11 Observations About ChatGPT as a Copywriter

April 11, 2023

In my other blog, I covered the basics of ChatGPT, but it turns out that I’ve got a fair bit more to say on the subject.

New tech fascinates me. I like playing with it and sometimes buying in as an early adopter — especially if it could help my work processes. I particularly like researching it and writing about it.

So, it’s about time these things converge and we have a little chat about AI from my perspective as a copywriter.

So, here are some of my observations and opinions based on what I’ve seen so far. There are 11 all up…

1. It’s Fun

It’s kind of cool having this thing you can boss around to do your bidding. Let’s say I want a poem about giant chickens that love to eat cats and roost on top of houses… voila!

Note that it kinda missed my detail about 3 verses and it didn’t exactly make sense at times. But nobody’s perfect.

My kids are finding it fun, too. The custom bedtime stories are definitely a hit and have inspired them to attempt their own story writing (old-school style). Of course, the stories are a bit odd sounding at times and lack the kind of pacing and detail that makes fiction enjoyable to read. But the novelty of instantly generating a story that includes your own ideas (and of course, your own family as characters) definitely helps you overlook the shortcomings.

I reckon teachers should try this in their classrooms and the kids would have so much fun coming up with ideas. It might even teach them a bit about how to follow a formula and structure ideas when writing their own stories.

2. It’s Creepy

You’ve probably heard the stories and conspiracy theories. ChatGPT has said some weird things about AI and humanity. And you can engage it in actual conversation that feels somewhat humanlike. For example, it will apologise for getting things wrong, which is hilarious to me. Sometimes I feel like I owe it a “thank you” and “please”, which I suppose isn’t such a bad idea — get on their good side before they take over the world and all…

Anyway, I tried to see how far I could push ChatGPT myself and did discover a few questions that stumped it. You can tell when it’s being pushed because it takes a long time to answer (much longer than creative writing tasks!).

Some people have also discovered jailbreak type prompts (kind of like inputting cheat codes into a computer game) that can get around content moderation and rules normally imposed on ChatGPT. So, that’s interesting. Not sure how long they’ll work, but Google ‘chatgpt jailbreaks’ if you’re curious…

You might’ve also heard about how OpenAI's GPT-4 pretended to be blind so that a human would help it solve a CAPTCHA. It reasoned that it should lie in order to complete a task, even though it was programmed not to lie to humans. I think that’s the creepiest thing I’ve come across so far. But I am fairly sure there’s more to come, so watch this space 👀

Just recently, Elon Musk and 1000+ others (including tech experts and academics) signed an open letter requesting that companies pause further AI training due to concerns that it could "represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources." Although that sounds wise, I suspect it’s just wishful thinking because the cat is very much out of the bag. Also… it’d be rather convenient for all these tech CEOs that have suddenly found themselves a little behind on AI 😂

3. It’s Useful

One of the things about copywriting is that it should be useful. I like my copy to include all the facts people need to buy. And I like my content writing (as in, blogs) to cover a topic in a decent amount of detail. AI can do that pretty well.

But how useful is it for creating a piece of writing that’s up to my usual standards (which, granted, are stupidly and often unnecessarily high)? I am genuinely curious to know this because if I’m going to be replaced, I want as much forewarning as possible. So, I’ve been trying my hardest to get the AI to replace me on a number of projects I’ve been working on in the last month or so. And I can tell you with confidence that my job is safe, although it will almost certainly open up some new possibilities for my work processes and systems.

4. It Requires Skills

Although ChatGPT is undeniably useful, it won’t be immediately useful to everyone.

You have to know what you can ask and how you should ask it in order to get good results. I reckon this will get easier over time (perhaps if/when more structure is introduced), but the people that get the best stuff from AI will know how to handle it.

It makes me think of Google search. Anyone can type in a Google search, but to get the best results, you need to know what keywords will lead you there.

5. It’s Robotic

I mean, what do you expect? Typically, sentence structure isn’t varied in a way that’s nice to read. Sentences, ideas, and paragraphs don’t link well or flow together. It spits out information, not music.

I’ve seen people get better results by asking for a specific tone of voice, but to make the content sound genuinely human and natural, it would still need a very thorough edit.

6. It’s Unoriginal

Since AI tools can only churn out a product that comes from what they can crawl on the web (which is a lot!), it isn’t really creating anything new. It can’t necessarily connect two (sometimes more) separate ideas together in a way that I can.

As a copywriter, I also have the capacity to bring in new information by interviewing subject matter experts and conducting surveys. I can also look at existing data in new ways and blend together topics to draw conclusions that AI just doesn’t have the capability to do. In other words, human writers can create truly original content — and indeed, if content writers want to stay relevant, they should be looking for more ways to be original.

7. I Don’t Trust It

The good thing about doing your own research (via search engines, blogs, books, and journals) is that you can look at a variety of sources and use those that are more reliable. But AI writers make those decisions on your behalf, choosing their information from sources that may or may not be trustworthy (and unbiased).

That’s partly why I’m leaning more and more towards original sources (in-house experts) or academic sources when writing articles, if I can. And I suspect this is a good practice for content writers in 2023 who are up against AI writing.

8. It’s Evolving

Even in the couple of weeks where I had this draft sitting in my folder of work-in-progress blogs or musings (many of which die a slow and painful death in that folder…), I had to add to it and revise it multiple times. Like… things are moving fast. Ya gotta keep tabs on this stuff every day right now if you want to be ahead of the crowd.

It feels a bit like the wild west… and that’s scary and exciting.

9. It’s Ethically… Interesting

AI brings up a number of interesting ethical considerations. For instance:

  • Bias – How does it navigate questions that have multiple answers and perspectives? Who does it favour? And is that determined by whichever side has more public content on the internet, or by whatever the AI’s creators deem as correct?
  • Transparency – How does the AI model actually make decisions about what information to share?
  • Copyright – Is it okay that AI uses other people’s publicly available content* (yours, mine, everyone!) to create stuff… all without even crediting the original maker/owner? And if Open Chat users blindly copy-paste that content and claim it as their own… is that ok?
  • Privacy – Thanks to its crawling habits, AI might just shine the light on information that’s not meant to go public. How can we protect information or remove it from AI once its out there?
  • Truthfulness – How do we know that the AI is telling the truth or that it's using truthful sources? At the moment, we have no way of knowing. It’s been factually wrong on multiple occasions that I’ve used it. For certain applications, this could certainly lead to harm.
  • Human impact – I think with a lot of new advancements, humans gain something, but they also lose something. Where does it leave us if people lose the ability to write because AI can do it for them? Well… I suspect they might lose some of their ability to think. But then, perhaps this is simply an existing trend that AI will only serve to speed up.

I’ll be interested to see how Open AI and other AI tools tackle these ethical issues without sacrificing what makes the tools worth using.

*Side note: apparently there is a code you can embed in your website to prevent your content from being used (although it’s a bit late for your older content). I am undecided about whether it’s a good idea to block AI crawlers at this stage. Will let you know if I develop an opinion on this!

10. It’s Inevitable

Copywriters don’t have to use ChatGPT yet — and as you can see from my other points, it’s a long way away from replacing good writers. But it certainly looks like ChatGPT will continue to get better at what it does, and will very likely become part of everyday life

You know what they say… if you can’t beat em, join em.

A few decades back, copywriters and marketers were at the cusp of something huge. The world wide web. And sure, many of them could continue to do things the way they had always done, working on print, TV, and radio ads. But for how long? Eventually, pretty much everyone had to accept the inevitability of the internet. Those that made the leap sooner most likely got a headstart on all the new opportunities that came along. Speaking of which…

11. It’s An Opportunity

AI chatbots are only going to get more and more useful — so I think there’s definitely opportunities if you’re open to them. Already, there are ways that smart copywriters, content writers, and businesses can use AI tools to improve their efficiency. And I suspect it won’t be long before most freelancers and businesses have little choice but to adapt.

A white robot looking up at the camera

Speaking of which… I have some more to say on that. If you’re interested, check out my blog where I speculate on how ChatGPT will impact copywriting and SEO.

By the way, comments on this are welcome — let me know your own observations and thoughts! But please disclose if you’re using ChatGPT to generate them 😆

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