Artificial Intelligence. Whether you think it’s Wall-E or the Terminator, it’s here to stay. So we took one for a test drive. Here’s what we found.
The writer is dead, long live the machine
As a video production company, we hammer out a lot of written content. This can take the form of scripts for explainer videos, pitches and briefs, social media copy and articles such as this one. But no matter how much you generate, there will always be more to type up. And it has to be thought out, engaging, unique.. er.. *quickly checks a thesaurus* ..witty, and maybe most importantly, human.
That being said, there is the adage, “work smarter, not harder.” If this new technology has the ability to make my job easier, then why wouldn’t I grasp it with both hands? As a writer, I’m not immune to asking for a machine’s help. Which you can see evidence of, due to the fact that everything here is spelled correctly. So I embarked on an experiment. Trialling a program to see what an AI powered article or script would look like. To analyse the strengths as well as the limitations. The program in question is the AI copywriter Jasper (formerly known as Jarvis) and the results were fairly surprising.
Navigating the platform itself was quite straightforward. Writers aren’t always naturally coders but with a few videos, it was fairly easy to pick up. Another little win for the power of video there. Anyway, after I’d punched in the tone we were going for and some prompts, it was time for the AI to generate some sweet content. Which it did in a matter of seconds:
“Explainer videos are a great way to get your message across. They’re short, easy to understand, and engaging. Plus, they can help keep your audience interested in what you have to say.”
That right there? Spot on. The grammar is decent, the tone of voice feels human and the points being made are accurate. I’m not too proud to admit, when I saw this, my eyebrows raised and a “huh” escaped my lips. So I prompted the AI to continue.
“If you’re looking for a way to get your message across to your audience, explainer videos are the perfect solution. These short, animated videos are easy to understand and engaging, which means your audience will be more likely to stick around until the end. Plus, explainer videos can help you keep your audience interested in what you have to say. If you’re looking for a way to improve your business, consider using explainer videos. You won’t regret it.”
Not awful but definitely a few red flags. Firstly, you may have noticed that the penultimate line of that paragraph is essentially identical to the one it wrote earlier. And then it tries to end the article in a conversational tone with “you won’t regret it.” Odd choice but that can be tweaked.
Carving up the cake
At this point, the AI copywriter’s cadence felt like it was winding down, having produced 100 words. Now, anyone who’s experienced this and similar software, will know you need to keep the prompts going to offer real-time course correction. And up until this point, the majority of what had been produced wasn’t bad, so I gave it a nudge. From here, things spiralled.
Like an enthusiastic parent making winding hand signals to their child, I encouraged the AI to keep talking. But, much like that hypothetical child, the program started to panic as its archive of information came back wanting.
“Explainer videos are a great way to get your message across to your audience. They’re short, animated videos that are perfect for getting your point across quickly and easily.”
Again, mirroring the first sentence. Another prompt, another deadend.
“Explainer videos are perfect for getting your point across to your audience. They’re also a great way to engage them and keep them interested in what you have to say.”
After several loops with a handful of words being shuffled around, I started fresh. In fact, I started fresh 14 times. I took a handful of angles and concepts to run with but eventually, the AI would cotton on that we were talking about video marketing. And then it would run to its toolbox to pull out the same hammer, every single time.
“Explainer videos are short, animated videos that are used to explain a product or service.”
“Animated explainer videos are a great way of conveying complex information quickly and clearly.”
“Explainer videos are a great way to communicate complex ideas in a simple, easy-to-understand way. Sign up today.”
The same thing, over and over again, with minor variations. Not necessarily wrong but inappropriate for a long-form narrative flow.
“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that” – Hal 9000
Taking a break from blogs and articles, I turned my attention to scripts. Which, effectively, is like failing to pick up a log ‘cause it’s too heavy, then trying to pull an oak tree out of the ground. But I was curious if the AI would fare better with a different format. Spoilers: it did not.
I took the example of a fictional client and fed in the sort of information we unearth in a Discovery call. The program had a think about it and tried to sum up a few points in a pithy way:
“When it comes to [brand], there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Some stores respond better to fun.
You want to choose clothes that say who you are.
So if you’re in need of identity that lasts, we have the answer.
Thanks for watching!”
The final experiment
Appreciating that I was essentially asking too much, I turned my gaze to social media posts. This one was interesting because the format was not only different but the programming aspect changed to a PAS framework. I.e. Problem, Agitate, Solution. In other words, I would funnel in all the information and the AI would reformat it for me, in a pleasing manner.
Problem: You have an incredible product but you can’t seem to get your message across in a way that resonates with potential customers.
Agitate: There are various methods available to you but they can be expensive and time consuming to produce. It’s important you are understood and your message is clear.
Solution: Curveball Media can help you create an animated explainer video that excels. Our team of experts will work with you to develop a video that tells your story in a clear and compelling way.
Fairly simple stuff. And here’s what it thought I asked for:
“Your product is great. But your service doesn’t work. Then you should create a Facebook page that does the job right.
For starters, you’ll need an animated explainer video on your page to give people more info about what you offer and how it benefits them. And for just $XX/month, Curveball Media can help you create one that’s top-notch and on-brand.
We’re experts in creating explainer videos that get your message across effectively, and we’ll work with you to develop a video that tells your story in a clear and compelling way. Plus, our team can handle all the production work so you don’t have to worry about a thing.
So what are you waiting for? Let Curveball Media help you create an animated explainer video that will help you sell your product!”
Garbage in, garbage out
The ‘recipe templates’ – as Jasper calls them – aren’t necessarily bad, they’re just not a great fit for us. So by breaking the text down to an outline – essentially a bullet-pointed list – it highlights the potential limitations. Obviously this can be adjusted by the author but how much time is saved that way? Is it not faster to write from scratch, rather than constantly explaining to the computer what you’re trying to say? But then I can easily say that because I have the luxury of being a writer. This all comes quite naturally to me, thanks to decades of experience.
Removing ego, I can see how this AI has the potential to make life a lot easier. It is, ultimately, designed as an aid. I’m currently writing this on a computer, which would anger typewriter purists. Which would in turn anger illuminated manuscript purists. And so on. But as a tool with the intention of making certain aspects easier and more accessible, I can absolutely see the benefit. As it could also serve as a good starting block or multiple idea generator. But never the final refined piece.
Here be dragons
To close, however, I would offer a word to the wise. So many companies rely on SEO and Google rankings – ourselves included. And whenever the almighty Google makes a change, the tremors are felt far and wide.
Very recently Google updated its core algorithm – given the odd acronym MUM. And the initial reaction was one of mild concern, shall we say. Namely because MUM affects AI-generated content, depending on the writing tools you’ve used. Say you created reams of content with a GPT-3 writing tool, you are more likely to be penalised because the output is too robotic sounding.
But even if the software you’re using sounds human, you still have to contend with the people pulling the strings, who ultimately disagree. Case in point, Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller was recently interviewed about the company’s approach to AI written content. And to put it frankly, he gave a polite response but the conclusion was clear: “we would consider that spam.”
So, what did we learn? Well, for the time being, my job appears to be safe. At least for now. But fellow writers, ignore what’s possible at your own peril.