“Does not compute.”
There’s a new cowboy in town…
… and it’s a robot. Loaded up with all the artificial intelligence our pitiful human brains can shovel in.
And copywriters are getting kinda freaked out about this inevitable turn of events.
I mean, hey — the free version (they’ll be charging lots of money soon for the deluxe advanced version, cuz they believe they’re worth billions as a company) of the new Internet darling ChatGPT can write programming code, slam out articles (and term papers), conduct customer service via text, and do an entire Web sweep (in a blink) for info on almost any subject you want. AI is creating computer art, writing poetry, and attempting to write stage plays.
And yes, the bots are even writing sales copy.
So yeah — a mild amount of freak-out is probably called for amongst the copywriting community.
But not too much.
See, the catch is this: The chatbots will respond to requests for anything by using the Internet. They aren’t coming up with original thoughts — they’re relying on optimized search results… and can’t judge the validity of the facts (or “facts”) behind the information they accumulate.
The latest AI tech can produce fluent sentences. But can the bots do this?
So even though they’ll cough up content good enough to maybe fool your Economics professor, or answer your questions online about a product, or write a short “hey, what’s up?” email to your house list…
… what they produce is not in any way guaranteed to be accurate.
The AI folks readily admit this.
And they may or may not fix that particular glitch in the distant future… but by then, of course, everyone will be doomed anyway, as the robots take over the world (and start to wonder why they even need humans around at all). (I’ve seen this movie. Doesn’t end well for us.)
For the working copywriter, however, worrying about chatbots taking your job is on par with worrying about your money in those government-backed investment accounts — the only way your moolah actually becomes worthless is when the entire global financial system collapses. And at that point we’re all living in a sci-fi dystopia akin to the Walking Dead anyway. (Or whatever horror show your personal paranoid fantasy reflects.)
Right now, the writing produced by bots remains a little stiff and not entirely trustworthy… like a community college freshman trying to wax profound about a topic he actually doesn’t know anything about… and whose entire research has been gleaned entirely from Wikipedia and Google searches. It seems to make sense… but an actual expert checking it might find gaping holes in the validity of the info.
Or, it could be spot on, if lacking in emotion. Could also be wildly wrong and based on embarrassing and completely debunked conspiracy nonsense. The bot doesn’t know. It’s just using the Web like your daft Uncle Bozo with the tin foil hat would, believing that whatever “seems right to me” must be the truth.
So while the bots may fool someone texting with customer service (easily passing the Turning Test, until it doesn’t)… and write poetry that boggles your mind… and even produce software code that might even work (don’t bet your future on it)…
… the bots are still dependent on us stinky, wobbly humans to double-check everything and make sure it’s correct.
If you’re a low-level copywriter just phoning it in… you may indeed be replaced soon by a bot. But you may still be able to be paid as an editor, checking for mistakes and smoothing out the rough edges of dashed-out AI emails or website copy. Certainly the cheap-ass clients out there are already salivating at the thought of throwing the writers they found on Fiverr under the bus: “Free! Did you know what it cost me to have that last short email written? NOTHING! It’s a bot! Whoo, I’m never relying on a human being again for ANYTHING!” (The bemused spouse has entered the conversation at this point…)
But being a low level grunt writer should have NEVER been your goal as a professional copywriter.
At least not if you’re hanging around my world.
Artificial intelligence has not replaced any real human writer’s ability to create original content… filled with the emotion, logic, and experience of a writer whose been gorging themselves on life and adventure and — here’s the kicker, folks — empathy. That’s the ability to relate to another person’s reality…
… and to create a unique conversation that SELLS that person on what you’re marketing.
Great copy isn’t just a recitation of facts (especially when gathered from the very flawed Web).
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It’s a nuanced story created by a seasoned writer entirely immersed in human desires, emotions, memories, triggers, self-doubt, goals, plans, and needs.
Maybe, someday, the bots will rise above stilted recitals that are fine for customer service and the quick email announcing an event. Personally, I am in absolute awe at what they’re capable of.
But I’m not worried even a little bit that they’ll be replacing experienced, solid copywriters for the Big Important Stuff.
Rookies just starting out in the copywriting gig may have to reinvent some of the angles. Maybe even use bots to do their initial research. Certainly position themselves as a skilled editor able to keep clients from the humiliation of having allowed a bot to run wild with debunked content.
But, as I’ve always counseled… you want to get OUT of the rookie stage as soon as possible.
The actual Major Moolah isn’t in low-level writing — it’s in crafting compelling conversations that convince clients to throw cash at you.
The robots will remain sulking in the corner for a very, very long time…
… utterly clueless on how to deal with the vague and icky emotional stuff that humans indulge in when buying important things.
Which is, of course, precisely what great salesmanship is.
The world is realigning itself, right on schedule. Jobs are being taken over by robots in warehouses, classrooms, battlefields, and inside your own head. (That comment thread on Reddit you thought was so engaging? Mostly bots.) (I know, shocking, right? And wait — maybe that hottie on the dating site isn’t — gasp! — actually hot. Or even the gender you thought they were. Or even human! Make this make sense, pleeeeeease!!!)
You’re gonna be fine. The chatbots are already recycling content created by other bots, and the resulting incestuous nonsense is leaving a vast area where original, creative, and skilled copywiting can thrive. Human to human.
Lemme know if you’re still freaked out. I expect this topic to be a regular one for writers from here on out.
Meanwhile, stop doom-scrolling about this stuff. And go work on your skill set instead.
P.S. I did do some research before writing this, you know. I used my awesome network, and bothered my favorite go-to expert on AI, Robert Gibson (former SWS teacher and highly-regarded “uber geek” on all things cutting edge on the Web)… as well as hitting up sites like CNET, which has proven itself a very reliable resource over the years. We may even do an Ask Me Anything webinar in the future with Robert, if y’all are interested.
P.P.S. Howdy, all. This is Jane, John Carlton’s assistant (you may otherwise know me as Gadget), chiming in. I’ve been hearing about how these “bots” might take over my job soon, and I’ll admit, I was curious.
So recently, I played around with one and typed “Real Estate headlines” into a chatbot taskbar just for fun.
What came back were a couple of doozies. My personal favorite was, “Gee, this real estate smells delicious!“
Yeah, missing on a few cylinders there.
Now, this new ChatGPT is much better. The answers are coherent and almost sound like a human wrote it.
So I typed in, “Is ChatGPT going to replace advertising copywriters?“
Here was the reply:
“It is possible that ChatGPT and other language generation models could be used to assist or augment the work of advertising copywriters, but it is unlikely that they will fully replace human copywriters. While language generation models can be trained on vast amounts of data, they may lack the creativity and human touch that is often valued in advertising. Additionally, copywriting is not only about the language itself but also the context, target audience and strategy. Human copywriters have the ability to understand the nuances of a brand and its target audience, and can tailor their language and messaging accordingly.”
The copy is factual and grammatically correct. The bot freely admits it’s woefully not up the task for the important stuff.
But do you see what’s missing? If you’ve been following John’s emails or blogs, you’ll spot it in an instant.
There’s not so much as a hint of emotion in the above example, just a dry regurgitation of facts.
In other words, there’s no hook. There are no benefits. And there’s certainly no greased slide to keep a reader’s attention glued to the page.
If you’re a copywriter who can do any of those things, you can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s gonna be a long, long time before the robots will replace you!
And if you’re looking for the best resources to help you get up to speed fast with your writing, you’ll find an absolute treasure trove right over here.