Earlier this year, We Are Pi launched Just Say It, a book of copywriting advice from the best in the game, collected by Creative Director, Taylor Black.
To make the book, Taylor reached out to some of the greatest writers in the industry – Creative Directors, CCOs, Comedians & Partners at the world’s top advertising agencies – asking them to share their prime pieces of writing wisdom.
One of those writers was Rick Chant, Co-Founder & ECD at WE ARE Pi, who today shares some of his exclusive thoughts with us on the anxiety a lot of copywriters are feeling right now thanks to the advent (and potential threat) of AI.
As the computer ushered out the drawing boards at our architecture school in the late 90's, our professor was keen to remind us that "the machine won't do the work for you. It's just a tool. Think of it like a plumber sees a plunger."
I believe this rings true with the introduction of any innovation, in any field. We must think of them as tools to help us be better. Tools to advance the way we think, imagine new possibilities and in some cases revolutionize. For writers, Ai Language Models are the newest tool to arrive. They won't stop us writing but we may need a bigger toolbox.
As an example, let's look at innovation and the arts. The invention of photography in the 19th century didn't mean we stopped painting, but it did usher in a revolution. Prior to photography, artists had to rely on their memory to create realistic images. Their new tool, the camera allowed them to capture the world around them with unprecedented accuracy.
This freed their detail-oriented minds to think differently, encouraging artists such as Van Gogh and Monet to evolve their style. Instead of replicating what the camera could create, they were inspired to create what the technology could not.
They abandoned realism and instead painted feelings, capturing moments rather than recreating highly detailed, realistic representations. Impressionism was born and its spirit of experimentation and innovation is still felt today.
In music, the advent of digital audio recording and sampling in the 1980’s didn’t mean we stopped singing. Instead, it revolutionized the industry by enabling new forms of musical expression. It was DJ Kool Herc, not the sampler that imagined extended loops for extended dancefloor shenanigans.
Giorgio Moroder envisaged Donna Summer's voice as a hypnotic, otherworldly presence, the sampler was the tool that helped him achieve it. The new technology democratized music production and encouraged experimentation giving rise to new genres such as hip-hop and electronica and is still helping musicians reinvent and reimagine to this day.
Just as artists didn't stop painting or musicians didn't stop playing, the introduction of Ai language models doesn't mean writers will stop writing. Embraced as a tool, Ai can be an engine for our imagination and has the potential to revolutionize what writing can be.
For now, it means we no longer have to face the blank page alone. We have a writing buddy ready and more than willing to bounce ideas off. Think of it as a writing room without the cold coffee, donuts and feet on the table. Ask the right questions, treat it like jazz and find new connections. Ask it to write for you. Then do the opposite.
This is because by nature its observations are dated. If we use Ai writing verbatim we risk what Greg Rosalsky calls the "Hallmarketizastion of Everything." A world where all communication feels like a card from Hallmark, written without creativity, personality, ideas or emotion. Let's use the new tools in our writer's toolbox, but always remember that's what they are. Tools.
We must never forget to sprinkle on the human touch to create fresh thinking. The jazz writers amongst us will use it as a barometer for the conventional, and avoid saying what's already been said.
Should creatives be concerned about Ai? Only if, like Ai, they spend their time looking backwards. Those who look forwards, think like Vincent, play jazz with it and act like a plumber will thrive. Use Ai as a plunger to unblock new ways of communicating, create news genres of writing and who knows how or what we will be reading in the not too distant future.