AI Writers: The Future of Copywriting?

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Patrick Cumming

I wanted to write an article on marketing AI tools for a while. Today was the day I finally got around to researching it, and I fell down the digital rabbit hole. Hard. Hopping from link to link, website to website, devouring information with the ferocity of a ravenous savannah cheetah, what I found in the process froze my nimble writer’s fingers to the keyboard.

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They’ve finally created a robot to replace me…

To begin with, everything was as expected. I found platforms to improve onsite product recommendations based on user browsing patterns. Smart messenger bots that could have life-like conversations with customers. I even stumbled upon superpowered game bots that could out-match the world’s gaming elite. Sure, that one didn’t have anything to do with marketing, but the clickbait headline drew me in. I had to know more.

Then I saw it: The Washington Post’s Robot Reporter Has Published 850 Articles in the Last Year.

“What. The. F?” Even the threat of the world’s worst tortures couldn’t have stopped me from clicking. “There’s no way this can be real,” I thought. “Besides, even if it is, I bet the writing style is awful!”

Before long I’d found an article written by my new archnemesis, Heliograf. Sounds like a character ripped straight from a Homer epic. Maybe that’s the point. Like a curious adventurer exploring an intriguing, treacherous cave, I proceeded with caution. “Let’s do this, there’s nothing to worry about.” I reassured myself, took a deep breath and then hit the link.

Following the “suspense” (yes, this stuff is frightening for a writer), I made up my mind in seconds. Garbage. “Phewwwww! If that’s the best you’ve got, Heliograf, then I’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, the article was well written. But it was repetitive and unimaginative. Sure, it communicated the facts. But you can’t win hearts, minds and loyal readership with facts alone. You need story, substance, personality. Hate to say it, Helio, but you’re lacking in that department.

This can’t be the only AI writer though?

I stick my headphones in, turn up the lava lamp “focus” playlist and do some more digging.

My next discovery is an AI content writing tool. To avoid upsetting its proud creators, I won’t mention the name, but it’s a poor effort. Like Heliograf, it can execute well-formed syntax with flawless spelling and grammar. But it lacks soul and imagination. It reads with the energy of an 8-year-old’s scripted class presentation. It’s cute. But that doesn’t stop it from being dull.

“Do people actually pay for this software? What’s the point? No one is going to read that content… I hope.”

Seems like the panic is over. No risk of robots rendering me obsolete for now. I did some more digging though. I’m still not convinced this is the best the world has to offer. And I’m right. I catch sight of an article with an ominous title.

This AI Bot Can Convincingly ‘Write’ Entire Articles. It’s So Dangerously Good, the Creators Are Scared to Release It

No hesitation. Click.

Turns out Elon Musk founded a nonprofit AI company that’s created an intuitive virtual writer. You know, in his spare time between solving the earth’s climate problem and launching missions to mars. Elon, to think I used to like you.

Okay, let’s see what this thing can do…

I head through to the OpenAI website (the company attempting to terk mah jerb). It doesn’t take long to find what I’m looking for: GPT-2. Ironic that a virtual writer would have such an ineloquent name. It does sound more space age than Heliograf, though. Could be the real deal.

Here’s how it works. You give GPT a snippet of text as “inspiration”. Then, using mystical AI wizardry, the software scours the internet for relevant information. Within seconds, it spits out an engaging article based on the original sentence. Impressive.

They have samples.

SYSTEM PROMPT (HUMAN-WRITTEN)
Recycling is good for the world. NO! YOU COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG!!

MODEL COMPLETION (MACHINE-WRITTEN)
Recycling is NOT good for the world. It is bad for the environment, it is bad for our health, and it is bad for our economy. I’m not kidding. Recycling is not good for the environment. It is destructive to the earth and it is a major contributor to global warming. Recycling is not good for our health. It contributes to obesity and diseases like heart disease and cancer. Recycling is bad for our economy. It increases the cost of a product, and in turn, the price of everything that is made with that product. Recycling is not good for our nation. We pay a tremendous price for the privilege of having the world’s most advanced and efficient recycling system. Recycling is a huge, colossal waste of time, energy, money, and resources. And THAT is why we need to get back to basics and get back to basics in our recycling efforts.

(Source: OpenAI)

Whoa. It’s not awful. You know, dreadful opinion aside. I’ve seen worse writing from “educated” humans in YouTube comments.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a little juvenile and repetitive in places. But it’s got an undeniable human quality to it. If I didn’t know better, and you were to tell me an ill-informed 10-year-old had written it, I wouldn’t argue.

Here’s the scary part though, GPT made that article up. Didn’t base it on facts, statistics or research. Went full Donald and fabricated a story to suit its agenda. Artificial Imagination. It’s not perfect yet. But, who knows, in 5 years this thing might be writing captivating crime-fiction novels.

Could my days of being “in-demand” be numbered?

In the early 1960s, programmers developed the first AI chess player. By 1997, IBM had created Deep Blue, an advanced AI that made light work of the then-reigning world chess champion. It took them 40 years to do it, but they did get there.

It’s not outrageous to think programmers will achieve the same feat with virtual writers. In fact, technology is now accelerating faster than ever before. So it’s likely that believable virtual writers will appear before my career’s over… You know, since they’re going to be responsible for ending it.

For the time being, I’m safe. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I’d say I have an edge over GPT. For how much longer? Who knows. I’m just hoping that when the time comes, the software is cheap enough for me to afford it. Because I’ll definitely be purchasing some to help me update my CV. Fingers crossed it can keep its bad opinions to itself while it’s at it, though.

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