“Aren’t you threatened by AI?”

“As a copywriter, AI is having a big impact on you, isn’t it?”

“Of course, your industry is dead now, thanks to AI.”

Those are the kind of comments that people keep making to me.

My answer is: “No. It doesn’t affect me in the least.”

AI might be replacing some low-level content writing, but it doesn’t compete with proper copywriting. That’s the kind of copywriting I do.

AI might be affecting entry-level writers but – after 40+ years as a copywriter, 23 of them freelancing – I’m lucky to have built a profile and a reputation such that clients come to me because I’m me.

Happily, not one of my regulars has even hinted at the idea of an AI replacement floating across their mind.

It’s simply not comparing like with like. Not like comparing apples with pears. More like comparing apples with whatever is the thing that’s most opposite to apples. Zebras, maybe?

Let’s go with that. AI is to proper copywriting as apples are to zebras. (And I’d like to see if you can get an AI to come up with an original thought like that. Without too much prompting.)

Disclaimer: I know there’s more to AI than Chat GPT, but that’s what people are referencing when they discuss AI with me.

AI copywriting v AI content writing

So what’s the difference? In a way, all copy is content and all content is copy, right?

I admit, copywriting and content writing overlap, and not everyone agrees with me about exactly when, where and how. All the people in the world didn’t sit down one Tuesday afternoon over a cuppa, and decide on a definition.

So here’s mine.

Copy always has an objective. It’s about influencing the reader to do what you want them to do.

For example, it might be to press a ‘buy now’ button, book a call, download something, or sign up for something.

Once we’ve established the most wanted response, copywriters work backwards from there.

Copy is more about the hard-sell. It’s easier to measure ROI. It costs more. And you get ownership of the copyright (with an r) once you’ve paid the invoice in full.

Oh, and there’s (usually) a lot of research before we write a word. We have to understand the client’s core messages. The competitors’ positioning. And the customers’ psychology. (That’s why Tom Albrighton calls it ‘copythinking’.)

On the other hand, content is more about a soft-sell.

It’s about adding value and demonstrating expertise. About making web pages ‘sticky’. It can also be about generating text for search engines, rather than writing to convert human site visitors into leads.

AI can generate miles of content, quickly and cheaply. It doesn’t mean it’s any good though. And there’s no guarantee that it’s based on truth, nor that the content it’s generated doesn’t contain someone else’s intellectual property.

The AI challenge

Here’s something else that people have started saying to me (at least two, so far):

“It would be interesting to have a battle between you and a generative AI.”

My answer is: “I can’t compete with AI for speed and cost, but I can certainly compete with it for quality. I’ll ask the right questions and fill in any gaps. I’ll write in a way that expresses the unique flavour of the brand, makes it stand out from the competition, and triggers the target audience to respond. I’ll add personality and humanity. I’ll produce something truly original, not something regenerated from existing copy that’s been sourced elsewhere.”

My only problem is that I’m almost always fully booked with work for paying clients, so I don’t know when I’d be able to find the time for the fight.

What this means to you

I know it’s improving all the time, but AI is still a tool. It’s artificial, but it isn’t intelligent. It’s software. (Some would say it’s plagiarism software.) As with all software, GIGO = garbage in, garbage out.

You have to be careful about the words you use to describe it, so as not to grant it too much autonomy.

It’s not ‘clever’. It’s not a robot, and it’s not a legal entity.

AI can be a useful starting point, but – in most cases –  it’s not good enough to rely on for the finished article.

As always, there’s a time:cost:quality trade-off.

Clients who want something quick and cheap might choose AI – but those would never have been my clients anyway.

Clients who want quality come to me, and stay with me. Thankfully 🙂

I can’t be replaced by a robot*.

*Not yet, anyway.

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