Useful Tool or Career Death Knell? A Battle-Hardened Copywriter Navigates the AI Revolution

By Jason Bryant, Senior Copywriter

First, let’s get this out of the way. This post was not generated by ChatGPT.

Did I use the ubiquitous tool while creating it? Absolutely. Could it have generated a full article with a click or two? Sure. But in a minute, I’ll explain why (a) that’s a bad idea and (b) how writers like me are using the program to improve their work rather than replace it. But first, how did we suddenly get here?

Artificial intelligence, or AI, with all its warnings, benefits, promises and fears, has been an integral part of our lives for decades. But it wasn’t until recently that everyone on the planet was talking about it. The breakthrough occurred late last year with the release of ChatGPT, a clean, simple and scary AI chatbot that allows anyone with a keyboard to refine and steer a conversation toward pretty much anything they desire.

I’ve Got a Bad Feeling about This
As someone who thinks, writes and creates for a living, did this tech breakthrough concern me? Not exactly — it terrified me. The phrase that kept running though my head: “First, they came for the blue-collar jobs, and I said nothing . . .” As you’re likely aware, ChatGPT can write complex computer programs, essays, articles and even poetry with ease.

And it’s not just writers quaking in their boots. For visual artists, products like Stable Diffusion and Midjourney are already creating layouts, artwork, and paintings with only a few clicks. Perhaps Skynet from the movie The Terminator was more science and less fiction than we thought.

Limitations: What ChatGPT Cannot Do
Good news for humans: there are vital parts of the creation process that ChatGPT cannot do (yet). The biggest being that it cannot create original thoughts or ideas. It’s essentially Google on steroids, combing the internet to cobble together existing online information into a single concise narrative.

In my role as an advertising creative, each client I write for has a specific tone and voice that I work very hard to cultivate. With ChatGPT, there’s no unique voice or nuance. Basic commands of “make warmer, make funnier, keep formal,” etc., work OK, but it all ends up tasting like the same soup. Fluent, well-written and persuasive, yes. But also formulaic, uninteresting, simplistic and tropey.

Clients count on their ad agency to give them a unique voice. To be innovators rather than imitators. To do things that have never been done before. Currently, AI programs like ChatGPT can’t do any of that stuff. Is that likely to change given our current rate of progress? Probably. But let’s try and keep a little optimism for the human race.

Benefits: What ChatGPT Does Well
Despite being an existential threat to humanity, I use the program often whenever writing and creating. I’m sure that different writers use the program in different ways, but here are the top three ways it helps me produce better, faster work:

  1. Research and Brainstorming
    What used to take hours through a Google search can be accomplished in minutes with ChatGPT. Let’s say I need to develop a new slogan for a finance firm. My first step is usually researching what similar firms across the globe are saying. What works? What doesn’t? Where’s the empty space for us to fit in? I still conduct plenty of competitor research on Google, but now my initial approach is to ask ChatGPT to give me 200 slogans for a finance firm that specializes in XYZ. Do I receive anything worth a damn? Not really. As mentioned, ChatGPT is terribly obtuse. However, even though I won’t find anything directly usable, it quickly gets the creative juices flowing and sets me off in directions I might not have thought of otherwise. Whether it’s headlines, social media posts or paragraphs, ChatGPT will spit out volumes of content in an instant, giving you a solid computer-generated baseline to add your brilliance to.
  2. “Make this sentence better”
    Ad writers can be meticulous when it comes to their copy. Every word of every sentence is chosen for a specific reason. Everything has a purpose. However, sometimes we get stuck on a particular sentence that has all the ingredients we want but fails to come together as smoothly as we’d like. In such cases, I simply copy or paste the troublesome sentence into ChatGPT and instruct it to rewrite it in 10 different ways. Then I’ll ask for 10 more variations, and another 10 after that. By then, hopefully a missing piece or phrase is revealed that I can insert to polish my sentence. A thesaurus has always been a copywriter’s best friend. This principle remains the same, but with ChatGPT, instead of receiving single word options, you have access to a range of options for phrases, grammar constructions and sentence structures. It’s a perfect tool for overcoming writer’s block.
  3. Proofing and Researching
    This benefit is self-evident, but ChatGPT serves as an excellent proofreader and a remarkable research assistant. What it lacks in originality and creativity, it more than compensates with technical proficiency and grammar policing. For those of us who entered this profession to make cool stuff, ChatGPT’s technical prowess allows us to allocate more time to focus on what matters most (making cool stuff).

That’s Certainly Not All . . .
ChatGPT has plenty of other tricks up its sleeve, such as pinpointing the right hashtags, optimizing SEO, and formatting changes, among others. While none of the aforementioned benefits grant writers the magic ability to create a powerful piece of content, they can save a considerable amount of time and effort. Is that time and effort worth the very real threat posed by the advancement of AI to society? Probably not. But the genie isn’t going back into the bottle, and if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

So, until our robot overlords come to take us away, they can at least assist us in delivering work faster, better and stronger than before. Thanks, Skynet.


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