It’s Monday, which means it’s time to answer your questions!
Today, we’re back on the topic of AI and copywriting (and jobs in general). And I have a lot of thoughts to share with you on this!
If you’d like YOUR question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday issue, all you have to do is send it to [email protected]
I’ll answer it in an upcoming issue!
In the meantime, AI!
Great and thought provoking article about AI, and the necessity for strategic marketing a while back. I would like to address it, and respond from two different perspectives and share both my thoughts and concerns about its content.
In broad strokes, you have identified two major issues that are impacting copywriters now and in the future. They are the effect of AI on the future of copywriting, and then the need for the copywriter to be an effective business strategist to really serve the client. There are other issues in the article but I would like to explore these with you.
I follow Diamandis’s blog, and have watched in fascination as the advances in AI accelerate almost on a daily basis. Your forward looking perspective is fascinating, accurate, alarming and very disruptive. However it can become less so for copywriters who are prepared for these certain advances of AI in the near future. So the question becomes — exactly how do we, as professional copywriters, prepare for this?
Relying on the human factor to win out in the end will probably work, but what about all of the surges in AI’s popularity as the next big thing in business, herd stampedes toward it and the time it takes that process to settle out? Getting from here to there for professional copywriters will be a rougher ride, especially for those like me who are just entering the field where broader opportunity still exists.
Regarding integrating business strategies, I am in full agreement. Fortunately, I have been in business for many years and have a basic understanding of the moving pieces and how they fit together.
However they vary from business type (B2C, B2B) area to area, project to project and niche to niche, so there is really no way for a trainee copywriter, without this depth of experience, to develop these skills and abilities going in. It is learned by experience – baptism by fire. You were fortunate that you had previous business marketing/marketing psychology experience before making the leap. I bring some business experience with me as well, but to expect the copywriting population to acquire this to both survive and thrive would be a real stretch.
Questions to ponder…
Feel free to use this in Mailbox Mondays or anywhere else.
That’s a substantial question — for a substantial topic!
I’ve written about this before. With the rise of AI, deep learning, robotics, and more, the entire work landscape is changing, on a deep and structural level.
The world of work in 50 years will look almost ZERO like what it looks like today.
Just imagine — before the industrial revolution, the vast majority of work was hand farming on small plots of land, usually for the landowner who would pay you a pittance based on the harvest yield.
With the rise of industrial tech, that transitioned into factory jobs and everything that was required to support a mass migration into cities.
Then as industrial tech advanced and the microchip developed, many of the manual labor jobs began to be deemphasized, and knowledge and service work rose to prominence.
Now the vast majority of work in “modern” economies is office work, or service work. Manufacturing jobs disappeared from America, yes. But they didn’t just disappear here. They’re disappearing everywhere as our tech is becoming smart enough to do most of the manual labor for us.
This is a force called creative destruction. The new technologies and capabilities that are able to meet our needs with less human labor inevitably destroy entire generations’ worth of jobs and careers.
One of the most famous examples? Horse and buggies. That entire industry went belly-up with the rise of the automobile. Today, we’d generally agree that was for the better. But at the time, there were a lot of people in the horse and buggy industry that suffered.
This is the inevitable march of progress. This is what happens when new technologies met our needs faster, easier, with less expense — and especially with less human labor involved.
But here’s the thing…
With the rise of AI, deep learning, human-level (generalized) artificial intelligence, and robots to give computers the power to change the physical world…
Practically the entire world of work is predicted to disappear.
Ray Kurzweil, who is seen as an authority on this stuff, predicts that between 2019 and 2029, the total computing power of all computers will pass the total brainpower of the human race. And based on exponential increases in computing power, it won’t be long before your smart phone has more computing power than the brainpower of the entire human race.
By that time, we’re likely to either destroy ourselves as a society, because we simply can’t handle it… OR, we’ll have such abundance that we’ll basically not need to work, ever again.
In the interim, what do we do as copywriters and marketing consultants?
The #1 thing: get results for clients.
When it all comes down to it, you will still get paid for getting results for a very long time. Eventually, computers will be better at marketing than you or me. But that could be decades away. Right now, just focus on getting results.
Develop a reputation for helping businesses get more leads, customers, sales, and profits, and you’ll be in good shape for a long time.
The AI takeover will not be immediate, especially for copy that requires thinking and strategy.
There are already AI copywriters out there. There are algorithms that scour news sites, pick up a few articles on a topic, and “rewrite” those into a new article. Which they then use to populate other news sites, for the purpose of getting traffic and advertising revenue.
In some cases, these articles are mostly indistinguishable from human-written articles. And yet, the only way these articles are written is because they are “swipes.” That is, a capable human had to write the first article, doing all the thinking. It’s just language acrobatics that the computer is doing. This doesn’t threaten original thinking, and it won’t in the immediate future.
Then there’s Persado, the well-publicized startup who created tech for writing things like subject lines, that boasts beating human copywriters in head-to-head tests. And, I think they do. But the problem is that tech is really limited, again, to copy that doesn’t require original thought — and that’s short.
It might be able to write a better subject line than you, but not a better email. And it could be a very long time, again, before it can write an original email that both feels human and is good marketing.
Don’t get stuck on “I put words on paper” as your role as a copywriter.
The jobs that contribute the least value are the first to go. And this goes well beyond AI, but is relevant.
Driving, for example, follows a relatively simple set of rules. A 15-year-old can learn them within a few dozen hours of practice, and be a pretty good driver and licensed to drive by themselves by 16. With the right data, that’s a skill that is being replaced rapidly by computers.
If all you do is write very basic copy, to client assignment, we’re not talking about a complex skill set here. Almost anybody can write the very short copy about a half-off sale.
But if you are involved in creating offers, developing marketing strategy, implementing a layered campaign, finding a USP, identifying the compelling story, and crafting the right message in all that context…
Well, that becomes much more difficult to replace. (That’s also, incidentally, what A-list copywriters do — and why they’re so much more valuable.)
If you mostly think of copywriting as a “writing” job — no matter if that’s the reason it attracted you in the first place — you’re going to be the first to be in trouble.
But even then, if you’re a pretty decent copywriter, it could still be a while.
My big advice: don’t worry too much yet.
AI is accelerating fast. Especially for constrained, rules-based applications that can be isolated.
But generalized AI (where computers think more like a human and can actively problem-solve) hasn’t come over the horizon yet. And it could be a while still.
Most relatively-decent copywriters won’t have anything to worry about until generalized AI sets its sights on us.
That could be a bit, seeing as how it isn’t even invented yet.
And when it is, that abundance I spoke of above will be here, too. So who knows what our need for work will even look like?
Keep an eye on the horizon, but place your worries more in the here-and-now, and how you can help clients solve their marketing challenges today.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,