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AI Is a Tool for Creativity, Not a Threat to Copywriters

Advertising Agency
London, UK
If you are concerned about AI writing your job away, think instead about how it can help you, says RAPP UK's Al Mackie

It’s easy to feel threatened by technology (or anything for that matter) when you don’t understand how you can use it to help yourself. One of these cases is writing for creative departments in agencies. I can practically hear the intake of breath from the copywriters reading this.

Will it take your job? Not if you have a decent leader. Can it make your work and life a bit easier? It can, but you need to learn how to use it well. 

There are some sterling examples of copy written by machine (I assure you this has not been written by machine so you have to deal with my specific idiosyncrasies). Take this post by Jarvis  - it’s cleverly designed to not reveal the author until you’re a few paragraphs in.

It’s a little questionable in that it recommends not letting readers know that it was written by machine - something that ethically is not a great idea - but as an exercise that is interesting, part of reading is that we bring our own knowledge and assumptions to what we read. Given that machine written articles, though more common, are not the norm, we assume it’s been written by a human and we read through that lens. 

If creativity and AI is your jam, you might want to read Marcus du Sautoy’s ‘The Creativity Code: Art and Innovation in the Age of AI. It’s a good primer for creatives looking to explore the tech without getting bogged down. Du Sautoy explores not only how creativity works for humans, but whether AI is a threat or a boon to what creatives can do. No spoilers, but it might help us be more imaginative than we thought we could be. The rest you can read for yourself, or feed to your AI writing machine to give you a precis. 

Writing programs are spread through all sorts of pursuits these days. From the creation to an A-grade academic paper to poetry and some outlines of conversation. While the former can be cause for concern around learning, the latter is likely to be more of a parlour trick. 

Helpful machines

If you are concerned about AI writing your job away, think instead about how it can help you. Imagine those days when you have the topic in hand and the muses are with you, text flows from your mind, through to your laptop and brilliant new copy arrives, it’s hitting the deadline, on the word count and it’s a great read. Wonderful right? 

Now think of that blinking cursor on a blank page, with the same deadline, no time to research and little grasp of what you need to know to get into flow state. You’re stuck. It’s sometimes easier to thrash against something that is wrong than to stare at a blank page, so you write anything, get notes down to make a start. But this takes some time. There are a number of writing technologies that can help with this including Jarvis, Copysmith, Ryter and more. The point is not to allow these programs to do your job for you, but to get them to remove that blank page and give you a start that you can edit and play with. 

Once you have your content you can also allow programs to help you target it and make the most of what you have. Netflix is a prime example of this - the thumbnail images you see when choosing something to watch are adapted to agree with your past choices and present a more appealing image that you might choose next. 

At RAPP we use Adaptive Persuasion and Psychographic Targeting. These are systems that use data like spending habits, social network interactions and clicked links to learn how to reach people with the right message at the right time and provide personalization that more consumers are looking for and expecting from brand interaction. Imagine trying to do this manually, to find, size, and rewrite material in thousands of iterations and then bring the right one to the right person at the right time. It would be an exercise in madness, but it’s a way that we can leverage AI to do something very helpful and allow us to move on to work on other creative and meaningful tasks.

Learning to use these programs is easy enough but it does take time and investment to use them effectively, so that should be factored into workflows when introducing AI processes. Finally, be sure that you are being clear with your audience. In some cases the use of AI to offer options is now taken for granted, but people are still rightly uncomfortable when AI is used to trick them into decisions without their knowledge. We still have an ethical duty to our clients and the wider public. 

The key to using these technologies is not to think they are a silver bullet. Human involvement in the creative process is still vital to making engaging and memorable campaigns, but it can be used to do the heavy lifting and still offer room for us to make the important final decisions. The future of agencies is to find the right combination of human and technological creativity. 

Al Mackie is chief creative officer at RAPP UK

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