Will copywriters be replaced by robots?

5th September 2018 by Kathryn Strachan | Content, Content & Search, News & Events

On August 23rd, Yard copywriter Kathryn Strachan attended the DMA Copywriting Club quarterly event. The following is based on a presentation given by Milo McLaughlin (Content Writer) and Andrew Girdwood (Head of Media Technology) at Cello Signal.

Are you worried about being replaced by a robot? While 70% of copywriters, who took part in Milo’s survey, aren’t worried about AI, dismissing it as only marketing hype, there may be more to it and perhaps we should be concerned…

Some companies are already employing AI copywriters, like lingerie brand Cosabella. Albert the robot writes copy for Cosabella products (okay, maybe Albert doesn’t exactly write the copy, but rather tests the ads written by Cosabella’s in-house content team to ensure they grab customers’ attention, but still…). Since hiring Albert, Cosabella has more than tripled its ROI and increased its customer base by 30%. Marketing Director Courtney Connell says that they like Albert because he “doesn’t sleep, he’s fast, he doesn’t get into a fight with his girlfriend and lose focus”. It’s damn hard for human copywriters to compete with that sort of feedback.

Cosabella isn’t the only company employing AI copywriters. The Washington Post uses robots to write its sports columns and Alibaba has a robot copywriter that can produce 20,000 lines of copy a second! AI bot Persado can generate personalised language and emotion for each and every customer, and Phrasee writes better email subjects than humans. With such powerful technology, what is a human copywriter to do? Are we all doomed? Will we be replaced by robots?

Okay… Perhaps we won’t be replaced by robots because robots can’t be creative, right? WRONG. Robots can actually write poetry, invent and name new colours like Stanky Bean or Snowbonk, and come up with some pretty funny memes. If our creativity won’t save us, are professional copywriters totally doomed?

Slides by Milo McLaughlin at Cello Signal

Perhaps robots are our friends?

Maybe robots aren’t here to replace us but to help us improve our craft. One robot has worked out the perfect formula for creating an award-winning novel with 80% accuracy. According to this robot, you simply need three key factors: young, strong misfit heroines, scenes of close non-physical human relationships (instead of sex scenes), and to frequently use the verb ‘need’. Now we can all dust off the half-written manuscript sitting at the bottom of our desks, add a few finishing touches and presto – a publishable novel. Hey, that doesn’t sound too bad at all.

On a more serious note, if a robot could write 500 lines of perfectly optimised metadata, I would be one seriously happy copywriter.

How do local Edinburgh marketing agencies use AI?

Well, it seems that not everyone has totally replaced copywriters, so we may be able to keep our jobs a little while longer.

Instead, local marketing agencies take advantage of robots’ superior ability to collect and analyse data to gain some impressive customer insights. For example, by using AI-assisted Google Ads, Cello Signal has been able to determine the best time to send customers targeted messages. For example, for one of Singal’s clients, a leading dental firm with over 400 locations, AI insights showed that potential customers were 500% more likely than the UK average to also be searching for coffee machines or window furnishings.

While it’s been long suspected that when people move house they also need to find a new dentist, the exact timing was unknown. This data shows that when people are ready to think about items like coffee machines they’re also ready to think about finding a new dentist! Thus, when they’re in the process of buying a coffee machine, they’re also ready to see ads for dental practices.

AI-powered insights also revealed that potential dental implant customers were 290% more likely than the UK average to also be looking for flights and tourism advice for Mexico and Latin America. Despite seeming like a random coincidence, some digging revealed that this correlation was actually due to the fact that Mexico and Latin America are known for dental tourism. By travelling to these countries, customers could get dental implants while saving money. Now, the client could decide whether to write off these customers as too poor to afford a UK dental implant service or send them targeted ads (perhaps about UK dental safety) to convince them to get them implants locally.

Can you tell the difference?

Robot copywriters are getting scarily good at creating copy. So much so that it can be difficult to tell the difference. Can you guess which lines were created by Phrasee and which were created by a human?

 Slides by Milo McLaughlin at Cello Signal

Pretty shocking eh?!

Is life as copywriters know it over?

Yes, definitely. But, will we be replaced by robots? Maybe, but not today.

At present, robots still have a few flaws that they must overcome before they can completely replace us. It’s still unknown whether robots are really able to think for themselves or whether they are simply reacting to human-fed information. They may not currently be as smart as copywriters, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a future possibility.

A survey of hundreds of AI experts about the probability of robots reaching a human intelligence level forecasts that by 2022 robots are 10% likely to have met or exceeded human intelligence, while this situation is 50% likely by 2050 and 90% likely by 2075. So, the question is not whether robots will one day be as smart as humans but when. Once this happens, what will the world look like? Something tells me that it’s not just copywriters that should be worried.

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