What test-driving Jasper taught me about AI. (Not to mention humanity.)


2023 has dawned with the rise of the machines. 

These bots don’t tell us they can’t open the pod bay doors, or deliver quippy one-liners promising (threatening?) that they’ll be bahhhk. Their mission: to generate content at the click of a mouse.  

ChatGPT exploded on the scene with gigabytes of promise–plus more than a few drawbacks. (The short list: no fact-checking and no way to publish its output.) Jasper.ai came fast on its heels as an AI content generator that creates original, “amazing” copy. 

As a copywriter with more than 25 years of experience, I have a lot of Thoughts and Feelings (yes, capital T, capital F) about the proliferation of these content generators–and many questions about how they stack up against flesh and blood word-wranglers. So I did what any sane-ish person would do: I cyberstalked Jasper.ai to check out its capabilities for myself. 

Here’s the skinny:

Jasper.ai: Expert blogger. Well, kinda.

Other than a lack of reliance on caffeine, Jasper approaches a new assignment like human copywriters. Someone briefs in the topic, audience, key points, and tone; Jasper creates the copy. 

I tasked Jasper with blogging about whether AI will replace copywriters, specifying a humorous, conversational tone that speaks to CMOs, CEOs, and startup founders. In order to create an A/B test, I did this twice with the same input.

Here’s the comparison:

Headline 1: Will AI Replace Copywriters? Not So Fast!

Headline 2: Will AI Replace Copywriters? Not in Our Lifetime!

Although the headlines provide good integration of keywords and invite the reader in with a question, the approach is clearly formulaic. Ditto with the rest of the copy. 

To wit:

Intro 1:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been making headlines for years now, and it seems like every day there’s a new article predicting it will replace another job. But will AI really replace copywriters? The short answer is no. While AI can be used to help with certain aspects of the work, it won’t ever fully supplant human copywriters—at least not in the foreseeable future. Let’s take a look at why that is.

Intro 2:
In the age of artificial intelligence, it seems like anything is possible. But will advanced AI replace copywriters as we know them? While some worry that this technology could be a threat to traditional copywriting roles, rest assured that it’s very unlikely any time soon. Here’s why. 

Unsurprisingly, this proved to be true with other blog topics I assigned to Jasper. 

This templated approach not only results in a homogenous work product that’s not especially original–let alone “amazing”–but also forgoes the comparative analysis that’s critical when communicating value propositions and differentiating against competitors. 

When I asked Jasper to blog about why one of our clients was a leader in its industry, the robo-writer regurgitated feature benefits without providing unique selling propositions. This benefit-agnostic approach is the polar opposite of effective marketing, which highlights unique, benefit-oriented points while speaking in the voice and tone of the brand.

Move over, Madmen. Or maybe don’t.

In addition to blog posts, Jasper also creates copy for emails, social media, and ads. I asked it to write an ad for a client whose product saves time and money.  

Jasper’s headline:  Get your sh*t together with [company name].

I actually laughed out loud. 

Okay, yes, the ad directed the reader to the benefit of an organizational tool and used humanoid language. But it failed at the Know Your Audience axiom, despite my data entry. 

It’s akin to a fourth grader using a thesaurus to write an essay. Words and phrases are layered and contextual and can’t always be interchanged. “Infatuation” doesn’t necessarily equate to “love,” despite what Roget might lead you to believe. In the words of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Where else Jasper misses the mark.

How does Jasper get poor marks in Copywriting 101 (and Copywriting 401)? Let me count the ways.  

It’s light on nuance:
Jasper is an aggregator, but it doesn’t understand what it’s saying–or how it will be perceived. Humans are complex. So are our communications.  

It ignores the zeitgeist:
Jasper doesn’t know what goes on at the cool kids’ table, or whether curtain bangs are still a thing. Without a finger on the ever-changing pulse of society, Jasper misses opportunities to connect and be (or remain) relevant.  

It’s missing the storytelling chip:
To paraphrase adman Howard Gossage, people pay attention to what interests them– and sometimes it’s an ad. That interest goes beyond facts to storytelling that inspires and surprises. Jasper can’t effectively tell stories. Heck, many real people can’t do it. It’s an art that both embraces and defies convention.  

It doesn’t understand the power of Dad jokes:
Humor is infinitely human. So it’s no surprise that Jasper doesn’t get it. (See above re: nuance, zeitgeist, and storytelling.) Plus, as Rocket Fuel Labs copywriter Wes Winton points out, sometimes a Dad (or bad) joke is just what’s needed to elicit a smile. Jasper doesn’t know when, where, how, or if to apply humor. Even worse, it can go from not-funny to offensive in a heartbeat. Just ask AI Seinfeld, which was temporarily banned for its content

It doesn’t flex the empathy muscle:
Copywriting is an exercise in empathy. Connecting with audiences is not about what you want to say; it’s about what your audience needs to hear. Humans understand what makes people tick. Bots don’t.  

It blends in:
Jasper doesn’t create original content. As seen above, this results in homogeneity and templated copy. It also forgoes the musicality of language that makes copy memorable and compelling. Imagine briefing in a tagline assignment for Nike to Jasper. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts to Spandex that Jasper would have generated something like “Quality athletic apparel” rather than the iconic and enduring “Just do it.”

What Jasper does well.

Despite its limitations, Jasper does offer some benefits. 

It eliminates Blank Page Syndrome:
Buh-bye, writer’s block. Jasper diminishes FOBP (Fear of Blank Pages) by offering a starting point, the skeleton on which a copywriter can build content and bring ideas to life.  

It shortcuts research:
Research indicates the need for more research, especially where long-format copy rife with keywords is concerned. Jasper can help curtail the process by combing the web for essential information.  

It brews up brainstorms:
By putting forth a draft, Jasper can help identify gaps and illuminate new pathways. This fodder can provide fertile ground for a copywriter to work magic for clients and their clients’ customers. 

It’s fast:
There’s no denying that Jasper is fast. Its power lies in the ability to curate information and create a first draft quickly, allowing human writers to deliver the good stuff sooner.

Newfangled fears.

Humans can be technophobes. As this Ranker article points out, the hew and cry against technological innovation included fears that the telephone would allow communication with the dead(?!!), and basically casting the telegraph as the fourth horseman of a verbal apocalypse. 

Centuries later, the advent of graphic design programs also caused concerns. Designers, artists, and clients worried that the new technology would supplant the need for people. In fact, these programs enabled designers to create in ways never before possible. 

Jasper can’t replace a human being because it doesn’t think or talk like one. To take a page from Terminator 2, when John Connor tries to teach the Terminator how to sound like a person, he says, “No, no, no, no. You gotta listen to the way people talk. You don’t say ‘Affirmative,’ or some sh*t like that. You say ‘No problemo.’ And if someone comes onto you with an attitude you say ‘Eat me.’ And if you want to shine them on, it’s ‘Hasta la vista, baby.’”

This is a perfect example of the intersection of human interaction, zeitgeist, and context–and how artificial intelligence can’t compete with the real deal. 

The truth is, Jasper is like many other new technologies: it’s not a panacea or a magic bullet. It’s a tool that helps us do more–fasterchanging the way businesses work.

At Rocket Fuel Labs, we’ll leverage AI in just that way, using it to improve our speed and efficiency while relying on the irreplaceable power of our creative team to deliver copy and concepts that change minds and hearts. 

We speak human–and that speaks to our ability to deliver triple-digit results for our clients. 

Want to chat about how we’re using AI to streamline and accelerate content production? Reach out to [email protected], and let’s fly.


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