Why I’m Not Scared About AI Copywriters Replacing Me

By Matt Mundy

Lead Copywriter

In the same way a digital tool can’t make the designer, an AI tool won’t make the copywriter.

Stephen King said, writing is telepathy: a thought travelling from one mind to another via the medium of paper

But recently I’ve been wondering, what if that thought didn’t originate from a human? What if it was brought into being in the mind of an Artificial Intelligence? Would that be a threat to human writers – or an opportunity?   

A tale of truths

Most of us read thousands of words a day – from ads to novels, to blogs and WhatsApps – and all of these words need writing. This isn’t going to changeBut, if you were to ask someone about their opinion on Artificial Intelligence taking over jobs, they’d generally have one of several reactions.  

The first is outright denial: “How could AI possibly take over when ‘self-driving Teslas are mounting curbs and rear-ending Toyotas all over California. 

The second is a more socialistic shunning: “Well, if we replace jobs with AI without making new jobs and retraining people, then were leaving them and their families out to dry.” 

The third is capitalistic acceptance: “Yep, machines have been replacing people’s jobs at scale since the industrial revolution.”  

And finally, the outright utopian: “Hopefully one day we can build a society in which none of us will need to work.”  

When it comes to the idea of AI taking over the jobs of copywriters – many of my fellow writers will likely fall into the first of the above reactions (and for good reason). Whereas I myself have flitted between a few. 

Recently, however, I’ve noticed a number of ads, predominantly on social media, promoting one specific AIpowered copywriting application that is capable of writing all the copy you could possibly need.  

These claims got me questioning the tools capability, and through investigating, I had to face up to the possible reality of an AI-driven copywriting market in the not-so-distant future  and what I found left me feeling strangely hopeful. 

Grim reading

Just take a quick moment to read this passage from the 2nd section of Franz Kafka’s, The Metamorphosis: 

'As soon as Gregor was alone, he began to feel ill. Turning around was an effort. Even breathing was an effort. A thin stream of blood trickled from his flank down his fuzzy belly. He wanted to crawl away from it, but there was no place to go.' ... 

Okay, I lied. That paragraph was written by an AI after it read the first section of The Metamorphosis. 

Holy sh*t I’m screwed I’m a writer, this machine is already so convincing, and technology is only going to get exponentially better!” – this was more or less my initial reaction. 

But the reality is that the above passage is the very limit of this tool’s capability. This kind of ‘narrow’ AI is able to mimic tone and continue on with a basic style and narrative, but ican by no means write a novel (not a good one at least). Something like that would require a much more ‘general’ intelligence 

This was demonstrated in the first ever Sci-Fi Novel written by an AI: 

'My mind is clouded by memories of strange, floating buildings. These are not necessarily labeled as reality. It's impossible to walk around and not be here. It's like walking through a dream or a fog.

"F8th! It's time for us to leave!" a voice says.

"Leave what?" I ask behind me.

"We," it says.

"We," it laughs'

This novel, by OpenAI’s text generator, is called Beautiful Incoherence, a name which unfortunately appears only to be half true. 

But what about copywriting? 

I-Email

JPMorgan tested AI copywriting out in some real-world marketing. It used an AI writing tool to tweak email headers and subject lines and even display ads – replacing words or removing them entirely and writing new sentences.  

Not only did JPMorgan send these emails to prospective borrowers, it ran them alongside a similar set of emails that were written by human copywriters.  

The result? the AI outperformed human writers across the board: generating 47 weekly applications for credit compared with only 25 for the humans.

I’ll start packing my things, I guess. 

But what if...

It is important to highlight that these AI tools aren’t actually originating content. Even the AI tools that wrote the longer form copy that JPMorgan used in the above test are only regurgitating similar information they have seen elsewhere.  

Fundamentally, every AI must be ‘trained’ on certain content for it to function as intended, and even then, their intelligence only extends so far. 

This narrowness is one of the core limitations. 

Right now I feel confident saying that these tools are categorically not doing the job of a copywriter. They are not combining insights and strategy with creative ideation to write content that powerfully serves a specific purpose.

Matt Mundy

But let’s, for argument’s sake, assume that they will; that in our lifetimes, AI writing tools will be able to create reams of original, wonderful content on any subject. And all any marketer would have to do is punch in their target market, audience, the subject of whatever they’re promoting, and maybe some pain points for good measure. Then, BAM, you’d instantly have twenty serviceable LinkedIn posts, emails, or blogs – whatever you want.  

Then what? 

The Photoshop Conundrum

Did Photoshop kill the designer or did it empower them? It seems to me that a more likely scenario for the copywriter is one that we have seen play out for our art director colleagues – that the proliferation of new technology will change our role for the better.  

New AI tools automate processes that art directors would once have had to work through manually – enhancing both the scope and the output of what they can now do project-by-project.  

These writing tools will likely act in a similar manner, doing a huge chunk of the lower value, run-rate stuff for writers like me – the copy that needs creating once all the clever meaning has been developed.  

Writing 20 LinkedIn posts or emails? Well, I don’t mind AI doing this for me (I’ll definitely have to edit them though). 

But in the same way a digital tool can’t make the designer, an AI tool won’t make the copywriter. 

Why I'm not scared

Think of a striking marketing campaign, the first one that comes to mind (I’ll do it too).  

Got one? Is it a specific creative you remember most? A hilarious bit in a podcast break? Maybe it was a concept you found particularly clever, or one that profoundly impacted you? 

The campaign that bobbed to the surface for me was Pepsi’s hidden logo: ‘proof’ that it goes better with burgers. It is a great example of a clear message working effortlessly with a clever creative concept 

So why does it work?  

There’s a lot of marketing jargon we could unpack here, but ultimately it works because it’s human.  

It’s human in its familiarity and in the memories it evokes with the close-ups of scrunched up takeaway bags. It’s human in its humour and in its clever visualisation of the Pepsi logo. It’s bound together with a simple, clear message crafted with the human ‘meaning’ that their copywriters were tasked with championing: Pepsi might not be on the menu, but it goes better. 

If AI does anything for the copywriter, it will empower us to take a step back from the millstone and grow to become a director of the meaning behind the copy. Something that is already fundamental to great writing. 

The sad truth is that it’s possible there will be fewer opportunities for content writers if small businesses take up AI writing tools for the cost benefit. But this is something we won’t know until it happens.  

 For many copywriters, AI will enable them to work both more strategically, delivering more sophisticated campaigns in shorter timeframes; and more creatively – being able to invest time in developing an in-depth understanding of both the industry and the humans their copy is telepathizing to. 

Anyway. I’m off to write twenty staggeringly tailored and insightful ABM emails.  

About the Author
Matt writes copy that draws on a deep understanding of target audience and how people engage with content – entertaining, educating, elevating brands and, ultimately, selling. Experienced in writing for broad markets including tech, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Matt’s focus is on global B2B technology.

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