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By Georgie Everitt

Does AI pose a threat to copywriters? No, says Georgie Everitt: not if we remember that words hit differently when they come from humans.

Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? I do. At this very moment, actually, as I sit writing at my desk, in the B2B marketing agency I work for, I think – what if my colleagues see me, a professional copywriter, spell a word wrong? Googling which dash to use? Or thesaurus-ing a synonym?

Okay, they’re probably not watching me, are they? But self-consciousness is a writer’s curse and it really can disrupt our flow, which is why I’m talking to you today.

There’s been a new tool in our writing shed for a while now, and it’s time we talked about it – mainly so I can stop panic-minimizing my screen any time I’m using it.

Hopefully, it’s obvious that I’m talking about AI, a writer’s most controversial friend, but a friend nonetheless. For the time being, at least.

Don’t fear, the Terminator is not here

When AI burst into our lives, my copywriting colleagues and I immediately felt like we were in a fight against the perception that it could do our jobs, and quicker. The Terminator had arrived to deliver the news that human-writers’ days were numbered.

We creatives are already deemed to be an awkward bunch, often told that we’re overthinking, our standards are too high, and that speed is more important than quality.

Does this make us the first to go? Of course, that’s our self-consciousness talking, and what group doesn’t have its quirks?

Copywriters’ standards are high because we know that tiny tweaks can mean the difference of thousands of extra impacts, sales, or whatever we’re after.

Copywriting is writing to persuade. In usually very few words, we have to make people feel something and then want to do something with that feeling. It’s not about quantity, it’s all about quality.

How many of the ads you’ve seen today have made you want to do something?

Plenty of words sail past us, so as copywriters, we have to find the right ones, put them in the right order, and give whoever we’re talking to the feels – when we get that right, we can literally make our clients millions. There’s a reason creatives can spend weeks locked in a room to come up with a concept or strapline made of two or three words.

The danger is that, with tools like AI, we risk diluting markets with a sub-standard sameness written in grammatically correct sentences but doesn’t get results, with nobody really understanding why.

Copywriters are just like bears

Creative copywriters rely heavily on our subconscious to spark creativity. We approach creative projects like bears readying themselves for hibernation.

Yep, bears. We’ll feed our minds with the project brief, research interviews, case studies, factory tours, and incessant Googling until we’re stuffed full of enough insights and anecdotes to see us through the next stage of the process.

Then into our creative caves we go – to live, breathe, and sleep with all of that knowledge and allow our creativity to get to work.

It’s as we drift off into a well-informed stupor that the fun starts – inventor Thomas Edison actually argued for sleep as a creative technique. He’d nap upright, with steel balls in his hands and a metal plate on the floor. As he fell asleep, the balls would drop, wake him up, and allow him to withhold any creative genius that had occurred to him in his relaxed subconscious state.

While I can’t claim to have the genius of even Edison’s right pinky toe, I can still relate. I’ll always keep a notepad and pen by my bed when I’m working on a new concept. Sadly, my nocturnal scribbles are rarely of any use, but every so often there’s something.

Obviously, I don’t think my boss would be particularly impressed to find me asleep under my desk. Time is money, and that’s where a tool like ChatGPT can help.

Once we’ve stocked up on everything AI can’t do – grasp our innate understanding of who we’re talking to, our client’s preferences, unique strategic insights, and years of personal experience – then a little back-and-forth game of prompts can get us going.

AI shows us the derivative, the dull, and the done so that our brains can use that as a springboard to real creativity. And if nothing else, it can help soften any imposter syndrome – it really can churn out some very average combinations of words.

Don’t be afraid of ChatGPT

So from this point forward, I shall no longer be minimising my ChatGPT when colleagues walk past; it’s not cheating, it’s just another useful tool that has the potential to take human creativity even further.

And if you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s what ChatGPT has to say:

“Copywriting involves creativity, emotional intelligence, and a deep understanding of human communication, which are qualities that AI currently lacks. Instead, think of me as a tool that can help streamline certain tasks, generate ideas, or provide information.”

But that’s what a clever Terminator would say, right?

I believe that words in the hands of humans hit differently and, while I’ll continue to shout this from the rooftops, I do believe we copywriters need to embrace AI, just like other specialists around us, so we don’t get left behind.

Feature Image Credit: Florian Klauer via Unsplash

By Georgie Everitt

Sourced from The Drum

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