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Artificial copy

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By Ryan Barwick

Chris Lu, cofounder and chief technology officer of Copy.ai, told us these tools give copywriters a “first draft” to work with.

“Marketing Brew is the home of provocative ideas, fresh thinking, provocative insights, and interesting perspectives on what they think about marketing, media and advertising. This publication gives you a way to digest their news, quick takes and new offerings in the field.”

This description of our newsletter was written by artificial intelligence. Pretty close, right?

Given only our name and a brief description—“a newsletter about marketing, media and advertising”—a tool called Copy.ai was able to spit out that paragraph.

The tool is part of a wave of smart content-churning machines that use the power of artificial intelligence to steal writing jobs make life easier for whomever’s crunching copy.

HAL meets Stan Freberg

Copy.ai and other AI-enabled copywriting companies like Jarvis and Copysmith are built upon OpenAI’s GPT-3.

According to the smart folks over at Emerging Tech Brew, GPT-3 is kind of a big deal. Trained on roughly a trillion words to predict—but not understand—text, it’s widely considered to be among the most advanced language models in existence.

“Large language models are powerful machine learning algorithms with one key job description: identifying large-scale patterns in text. The models use those patterns to ‘parrot’ human-like language. And they quietly underpin services like Google Search—used by billions of people worldwide—and predictive text software, such as Grammarly,” writes Emerging Tech Brew’s Hayden Field.

Of course, if you’re a marketer, who cares? You just need content. And lots of it. That’s where these tools come in handy. They can help write everything from Instagram captions to product descriptions to blog posts.

“We want to humanize AI. We want to help you start from something, and not a blank slate,” Copysmith CEO Shegun Otulana told Marketing Brew.

There’s an assumption that machines could take jobs away from writers, but Otulana doesn’t see it quite that way. “There’s an aspect of writing that isn’t easily replaced. A computer can’t tap into the human interactions you express in a story, the emotional aspects of a story you tease out. A computer can’t live the life of a human.”

But if you’re a writer who specializes in, say, product descriptions for e-commerce sites—or other types of copy that aren’t exactly trying to forge a human connection—these tools might pose more of a threat, he said.

For copywriters who need to bang out posts on multiple platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, there’s a volume benefit to these tools, since the AI provides various options for each post. Sure, you might not actually need dozens of call-to-action phrases, but any professional could whittle those down to five good ones and tweak them if needed.

“We try to give you the first draft,” Chris Lu, cofounder and chief technology officer of Copy.ai, told us. “Content creation is a treadmill. You’ve got to make a lot of it, it has to be relevant, and it has to be on brand.”

Andrew Race, a strategist at the digital agency Juice, called Copy.ai a time saver. In five minutes, I’ve got 25 different variations [of a headline]. Before, I would have had to write every single headline or idea out myself,” he said. He estimates it cuts his actual copywriting time in half.

  • So far Copy.ai, which debuted in October 2020, has 4,100 paying subscribers made up mostly of marketers.

Ryan’s artificial copy

We asked Copy.ai to make a couple of Facebook headlines and posts for a made-up brand called Ryan’s Lemonade, giving only the keywords “lemonade, sweet, tart, fresh.”

Here are three versions it came up with:

  • It’s So Good You’ll Want Seconds: With a history of providing quality fruit drinks, Ryan’s continues on with their new line of lemonades. From sweet and tart to a hint of fresh, Ryan’s is bound to quench any thirst.
  • Cool, Refreshing: Pure and natural lemonade sweetened only with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup.
  • Nothing is as refreshing as Ryan’s: Have you ever felt like you were in paradise? Everyday life is a bit harder than we wish it to be. Lemon Ryan’s is the perfect amount of all things good, made by real people in the sun-drenched hills of California. $5 for a gallon? No… lets make that two!

As you can see, it isn’t perfect. But it’s pretty good, and each took less than 10 seconds. Copy.ai assumes a lot—we’re not sure where “$5” or “California” came from. “These are natural language models. All it’s trying to do is write text. It’s just trying to predict the next word,” Lu told us.

If only a few keywords are plugged in, the content produced by these tools can have a generic feel to it. Lu said he doesn’t expect plagiarism to be an issue, but did say the company is planning on adding a plagiarism detector. “The AI helps with how to say, not what to say,” he added.

Copywriter –> AI editor

Similar to Copy.ai, Jarvis also lists templates for platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, but its bread and butter is longer-form content, like a blog post.

According to Dave Rogenmoser, founder of Jarvis, it has nearly 30,000 paying subscribers. At least 60–70% of its clients, which include Airbnb, Zillow, and CVS, are using it for projects “around 500 words,” Rogenmoser told Marketing Brew.

By inputting a few key words, Jarvis can spit out entire paragraphs, turning your average copywriter into an editor, who can guide the machine in a specific direction. If it veers off and becomes illegible, a user has to delete what isn’t working and try again. It doesn’t eliminate work entirely, as someone still has to pick and choose what works.

  • This post by Danny Veiga, a digital marketer in San Antonio, was written by Jarvis. Veiga told Marketing Brew Jarvis did about 80% of the work. The other 20% was mostly fact checking.
  • Veiga uses Jarvis for his email marketing, social posts, and homepage copy.

“Jarvis thrives when you need to write a lot of words, but they don’t need to be the most important words you’ve ever written,” said Rogenmoser. In other words, AI probably won’t win a Pulitzer anytime soon, but if you’re cranking out copy, it’ll give you a template for a flood of usable jumping points.

“It takes the mental load off. Writers are safe,” said Rogenmoser. For now.

By Ryan Barwick

Sourced from Morning Brew