Insights — I, Copywriter: Is AI Copywriting a Replacement or a Tool?

I, Copywriter: Is AI Copywriting a Replacement or a Tool?

Content Strategy / October 12, 2021
Emily Barriball
Emily Barriball

Imagine you are a writer, by trade and by passion. You’ve spent years in the word processor trenches, honing your skill and maybe occasionally crying (just a little) over editing feedback.

And then Instagram starts advertising AI writing software on your timeline.

You never thought the machines would come for you, but here we are.

Your response, like mine, might be hostility at first. But a kneejerk aversion to new technology is never productive, so I started considering how this could be a natural evolution in facilitating the creative process—similarly to how Adobe’s creative products revolutionized graphic design. What if we thought of it not as a replacement but as a tool?

With this idea in mind, I put the software to the test and tried out two different AI writing programs.

The first program, which we will call Robot 1, has an inelegant platform but a variety of features and filters, including several different options for tone, ranging from professional to adventurous. The types of copy it can generate vary from digital ads to blog posts to “viral ideas” (that last option offers standard campaign tactic suggestions, like using memes).

An interesting array of offerings, to be sure. But did it meet my expectations of being a useful tool for writers? In two words: Not really.

While I see the software as a nice-to-have for ideation assistance, the actual copy it created started falling apart after a line or two, and nothing I asked it to generate would be useable without extensive human editing. Plus, when it generated product names (for a made-up product I created), some of the suggestions were Forbes and Akash. Besides not being relevant to the imaginary product, those names already belong to well-established companies. It made me wonder how much of the other generated copy was pure plagiarism gathered from the internet (which is where the AI, called GPT-3, does its unsupervised deep learning).

It also requires a lot of fiddling with the information you give it, and at that point you have already written what you need.

Robot 2 (the second program) has a more user-friendly platform that guides you through the generation process, though it offers fewer types of copy. While the experience is better, and the writing quality superior to Robot 1 (despite sharing the same GPT-3 AI), it still does not seem like a viable tool yet. For instance, when I asked it to write an introductory paragraph for this very blog post one of the options it gave me was this:

A few years ago, you might not have heard the word AI and copywriting used in the same sentence without the word war right before it—to describe how AI could be used to replace human writers with machines.

Not too bad for a machine—but considering I never mentioned “defeating an enemy” or “using force” in my topic needs, slightly worrying!

In short, these programs would work better as ideation tools, but the way they are currently set up and advertised puts them in a nebulous space, useful for neither writing nor assisting the creative process. For now, we can safely put this technology back in the oven to continue cooking a little more.

Emily is a Junior Copywriter and a recent addition to the SimpScar team where she focuses on integrating data & creativity to weave brand messages that connect with audiences. Emily previously worked in the nonprofit industry but made the jump to higher education because of the rewarding nature of the work. Emily's currently based in Phoenix, AZ, though one of her favorite memories is when she lived in NYC and would camp out every weekend to snag SNL tickets. Learn more about Emily and the rest of our team here.