For a long time, copywriters have been the unsung heroes of any company’s marketing team. In charge of writing compelling content that will resonate with the target audiences, they come up with words that convince customers to fall in love with brands or take action.
But some say that because of the rise of AI, the copywriting profession is headed for extinction.
If you are a copywriter, is this something you should be worried about?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the process of creating machines that can think and act like humans. It includes everything from robots to chatbots and voice recognition software.
According to futurists, someday, AI algorithms could do everything that human copywriters can do without making mistakes or forgetting important details. In practice, they still have a long way to go.
The real question is “if,” not “when,” AI will take over some (or all) of the brainstorming, research, drafting, proofreading, and editing work that people like you and me do. It could happen in a few years, or it might take decades. We can’t tell for sure when exactly AI will become a danger to the copywriting profession.
As with other technology solutions in this area, AI-powered copywriting assistants are in their early days. They offer a fair share of benefits but also have their limitations.
Perhaps the most significant advantage of AI copywriting assistants is their ability to generate a lot of content. Just give them a title, two-three keywords, and select the tone of voice for the piece of content in question—and they can generate a virtually infinite number of drafts for you.
Some of the best copywriters I know are already using these tools to generate a starting point for their content. They’re using them in combination with other research sources, like Google Scholar or Wikipedia, and then add their unique angle and experience to the piece that they’re writing.
However, AI copywriting assistants are still not capable of producing content on their own—and need a lot of human supervision. Suppose you let them take a stab at generating an entire blog post themselves. In that case, they’ll eventually wander off in a completely random direction or start citing completely inaccurate facts from who knows where.
At least for now, these tools seem more like a copywriter’s best friend than his worst nightmare. They can generate multiple drafts of the same content quickly and easily, allowing you to select the one you like the most and perfect it to completion.
By far, the most popular AI copywriting assistants are Conversion.ai, Kafkai, Writesonic, and MarketMuse. Some are better than others. From what I’ve read on the topic, the quality of the tool depends on the algorithm, the team that’s building it, and the number of users using (and therefore training) it.
Take Conversion.ai, an AI copywriting assistant that can generate copy for Facebook and Google ads, email campaigns, website sections, blog posts, product descriptions for Amazon listings and online stores, and others (the team behind the platform keeps adding new templates). Its creators say that it can even write books.
Under the bonnet, Conversion.ai is powered by Jarvis, an AI algorithm that gets smarter and increasingly capable as you and others use it. Think of Jarvis as Alexa and Siri’s copywriting cousin. You can bounce back any idea with him, and he’ll generate a rough draft in a matter of seconds. You can even iterate on the draft with his help to make it better.
Skeptical about the state of AI copywriting assistants in general—yet curious to see what the fuss around Jarvis was all about—I tried Conversion.ai’s Pro Unlimited Plan for a month.
The plan, priced at $99/month when I wrote this post, gave me unlimited access to the tool. The plan allowed me to add three team members and generate content in as many as 11 languages.
I could see how an agency would want to have access to such a tool, even if it weren’t that good at writing client-proof copy, to generate ideas for titles, descriptions, and angles for their human writers to perfect.
In comparison, its standard plan started at $29/month for 20,000 words generated by Jarvis and gave no access to the much-hyped long-form writing assistant.
At the beginning of my first month, I came in skeptical. By the end of it, I was surprised by how much a robot could come off as a human.
In fact, I’d get frequently stunned by the way Jarvis would take titles as plain as “How to Tell If a Fish is Fresh,” and write intros as good as “A fishmonger once told me that there are three ways to tell if a fish is fresh…”
And that’s where I found the most utility of Conversion.ai and its cinematically named writing assistant (for those of you who don’t know, J.A.R.V.I.S. is a fictional AI character from Marvel’s universe who’s appeared in movies from the Iron Man and The Avengers series).
Where I would need hours to write listicle outlines (a listicle is essentially a list post on a blog, like “10 Things You Didn’t Know About AI Writing Assistants”), brainstorm attention-grabbing titles, or spin angles for thinking of the perfect blog post intros, Jarvis would come up with as many outputs as I needed on-demand and in a few seconds.
I was less impressed with the long-form content writing assistant. Yes, it helped me generate longer content, but I wouldn’t say it helped me write better content. I didn’t have much control over the directions that Jarvis would take every paragraph, and it felt like I was trying to turn a car by opening the doors instead of using the steering wheel.
But it’s early—and AI, unlike you and me, learns fast. Just 22 years after IBM’s Deep Blue beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov, today’s AI chess programs, like Google parent company Alphabet’s AlphaZero, can beat human players 100% of the time. And they’re doing it in a way so complex, no one can understand their decision-making process.
I’m sure my experience with Conversion.ai’s long-form writing assistant will be different if I try using it again in one year. I’m expecting it to get so good that, at some point, it will be capable of generating an entire novel or non-fiction book entirely on its own (or with minimum guidance and intervention from a human editor).
That moment is still years away. When it comes to getting facts straight, AI copywriting assistants are notoriously unreliable—and most of the numbers they spew out need to be double-checked with scrutiny. For the time being, their best uses seem to be for the ideation and early drafting of short pieces of content like ad copy or blog post intros.
What’s next, then?
Some copywriters and agencies will undoubtedly find AI copywriting assistants helpful in their daily work. Others will stick to good old pens and paper (or colorful iPads with Bluetooth keyboards nowadays).
Eventually, AI copywriting assistants may replace human copywriters.
Human writers will be a thing of the past—an occupation only occasionally remembered in some form of entertainment in the distant future. I can’t help but recall the female typists of Mad Men, the drama series about the advertising business in the ’70s.
After all, Jarvis wrote the intro to this post all by itself (see screenshot below) and helped me draft a significant portion of it.