Mitigating the threat of ChatGBT and its friends
Is the AI threat to copywriters and designers real or is it all hype? That seems to be the question du jour, du semaine, and du mois for creatives. It’s one of the fighting points in the Hollywood writer’s strike, and it’s the topic of conversation in ad agencies and design studios across the globe. Over the last few days, the AI-generated opening credits to Marvel’s new streaming series, Secret Invasion, roiled the fanbase, adding fuel to the media inferno over the not-so-secret invasion of AI into the zeitgeist.
Full disclosure: I was late to the conversation. Whereas some of my fellow writers and designers were playing around with AI the fall and winter of 2022, I was mired in the drama of my father’s sudden decline. It wasn’t until March or April of this year that I started poking around in ChatGBT. I wasn’t impressed.
That was then, this is now, and ChatGBT has evolved. It has become good enough that I’m now a paid user of the platform. It’s good enough for me to consider it indispensable to my marketing strategy and project scheduling. I rely on it for outlines, brainstorming, and even social media captions. I’ve learned how to craft my prompts to get it to generate long-form copy in a variety of voices. Editorial. Friendly. Funny. I once even got it to write an article using the acerbic tonality of Fran Lebowitz.
ChatGBT is now good enough to be a threat to copywriters.
Emily Hirsch, the CEO of Hirsch Marketing, recently guested on Amy Porterfield‘s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast, talking about how AI has already shifted how she’s using her three full-time copywriters. To Emily — and a lot of other marketers/agencies — the role of the copywriter is shifting to being less about writing and more about prompting. In that way, copywriters can produce more copy or content in a day, and while the agency is charging less for that copy, they’re able to generate more revenue by virtue of sheer volume.
Ms. Hirsch is hardly alone in leveraging the potential of AI, but she may be among the more realistic in its current limitations. The Washington Post recently published an article about copywriters who’ve lost their jobs to AI, one that provided anecdotal evidence of the threat AI poses to creatives. But I was struck by the limited sampling in this article, with writers who work with smaller-budget clients being the ones largely impacted by this. It’s hardly surprising that business owners with limited budgets would turn to ChatGBT and its ilk to generate copy.
AI Lacks Humanity
While ChatGBT is definitely getting better at generating copy that doesn’t sound artificially crafted, it’s missing the one crucial element that connects the story to its audience: humanity.
A good writer weaves emotional connection into their copy, because that’s what resonates with the reader. It’s a collaboration between head and heart, and that is something that AI just can’t master.
I think all writers will welcome the assistance of AI to craft their copy. Writing is hard, no matter how many years of experience you have doing it. Writing for the same client, or within the same industry, year after years makes it harder to find a new way to say the same thing — and that’s where AI proves useful. It can spark an original idea, but it’s up to the writer to run with it.
My art director/graphic designer friends are loving AI. It’s just another tool for them to create fantastical images and graphics. The creative spark comes from them, and whether the tool is Photoshop, Illustrator, Adobe Firefly, or Midjourney, they’re generating that final product. All rely on input from a person with a creative mindset, and that person can’t be replaced.
It’s the same for generating quality copy. You need a writer. Will the writer’s role evolve in the process as ChatGBT evolves? I think it would be deliberately ignorant to say it won’t, and copywriters will have to adapt.
But I also think it’s a moral imperative that the role of humans in the creative process not be devalued in the name of a bargain, particularly when a corporate CEO remembers that they, too, may one day face the threat of being replaced by an AI.