What does ChatGPT mean for copywriting?

Nick Harland
February 2023

Will ChatGPT replace copywriting, or is it another false dawn for AI copywriters? Let's take a look.

ChatGPT is good at copywriting. In some cases, it’s very good. And if it’s this good before the app has properly launched, it’s probably safe to assume it’s only going to get better. That’s because every day you enter a prompt into ChatGPT, it’s learning and improving from it.

(That’s correct, reader. All of those things you’ve been feeding ChatGPT with to try and force an error are actually helping it to improve. Thanks a lot.)

So yes. It’s good. But the million dollar question that we all want to know the answer to: what does it mean for copywriting? Will it replace copywriters entirely, or just serve as a useful writing tool? And why does it break when you enter ‘SolidGoldMagikarp’ into it?

All the answers to those questions and more in this blog, which was proudly written by a human.

What is ChatGPT?

Just in case your New Year’s Resolution was to start a new life under a rock, ChatGPT is a new AI-powered chatbot developed by OpenAI. You simply give it a prompt - such as ‘write me an article about ChatGPT’ - and the bot will spit out an article about ChatGPT. It can also write code, answer exam questions, write in the style of a famous celebrity or company, and pretty much everything in between.

It’s easily the best AI copywriter that has appeared so far, and since the app is only in beta stage, we can only assume it’s going to get better and better as it learns more fancy words. Plenty of people are excited - but plenty more are more worried that it’s going to take their jobs. Copywriters included.

Let’s firstly take a look at ChatGPT’s most impressive features.

What ChatGPT is good at

Sounding like a human

ChatGPT very rarely sounds like an AI chatbot. Its responses are so human-like, so natural, and actually very well-written most of the time. To tell you the truth, it writes in better English than most human copywriters do. That is the first thing that strikes you when you try it out, and it’s one of ChatGPT’s biggest strengths.

Remembering your previous responses

One of the (many) things that sets ChatGPT apart from other chatbots is its ability to retain information. If you feed it a few different prompts in the same conversation, it will remember those prompts in future responses. It doesn’t ‘reset’ after every prompt. That means you can have a fairly authentic conversation with ChatGPT.

Not offending people

It doesn’t take long for people to start misusing these platforms, of course. And most of the time, people will start getting them to spurt out racist and/or offensive bile as proof that it doesn’t work. Google’s autocomplete function has mostly eradicated issues of that nature, but when it first appeared it was littered with offensive search suggestions.

ChatGPT seems to have avoided most of those issues. If you try and get it to say something offensive (which OBVIOUSLY we haven’t done), it generally takes a step back and avoids saying anything polemic.

Giving balanced responses

ChatGPT’s most impressive feature is perhaps not its tone of voice, but its ability to provide a balanced answer to most prompts you give it. It tends to avoid controversial statements or strong opinions, instead offering both sides of the argument and letting you decide your opinion for yourself.

Short-form copy

For a certain number of words, perhaps up to about 350, ChatGPT is fucking great. The English is very good, it doesn’t sound like a bot, and the final results are impressive. 

When we asked ChatGPT to write some landing page or email copy, the results were seriously good. And when we asked it to write a blog, the answer was too short for a proper blog, but its answer was certainly a good starting point for a full length blog.

ChatGPT’s limitations

The quality goes downhill after a few paragraphs

Whilst ChatGPT is generally very impressive for the first few hundred words, the quality definitely diminishes after a few paragraphs. It kinda starts losing its way; the English gets less precise, the thinking gets a little muddled. So for a copywriter, it’s great for short-form stuff, but not so great for longer form content.

It’s not always factually correct

Although ChatGPT has already passed some academic exams, there have been examples all over the web of the bot giving factually incorrect or plain wrong answers

When copywriting, it’s more important than ever to make sure your work is factually correct and backed up by reliable sources. If it’s not, you’re no better than a bot.

It doesn’t give an opinion (because it doesn’t have one)

We’ve mentioned that ChatGPT is excellent at giving a well-balanced, thoughtful response to your prompts. It gives both sides of the argument and feeds them back to you. But that’s where it ends.

What ChatGPT fails to do is finish the story, as it were. It doesn’t conclude its argument or give you its opinion, because it doesn’t have one. (That’s because it’s a robot, remember). So it will always leave us feeling a little incomplete.

No tone of voice

You can ask ChatGPT to write in someone’s tone of voice - someone asked it to write a song in the style of Nick Cave, for example. But it couldn’t write something in the style of Big Bang Copy, because we’re not famous enough. Blah. Generally then, its tone of voice is quite generic and quite web-friendly. It doesn’t have a unique tone of voice, and that’s not ideal.

It still, sometimes, sounds like a bot

Look, ChatGPT is an amalgamation of everything that has ever been written on the internet. So it stands to reason that it will end up sounding like someone, or something else, eventually. It may sound impressive, but it is still rehashing arguments, grammatical structures and facts found elsewhere on the web.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to make sure your writing doesn’t sound like a bot. Stop fitting into this generic, one-size-fits-all tone of voice that you always see on the internet. Write with personality, and you’ll always stay one step ahead of AI copywriters.

What does it mean for copywriting?

So what’s it all about, Alfie?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: ChatGPT is good. Nothing we’ve seen so far has changed our mind about that - particularly when this is only a beta version of the real thing. 

Can you remember how terrible Google Translate was when it first came out? Think of how far that has come in the intervening years, and you start to get a sense of how good ChatGPT could be. As for right now?

Short form copywriting is under threat

Right now, we absolutely think ChatGPT spells danger for short-form copywriting of around 300 words or less. The copy is clear, concise and - unless it’s writing about an extremely niche topic - very very passable. At the very least it can be used to give you a solid first draft which you can tweak afterwards.

If you write good long-form content, this shouldn’t be a threat

But ChatGPT falls down on longer form copy. Although it gives balanced answers to prompts, it’s rarely in-depth enough to give you a comprehensive answer to anything. And the quality of its writing seems to start diminishing after a few paragraphs. 

If you’re a good blog writer and an expert on your topic, there’s no way ChatGPT should be writing anything as good as you. At best, it can be a useful writing prompt to get you going.

The key is to be unique

Ultimately, though, it all comes down to one thing. ChatGPT is a chatbot. A good one, but a chatbot all the same. And because it draws all of its material from human-generated copy, it’s never going to sound truly unique.

Unlike chatbots, every human has a unique way of talking. We all have our own mannerisms, turns of speech and words we use more than others. They all combine to form our own, unique, tone of voice. A good copywriter can bring that out in their writing.

If you have the skill to bring out that unique tone of voice in your writing, you’ll always stay one step ahead of writing bots. The key is to be unique

Not to make this all about us, but this is kinda what we’ve been saying all along. Our whole raison d’etre is using copywriting to establish a unique tone of voice and differentiate you from the competition. Given the rise of the machines, that’s now a more valuable skill than ever.

Nick Harland