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It’s NOT only words

It’s NOT only words

Recently I read an article in the ET Brand Equity today; it posed a question titled: Will AI soon replace copywriters? I could not resist answering.

Here is the context: The article referred to the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in which an AI system solved the final puzzle more than two minutes faster than the top human contestant. It left the competitors of both the state amazed and dismayed.

Amazed I am, yes. Technology has changed more in the last couple of years than humans have in the last hundreds. And more is yet to come. It is entirely possible for machines to do better word crunching than humans are, same as the computers, which took over many years ago. It can even be conjured that machines would be able to put a label on emotions being evoked in the reader by combining a set of keywords and mapping it to large generalized sample size. Already, we are aware of algorithms that crawl our data and read our state of mind and its whereabouts. Our lives are now like the proverbial open books – our search history, social media, buyer categorization – everything is out in the open.

This pervasive power of technology does lead one to question - if jobs like those of copywriters can be done by AI. The foundation of copywriting is based on words and their emotional appeal. If technology can do both – know words better than humans and interpret emotions like them – then it is a recipe for replacement. While logically compelling, it will be too simplistic to believe that AI can do copywriting for us.

Let’s recall some ads that have stolen our hearts. Recent ads like Facebook Rizwan ad, Ericsson’s one black coffee ad, Vodafone’s pug series, Cadbury girl ad, Happy dent’s sparkling white teeth ad, Asian Paint’s “har ghar kuchh kehta hai” ad. Amul girl quips until date ads. What’s the probability that even the most evolved robots could have written these ads? Zilch.

The reason lies in the bifurcation of our brains.

Technology is well equipped to appeal to our left brains. It can spin the best words together to sell a camera on google ad words. It can even decide the best and customized media mix for each online consumer. It can go to the extent of indicating which emotional chords to stir and why. It can create the most vivid graphics to add credibility to the story. But it can’t write the story itself.

That’s where the right brains are needed. A significant part of the brain could not be broken down to cause-and-effect algorithms. The human mind cannot be derived with the help of formulas, because it would be changing every second, and will easily defy analytics based on past data. It takes a creative mind, and not a logical machine, to think that one sibling will soil his clothes to please another. And that people would be amused to see chewing gum related to lighting issues.

Copywriting, unlike the Spelling Bee, is not limited to words. It is the feeling that goes behind stitching them, and the emotions they can evoke afterward. Things that machines do not, and hopefully won’t ever, know.