The idea that AI copywriting will replace human copywriters is a scary thought.
Just imagine … you simply log in to your copywriting software, feed it a set of topics, and seconds later you have 100,000 words of sales copy.
As you’ll see, this is already possible…
AI Copywriting Software vs. Human Copywriters: Is This Just Scifi?
Most people don’t give this topic a second thought. Or they think it’s far-fetched. And, admittedly, it does sound far-fetched.
Some, though, see this as a real threat.
Especially IT copywriters, younger copywriters who “get” technology, and copywriters who frequently write for the tech sector, such as myself.
Though I don’t think that robot copywriters will replace human copywriters, I do think AI will have an impact. Actually, I KNOW that AI will have an impact, because the handwriting’s on the wall.
Introducing Alibaba’s AI Copywriter
Alibaba (rather, Alimama, Alibaba’s digital marketing arm) has already released its first AI copywriter, aptly named AI Copywriter.
Using a combo of deep learning, natural language processing, and big data stores, this program has supposedly passed the Turing test.
Able to produce 20,000 lines of copy per second, its creators tout its benefits, saying it “can reduce the repetitive and tedious workload for our teams.”
The tool is currently being used a million times a day, and complements other AI tools, like AI video editing software and an AI banner ad maker.
The question is — should copywriters be afraid?
Not necessarily, but they should be aware. Perhaps a little wary, especially if your job simply involves “putting words on a page.”
Remember that copywriting and business are driven by ROI — if a machine gets better ROI than a human, then AI is where the money is.
Getting Some Perspective on AI
Knowing what’s just around the corner is simple — pull your head out of the sand and just look at technology today.
Here are just three simple facts that show how fast AI is growing:
- Currently, AI is being implemented by organizations around the world. Google uses it in search, Amazon uses it in recommendation engines (among many other areas), and Palantir uses it for god-knows-what.
- Media buying, once a human job, has been completely automated by programmatic advertising.
- I’ve even written my own software program that exploits Google image recognition and Google translation services to parse Japanese text and look up words.
Now, I’m just a programming hobbyist … but if I can write a program that uses AI-as-a-Service to create a unique language-app … well, we’re looking at huge wave of AI-driven innovation.
Just go on Udemy to see all the machine learning, deep learning, and AI courses at your disposal.
So anyways, where do these trends leave copywriters?
According to Frank Levy, a labor economist at MIT:
There is this popular view that if you can automate one piece of the work, the rest of the job is toast … that’s just not true, or only rarely the case.
Although I agree, I can’t help noticing how automation has affected farmers, factory workers, and other blue collar workers.
Many people look at the technology today and think, “Machines can’t be creative and they can’t write, so they’ll never replace humans.”
Yeah, that’s true.
But they don’t create copy by being creative — they create copy by processing human creativity in droves and regurgitating it.
At a fraction of the cost in a fraction of the time.
The same as with any other automation process.
My Predictions About the Future of AI Copywriting
Here are a few AI copywriting trends I expect to see in the coming years:
Personalization of specific on-page copywriting elements
As part of my job and my studies, I’m always reviewing industry-leading copy.
The other day, while reading a long-form landing page, I realized that cookies on my computer could be used to track my habits, my likes, and my dislikes.
If, for example, a marketing firm had profiled me in a certain way, they could actually alter individual elements of the copy based on that profile, such as:
- The lead
- The close
- The P.S.
Though it’s probably a bit early for widespread implementation of something like this, keep your eyes peeled.
(Also, copywriters and marketers, consider how you’d work with tools like that to create your copy.)
Because I guarantee it’s coming, someday.
Short-form AI-written copy
Well, we’ve already seen this, haven’t we?
Long-form AI copy may take decades to arrive, if it ever arrives at all. It just requires too much personality, strategy, and non-linear creativity.
In all likelihood, we’ll be looking at human-written copy that is split-tested, personalized, or otherwise augmented by AI.
A decrease in trust, a gradual decline in the “humanity” of B2C relationships, and/or a greater demand for “humanity” in B2C relationships
How close do you feel to a company that offers zero human contact?
Compare your customer experience with human-driven customer service to one that offers next-to-zero customer service, like Google.
This is the company that leads the AI charge, and is about as non-human as they come.
In my opinion, we’ll see two camps in tomorrow’s brand philosophies: those that put humans first, and those that automate first.
Those that put humans first will be more likely to use human copywriters instead of AI copywriters.
AI will augment copywriting instead of replacing it completely
As mentioned above, I don’t think AI sales copy will replace human sales copy.
It’s just a question of degree…
How much will AI automate the copywriting process?
Supposedly, AI has already written fiction. And if it can write fiction, I see no reason why it can’t write any kind of sales copy.
So How Do Human Copywriters Compete with the Machines?
Well, if you want a vision of what tomorrow looks like, stay current with today’s tech trends. They tell you what’s around the corner.
If you want a vision of what the next decade looks like, watch science fiction. Ghost in the Shell is a good place to start, because its themes revolve heavily around AI.
That’s a good place to start — because when you have a vision of the future you know what to expect. And you can prepare.
Here are a few ways human copywriters can compete with AI writers:
Differentiate yourself from machines.
There are plenty of ways that human copywriters are already different from AI copywriters.
First and foremost, humans can write well, and AI can’t. And humans outperform AI when it comes to readability, engagement, and conversions.
Beyond that, AI has zero personality and a see-through fake voice … it can’t create big selling ideas … it cannot think creatively … it can’t think strategically … it can’t write about complex topics … and these are all just off the top of my head.
Become more human.
As I said, if AI starts blowing up in the marketplace, then one advantage human copywriters have is our humanity. Top copywriters know how to let their personality shine through, while soulless machines can only have fake personalities.
Even if programmers end up creating realistic personality matrices, rest assured that real humans will feel that something is “off” if they’re being communicated to by a machine.
This is something human copywriters will always be able to leverage.
This is what many copywriters advise anyways.
Focusing on a niche gives you a specific area of expertise, which may not provide enough data to AI copywriting programs. And without that data, AI copywriters can’t work.
Many people promote specialization, because you it offers more security and more income.
But whether we’re talking about job skills or investing, we all know what happens when you put all your eggs in the wrong basket.
Augment your job skills.
An example of augmentation would be adding a related skill to your toolbox.
Since copywriting is a marketing function, other marketing skills would be the logical choice.
Get good at long-form copy.
The day will come when AI must compete against human writers, just as it did against human chess players.
And go players.
And video game players.
But because long-form copy requires big selling ideas, in-depth strategy, and serious word skills, there’s a chance that AI will never be able to write like humans.
Learn to work with AI copywriting tools.
I know, I know … AI copywriters are the enemy.
But, if they do horn in on our territory, we should find a way to use them for our own financial gain.
If you do this “heinous” task, then you may be able to come out ahead of the pack.
[Update 12/23/18] AI Still Can’t Write
I just received this interesting anecdote in an MIT newsletter. Researchers apparently tried to get an AI to write plots for Christmas stories, and here’s how it turned out:
Karen and senior AI editor Will Knight fed plot summaries of 360 Christmas movies, courtesy of Wikipedia, into a machine-learning algorithm called textgenrnn. After a lot of fiddling around with settings to train the neural network, and parsing through gibberish, they arrived at some suggestions.
A few of the glorious/awful results:
- The reclusive from Christmas.
- A princess ogre nearby cross by on the Christmas.
- A gardener detective but country murderer magical suddenly Christmas the near elf.
- A family man and a special estranged for Christmas.
- Babysitter boy tries to party the Christmas in of for more Christmas.
- A man returns to the singer who is forced to return his life with a couple to help her daughter for Christmas.
One suggestion was simply “Santa.”
For now, it looks like humans still have the lead on AI … at least when it comes to plot development.
AI and AI copywriting are here to stay.
Copywriters should learn what machine writers can do, what they can’t do, and be better than them.
Businesses should pay close attention to their advantages and their disadvantages (see my predictions above).
Rather than being afraid of them, or decrying these trends as stupid, we should be objective, realistic, and practical.
After all, they’re just machines…
- AI writes a Japanese novel
- A Twitter AI likes to write horror
- Don’t like working with humans? Here’s a few AI writers to choose from
- New York Times unpacks AI in the legal industry
- McKinsey says that only 5% of jobs can be entirely automated
- AI will replace a third of data analysts by 2022, according to Gartner
- An article about Alimama’s AI Copywriter
- A few tools that are already changing the writing world