July 2019 was a difficult, or at least off-putting and confusing, a month for some copywriters and creative teams. Chase Bank announced that it would be partnering with the AI tech company Persado to help craft more compelling headlines, ad copy, and content.
Persado describes its system capabilities by saying, “Our AI-powered message machine understands language and breaks down marketing creative into its critical elements: narrative, emotion, descriptions, calls-to-action, formatting, and word positioning. The machine applies its understanding of language to a marketing brief from your team, creating the best message to speak to your customers in your brand’s voice across all channels. Every word makes the right emotional appeal with Persado’s AI-powered knowledge base of more than 1 million tagged and scored words, phrases, and images in 25 languages.”
Does this spell the end of human copywriters?
While it’s true that AI helps businesses gain insight every day, the importance and applicability of AI copywriters taking over digital marketing may be overstated.
For instance, one article that covered this partnership noted the sentiment that when people are asked why they made the choices they make, they’re unable to answer, while AI can answer according to data. When content writers from various industries were asked about certain copy and word choices they made, they were in fact able to explain the rationale behind them. “Persado’s technology is incredibly promising. It rewrote copy and headlines that a marketer, using subjective judgment and their experience, likely wouldn’t have. And they worked,” JPMorgan chief marketing officer Kristin Lemkau said in a statement. “We think this is just the beginning.” It’s hard to know exactly what that information is based on though; why wouldn’t a marketer have thought of that headline? There is plenty of evidence noted about which headlines worked for Chase versus those that didn’t, but why a human couldn’t actually produce the same results were missing.
- Not fully tested: The Persado website boasts that it can write emotionally compelling content in 25 languages, but says nothing about the cultural context of advertising, which is relevant for international companies. Additionally, they are currently only working with 250 businesses, which is a small sample size overall.
- The power of experience: Analytics are powerful, but they aren’t everything. Just like other AI applications. There is something to be said of the power of “click” over the power of “brand.” Clicks are certainly one measure of connection with customers and absolutely can increase brand exposure, sales, and other important metrics. But just because something gets a click doesn’t mean that it converts or keeps a customer. In fact, AI may decide that a headline is more “effective” based on amassing and analyzing a lot of data, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “on brand.” A businesses brand is its soul, its personality, and often what will continue to resonate with customers year after year.
AI – including Persado – can eventually learn to make brand-voice based decisions, but it’s unrealistic for business clients to believe that this will be a perfect content writer substitute right out of the box. It also leaves the potential for gaps in knowledge based on acquisitions, rebranding, and more. Plus, if customers know that only robots are writing marketing and AI is in charge of getting them to click on an ad, will customers be more enticed or less enticed to work with that brand? In a world where personalization is key to successful marketing, it seems like most businesses wouldn’t want to take the people out of the personalization.
- Time and budget: The Persado website brags that you can get the software up and running in 17 days, but hiring an experienced content writer and onboarding them to levels of successful drafts often takes less time. Plus, while the company offers free demos, the site doesn’t seem to mention price, meaning that businesses can’t be sure of ROI or other factors. Finally, Chase has been working with Persado for over two years, meaning that this achievement was long in the making.
- More than headlines: The July 2019 article that made waves among copywriters was headline-specific. Meaning that AI outperformed human-written headlines in several tests. But content is more than just headlines. Content writers are responsible for creating opinion pieces, writing entire landing pages, and ultimately creating engaging, relevant content that goes beyond just click-bait.
There is no doubt that AI-enabled copywriting software can give content writers and business more options and more insight, but that’s a far cry from being able to claim the jobs of creatives outright. Content writers still have a place in the marketing team and shouldn’t be intimidated by technology; they should, as with all technological advancements, look for ways to use it make their jobs easier and even help to challenge them and boost creativity.