Copywriter vs AI - Is ChatGPT Better At My Job Than Me?
Updated: Oct 30
Back in 2017, I went to the cinema to watch Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic dystopian Sci-Fi film that envisioned a world in which artificial life had become almost indistinguishable from real people. Brand recognition aside, the director Denis Villeneuve had been responsible for some of my absolute favourite films of the past few years (including the brilliantly smart Arrival as well as the intense and unsettling Enemy), so I was beyond excited to see what he had done with such an iconic franchise. As I sat and watched Ryan Gosling’s replicant detective grapple with the meaning of humanity, duty and identity – I couldn’t help but think: “This is the most visually stunning film I’ve ever seen. How did they do that CGI effect where Ana de Armas was projected over the top of Mackenzie Davis? The detail built into the world is immaculate. And it’s nice to see Harrison Ford give a shit about an acting role again.”
I’m sorry, did you expect that opening paragraph to end with some kind of point or moral that loosely relates to the topic of the blog? Well tough luck. It doesn’t. You know why? Because I’m a human being, with complex thoughts and feelings. Because there’s a spark inside of me that can process a piece of art and be moved beyond even my own understanding. Because I have blood in my veins and a mortal soul at the helm of the vile sack of meat I call a body. And if I want to start my blog with an irrelevant 160-word ramble about one of my favourite films, I’m going to bloody well do it.
An AI, on the other hand, would never do something so frivolous. If you go to ChatGPT right now and ask it to write a blog about the rise of artificial intelligence in copywriting, do you think it would kick things off with a risqué limerick? Or a jambalaya recipe? Would it do anything, ANYTHING, even a hair outside the box?
Well, let’s put it to the test.
Here is the introduction I’ve been using to promote myself across all professional channels:
“Hi there, my name is Vi (to rhyme with pie, rather than pee) and I’m the new Junior Copywriter at Welch Words. It’s an honoured title I fully intend to live up to - just as soon as I get out of bed. Oh, and don’t forget my morning coffee. After writing about video games for several years, I thought it might be nice to be able to afford shoes - so I’m branching out into the world of recruitment marketing! Want someone who can freshen up a careers website? Need a job posting with a bit more zing? I’m your (metaphorical) guy. If there’s a blog, a brand, a brilliant bio that you just need someone to put into the right words - it’s all within my wheelhouse. In fact, my house has so many wheels it’s become a fully mobile, roving ideas fortress. And it’s at your disposal.”
Now let’s see if an AI writing tool can do any better. I fed all the relevant information into a prompt – my job, my background in video game journalism, the kind of work I do – and asked ChatGPT to give me something around the same length as my current bio. After pondering for about .02 seconds, it spat this out:
“Vi, the dynamic Junior Copywriter at Welch Words, brings a fresh perspective to the world of recruitment marketing. With a background in video game journalism, Vi's storytelling skills and creativity shine through in the world of words.
Formerly navigating the virtual realms of video games, Vi has seamlessly transitioned into crafting job adverts, career sites, blog posts, and employer brands that captivate and engage. Their unique blend of digital savvy and a passion for the written word has made them an invaluable asset in the realm of recruitment marketing.
Vi's dedication to painting compelling narratives around job opportunities ensures that potential candidates not only see the details but feel the journey. With a knack for weaving stories that connect people with their dream careers, Vi continues to shape the future of talent acquisition, one well-crafted message at a time.”
So, how did the robot compare? Did the artificial writer do better than the real writer? Well, no. I’d argue it did significantly worse.
I do want to be fair here, it’s not like ChatGPT’s version has zero linguistic flair, but reading it, you instinctually feel something’s missing. For one thing, the opening paragraph immediately follows the phrase “the world of recruitment marketing” with “the world of words” - and then to top it off, mentions “the realm of recruitment marketing” and “realms of video games” in paragraph two. Whoa, slow down buddy, leave enough sentence structures for the rest of us. Some of the expressions used are also cringe-inducingly trite. Why say “brings a fresh perspective”, “creativity shines through”, or “shape the future” – when you could say “Vi flies in the face of copywriting convention like an AV-8B Harrier Jet, packed with enough creative firepower to blow a hole right through convention’s left nostril and out the back of its brittle, decrepit skull”.
That’s the thing. All AI can do is to gather writing done by real human hands, chop it up, and boil it down into a bland stew of averageness. By its very nature, artificial intelligence can’t create anything new or original. I’ve heard that lots of people see AI as simply one of the tools in their belt, something that can be used to give a rough structure, which can then be edited to make it sound more natural – but using AI for structure isn’t any better than using it for language. Structure is still one of the many creative avenues open to the imagination of a human writer.
When I was ten, my school showed me a website which featured a Christmas-themed version of the game ‘Mad Libs’, where you could type in a bunch of words including your name, your favourite food, your favourite game, et cetera – and then it would tell a story about you meeting Santa. Naturally, I filled the boxes with swear words and at ten years old, reading how the magical elves threw me a wonderful party with “wanking and drugs” was the funniest thing I ever saw. Unfortunately, my teacher did not agree.
See what I mean? Would an AI ever wrap up a blog with a completely unrelated and arguably inappropriate childhood anecdote?
Not unless you told it to. Using your creativity. As a human being.