-warming’. And hey presto, you have a product ad. Great. I’m more than happy for an AI to do this job…or any low value, repetitive writing that makes you question your existence.

Perhaps our doom-mongers are more afraid of Persado and its latest creation.

‘Persado One utilizes deep learning algorithms to create an emotional profile for individual customers based on previous campaigns, then generates corresponding language to personalize the message.’

Yep. With AI copywriting, brands can now talk to each customer as an individual. And tap into their emotions to manipulate them into a response (buying stuff). This is definitely panty-dropping technology. And I’m sure big brands with deep pockets will be lining up to buy it. But it’s not going to wipe out the need for human copywriters any time soon.

In case you were wondering what happens to brand voice when AI does the copywriting, Persado says ‘marketers will be able to refine language according to a brand’s tone, style, and vocabulary.’ So, someone will need to refine the language to bring it on brand. That sounds a lot like a job for a copywriter.

And that brings me to another point: who’s actually created that brand voice? Not an AI, that’s for sure. Not yet. (Although I’m sure there are agencies working on AI-generated brand guidelines.)

That’s why I roll my eyes when I see clickbait headlines telling me my career is dying. Anything but. There are many things I (or any talented copywriter) can do that AI can’t.

Like carrying the language of a concept through the copy. Witticisms and wordplay. Just the right analogy to turn tech jargon into buyable benefits. Finding and articulating a USP.

There’s no denying that AI can write highly effective copy within specific parameters. But can AI judge how pleasing its copy is to read? Would it know if its written a beautifully structured paragraph, or a clunky, staccato mess of sentences? Right now, if you want a piece of prose rich in lyricism or a video script that trips off the tongue, hire a human to write it for you.

So, am I ignoring AI’s advancement into copywriting? Not at all. I’m fascinated by it, and how it might open up new roles in my field. I can see that learnings from AI copywriting could feed into briefs for copy that’s created by humans. Words to use and avoid. The types of emotion that you need to evoke, therefore the type of storytelling you should use.

I’m sure AI copywriting will encroach further into areas of copywriting currently done by humans as the years progress. But there will always be a demand for copywriters with original thinking, strong conceptual abilities, specialist/sector expertise or specific skills - eg scripts, dialogue, humour, brand voice creation. So, I’m seeing a positive future, where AI copywriting does its thing, and I do mine.