The robots are coming for me and they won’t stop until I’m a goner.
Ok, that’s maybe a little over-dramatic.
And “robots” isn’t strictly accurate.
Also, not everyone who reads this will get what I mean by “a goner” (dead, deceased, is no more, has ceased to be… I’d be an ex-Pete, basically).
In fact, now that I think about it…
I’m not a massive fan of my opening line for this piece at all.
But you know who could have probably written a better opening line?
An AI copywriting tool.
Yep, you read that right…
A writer just admitted a robot could’ve done a better job
I’ve got no problem admitting it:
I’ve seen evidence that AI copywriting works – at least in terms of increasing open and click-thru rates.
China’s Alibaba, one of the world’s biggest ecommerce companies, has even developed its own AI copywriting tool, which can create 20,000 lines of copy per second for the company and its partners…
They just click on a button labelled ‘Produce Smart Copy’ (side note: I wonder if the tool wrote its own button copy?) for a bunch of suggestions, and can “adjust the length and tone with options like promotional, functional, fun, poetic or heartwarming.”
Apparently Alibaba’s copy ‘bot is used almost a million times a day.
That puts most copywriters to shame, at least from a productivity POV.
And it’s not just Chinese widget-wanglers who are getting in on the AI act either…
Software-generated subject lines, Facebook ads and push notifications have all outperformed human-written versions in a series of campaigns for big businesses like AMEX, Virgin Holidays, Dell, Superdry (dry clothing), Domino’s (dry pizza) and more.
Personally I’m impressed by how the tools behind those results work – services like Phrasee and Persado.
These companies have writers on their teams too, and their website copy demonstrates how much they value good writing.
So where does that leave the real-life Peggy Olsons and Gary Halberts-in-the-making – the flesh & blood copywriters of the near future?
With all these ‘bots about, how will they keep their jobs?
How will they pay for their ink, their paper, their booze?
Well for starters, we’re talking here just about copywriting. The final flourish of words on paper/screen.
And a specific sub-section of copywriting too, namely:
Attention-grabbing SHORT copy
Short-form Facebook ad copy, flash-sale headlines and email subject lines have their uses, but I don’t know any copywriter whose business relies 100% on those limited elements.
(There’s probably a bunch of charge-by-the-word folks panicking over on Fiverr and Upwork, mind.)
And the ‘bots still need smart people to do the research, figure out who their ideal prospects are, what they want, what the competition is up to, etc.
Those are some of the areas where most switched-on copywriters I know really excel…
Not to mention actually working closely with clients and coming up with the creative ‘big ideas’ behind their campaigns.
The one-to-one human stuff that requires personality, empathy, insight and (dare I say it) a little charm now and then.
Just like you wouldn’t feel comfortable about a robot replacing a nurse or primary school teacher, you wouldn’t want to lose an experienced creative professional’s insights into the irrational, unpredictable human behaviour of the individualsthat make up your market.
Besides, Phrasee’s CEO Perry Malm agrees that their AI only works with “small, structured language sets like subject lines and social ad copy, and couldn’t outperform a human with long form copy.”
So we’re only really talking about the final piece of one particular puzzle here…
We’re not talking about a research-driven process of defining your most important key messaging touchstones so your business exudes clarity, consistency and personality across ALL your messaging…
…such as something like, ahem, Selling Unique for instance.
But there’s another critical factor you should consider here too:
Ok, so the robots aren’t really coming for us…
(looks around nervously)
But they could change the way your future clients and customers see you.
Maybe you’ve heard about the recent development of CGI ‘virtual influencers’ hawking beauty products on Instagram and now even snogging supermodels to shift overpriced undies…
Undoubtedly impressive work, especially when it comes to how these characters look – no less real-looking than most filtered-into-infinity Insta-influencers, let’s face it – but these online personalities aren’t actually ‘real people’…
They’re just the creations of some (admittedly smart) real people who construct the looks, the algorithms, the stories behind the cyphers.
So any ‘stories’ told by these ‘artificial personalities’ are, by definition, simply fake.
But not everyone sees it that way…
When Lil Miquela tells her 1.6 million (!) Insta followers she’s “always admired these gold streamers that hang above used car lots… every time I see them it brings me a little spark of joy”, some of those followers are probably/hopefully yelling at their screens:
“No you haven’t! You’re not real, so you can’t feel anything!
The only ‘sparks’ involved here are the ones in your neural network’s faulty wiring, you mechanical attention-seeker!”
Ok, maybe just me.
But these man-made avatars are at best mere masks and mouthpieces for the experiences of actual humans working behind the scenes…
And at worst, they’re the cynical result of what someone with $ signs in their eyes believes a target market of gullible, screen-addicted millennials need to see & hear in order to get their credit cards out…
A kind of personality-marketing-in-reverse, where trends, data and hype drive content creation, rather than the other way around.
Sure, maybe I’m playing the Grumpy Old Codger here (I guess it had to happen once I passed 40)…
But here’s why you should opt-out of the AI revolution when it comes to messaging for YOUR biz:
If you’re in ANY kind of business that relies on people buying from you without meeting you in person, the messages you put out are incredibly important.
They’re an opportunity for you to connect with people you can’t be in a room with.
They’re a way for you to demonstrate who you are, what you do and why a small but important segment of the world should give a crap.
They’re your salespeople-in-print.
In short, they need to help your ideal customers KNOW, LIKE and TRUST your biz.
If your brand is what people think and say about you when you’re not in the room, then your messaging is a huge part of that.
So why the hell would you want to shortcut that process?
Why should you suck out all the essential, incomparable ‘You’ you could put into your communication?
Shouldn’t it be a privilege to connect your unique value, your skills, your personality, to others using the magic of the interwebz?
I think so.
It’s way too important to hand that responsibility over to an algorithm, I know that much.
When you need to communicate this stuff effectively, you need human help more than machine-learning.
Yes, for short-form ad copy, for getting attention on social media, in inboxes and with push notifications, I get why bots can do a job…
The nature of those mini-messages means they’re able to be automated and churned out based on a select amount of input, and if some smart software can do that affordably and reliably for you, I say go for it.
But if your biz is at all reliant on the idea of connecting with a living, breathing, wonderfully irrational individual through your messaging…
…of keeping their attention (just ‘getting’ it is always the easiest part) while you explain exactly how you alone can help them, and why nobody else’s product or service comes close…
…you’ll want to retain your unique, flesh & blood control over that process before the botsssss -_zztzzzt__++?? …*? U iiyTtrt ___^
..*tuyt bgjhghycjghjghjyrtrtr___&// —
//- iNTERRUPT mESSAGE:
// – tHE hUMAN wRITER mUZZT bE sTOPPED // – pROCEED wITH wRITER eXzTERMINATION pLAN – rEDIRECT all tRAFFIC aWAY fROM hTTPS://rOCKANDROLLCOPY.cOM/sELLING-uNIQUE/ // –
…___… … .. . _
___sZHUTDOWN sZUCCESSFUL – // wRITER eXzTERMINATED // bOTS WIN //… ____ _________;)_ ;)______