A few years ago AI copywriters like Jasper and Copy.ai (I think that’s what it was called) hit the market with a bit of a fanfare. And, if the truth be told I thought “oh dear, are the robots going to steal my job?”.
In order to determine whether AI was a threat to the copywriting side of my business I gave it a go, tried to get it to spit out anything at all that I would accept from a junior writer or even something I could edit with ease.
But it was impossible.
Nothing it wrote satisfied me, in fact, I couldn’t even find an argument for using it to get “half way there” during a busy workflow.
Back then I couldn’t really explain why it wasn’t good enough, it just wasn’t. It wasn’t even good enough for a non-copywriter who was pretending to be one because they got a good grade in their English GCSE so now think they can side hustle all the way into an industry I’ve spent 27 years learning.
I was delighted.
Off I skipped in the confidence of knowing the robots weren’t coming for me just yet.
Then ChatGPT entered the room, but this time the marketing fanfare was extraordinary and the advertising budgets far outweigh those from before.
Everyone thought this was the answer.
College kids were ecstatic at the idea of never having to slog it out overnight again.
Agency owners who weren’t exactly masters of copy started using it for their clients.
My heart sank…here we go again…
I even spotted a few pieces online from competitor agencies that I was absolutely convinced was AI generated…I still couldn’t put my finger on why or how I knew. I just did.
So back I went to the laptop to try out ChatGPT to see if it was going to revolutionise my industry.
Only this time was different. This time I was taking it seriously. This time I needed to know why or how it was different, I needed to be able to articulate this to my clients and when delivering training.
I also needed to know was it a resource my team could utilise or my clients could use? That was the elephant in the room.
I started off with some easy pieces, asking it for social media tips and places to go.
I took some pieces my staff had written and I pumped in the titles with some instructions to see if I could replicate the quality of their work.
I tried really hard. I thought if I briefed it well the robot would get it right. On this occasion I was rooting for the robot.
It didn’t work.
Don’t get me wrong, there were a few half decent lines, some ideas that I could build upon and even some information that essentially was like research.
And that’s when it hit me. It’s not that it’s good at writing, it’s that it’s good for sparking thoughts when you’re under pressure and you’re against the clock.
Sadly, it couldn’t pull you out of a hole and write a decent piece for you.
So I kept asking it questions, I interrogated it and probed as best I could to try and get the best results I could, and here’s what I realised:
- Nuance and vernacular – the AI tools simply can’t get the right nuance and vernacular that I would use when writing. It doesn’t really have attitude. Yes, it can mimic an attitude and a style of writing but it’s a bit dad dancing at a disco or a mum using the aubergine emoji to mean an aubergine. It was just a bit “off”.
- Detail – in properly informed copywriting the devil is in the detail. It’s why you pay for research, expertise and experience and anything I managed to get out of the AI was simply surface level knowledge.
- Analysis – I couldn’t get real analysis out of the tool. That human thought process that brings context and humanity to what’s being written. For me, this is the deal breaker. It’s not that it can’t analyse information, it’s just it’s all surface level.
- Accuracy – it just simply couldn’t and didn’t give me relevant, correct or accurate examples when I asked it for them. The AI couldn’t tell the difference between a successful business on TikTok and a random business that was simply on TikTok. It also made suggestions that were out of date, ill informed and things that would be rather embarrassing if one of my writers turned in the content to me.
- Marketing copywriting – bottom line is I don’t feel the AI was able to replicate the sales focused copywriting that we do for many of our clients at Excalibur Press. The AI simply can’t deep dive into our client’s business, their customer mindset and the style in which the content needs to be delivered whilst considering the psychology of the customer journey, geographic and cultural considerations and – ultimately – the style the client likes to see their content presented in.
I’m sure these tools will, over time, get more and more intelligent and, as a result, there may be times when it becomes useful to utilise them.
Maybe, like Canva, it will become the tool people will use when they simply cannot afford the professional services of an expert graphic designer – and there’s a market for that, I don’t think it’s made designers jobless, I think it’s just made design more accessible to people who would never have bought the services in the first place.
Google demoting AI copy?
However, with discussions already being rife about Google being able to detect and demote AI content according to Search Engine Roundtable and draft plans to consider blatantly labelling AI content in the search feeds in the future I’ve issued a really strict warning to most of my clients.
My concern is that they will go nuts now using these tools to increase their productivity and streamline their content production only to find they will be penalised en masse at a later date and it will be much harder to fix once it’s out there.
Algorithms penalising AI copy?
We’ve already heard of clients who suspect social content they created with ChatGPT isn’t performing organically as well as personally generated pieces – possibly this was an anomaly but it seems too much of a coincidence for me.
Easy detection in the future
AI tools are talking about watermarking the copy as well…even worse for when it hits Google and other search engines.
It won’t always be free either…how will it settle on a price point that’s good and cheap enough to be accessible.
And, to top it all off, the industry for detecting AI is booming with universities, educational institutions and schools likely to be the first wave of buyers.
So how did it fare talking about itself?
When I was writing this I thought it best to give ChatGPT the opportunity to defend itself…the response was very interesting: “The dangers of getting caught in the ChatGPT AI copywriting trap include producing content that is not unique or original, resulting in plagiarism.
“Additionally, the content generated by AI may not align with the tone or style of the intended audience, leading to a disconnect with the target market.
“Furthermore, using AI-generated content may not comply with regulations or ethical guidelines, leading to potential legal issues.
“It is important to use AI-generated content with caution and to ensure that it is properly edited and reviewed before it is published.”
Even ChatGPT is saying it should be used with caution.
That got me wondering “will ChatGPT content be penalised by google and other search engines?” to which the bot said: “It is possible that content generated by ChatGPT or other AI language models could be penalised by search engines like Google.
“Search engines use algorithms to detect and penalise plagiarism, and content generated by an AI model may be flagged as duplicate content. Additionally, search engines may detect that the content is not written by a human and may lower the ranking of the content.
“It is important to use the generated content with caution and to ensure that it is properly edited and reviewed before it is published, also, it is recommended to use the generated text as a base and not to publish it as it is, as it can be considered as a duplicate content.”
Now I had to know whether or not ChatGPT was going to actually plagiarise content so I asked simply “can ChatGPT plagiarise content in order to give me an answer?” to which it replied: “As an AI language model, ChatGPT is trained on a massive dataset of text from the internet, and it can generate text that is similar to or identical to text that it has seen before.
“However, this doesn’t mean that ChatGPT is intentionally plagiarising content, but it’s a side effect of the way the model works.
“It’s important to keep in mind that ChatGPT is not perfect and it doesn’t have a sense of right or wrong, it simply generates text based on the patterns and structures it has learned from the training data. Therefore, it is important to review the generated text and make sure it’s not plagiarising before using it.”
Possibly a great research tool…
I already run content through a plagiarism checker when it’s submitted to me at Excalibur Press, you can be absolutely sure that if a tool is created for me to use to detect AI copywriting, I will absolutely make use of it.
For now AI copywriting tools are nothing more than another research tool in the marketers arsenal and, if used properly, can certainly help to speed some elements of their workflow up.
I don’t think I’m alone in my analysis and careful consideration of ChatGPT, Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights also gave a great analysis of how it may be useful, or not, to marketers. He said: “At a practical level, I think success in digital marketing requires three factors to succeed in communicating with your audience, that is, to provide relevance and value and to change the way they think. I think any marketer who is involved with devising communications for website, social media, or email marketing and then spending copywriting can potentially benefit from ChatGPT by becoming more productive AND producing better quality copy. Not by slavishly using the answers ChatGPT produces, but using it to prompt and improve upon your approach and to iterate on it.”
In my opinion, foolish is the agency that believes ChatGPT or any other AI is the replacement for a good bit of thinking time and some quality human copywriting.
Tina Calder is the director and lead strategist at Excalibur Press
Another ChatGPT example: I asked it for TikTok tips for businesses…
These, and the other four tips were simply generic content that offered no real help to anyone reading, so I asked for more:
These were equally as bland. So I tried again…
Whilst the tips aren’t awful, they’re surface level and although they could form the basis of a great article, in my opinion, they aren’t enough to be considered good copywriting.
I wondered how it would do with examples…
I ended up with around 20 businesses and after checking them, none I felt were what I was looking for. If I had asked one of my journalists or copywriters to write this article they would have found small businesses who not only had a great following on the platform but businesses who were also creating fantastic content. I don’t know where ChatGPT got these businesses but some didn’t even exist.
Try it out for yourself but be warned, you could spend just as much time beefing up the content, rewriting and editing and fact checking as you would writing it in the first place.