Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Scientific marketing.

Not written by a computer.

This makes no sense to an algorithm.

Flahoolick. A word not organized, tagged and scored. 

Soul. Unavailable from software.
One of the most disheartening things about our business today is seeing, before my very eyes, the English language being stabbed, shot at, folded, spindled and mutilated by so many of the so-called leaders in our trade. And so many people who welcome that mutilation as if it is inevitable, and why stand in the way of progress.

I just read some blather somewhere—it’s everywhere—about AI copywriting and how it will change everything.

You hear it from technologists. You hear it from the financial technocrats in charge of the big holding companies. You hear it from  f u t u r i s t s. You even hear it from creative people.

I’ll be the first to admit, a lot of copywriting by humans sucks. It could be because it’s been so sullied by the 37-rounds of revisions even a simple tweet is subject to so that it touches 19 different copy points and alludes to 16 different potential audiences that it is all but incomprehensible.

In fact, most copy is judged not by what and how it communicates but by some invisible checklist that is meant to ensure that in saying everything, nothing is really said, and in the blandest way possible.

And now, it’s getting worse.

The same sorts of things that foul-up human copy will now be taught to machines. So they can do the same, instantly and ubiquitously.

In other words, people who don’t understand the basics of clear communication are right now rolling out “Marketing Language Clouds” in which AI generates “language that resonates with most any audience, segment or individual.”

They go on with copy explaining it that doesn’t, frankly, inspire confidence. I found this copy on the site of an AI from Goldman Sachs called "Persado." “Imagine having a copywriter and data scientist for each person in your audience, revealing the precise language that performs along with analytics to explain why. Comprised of the world’s largest marketing language database, with over a million organized, tagged and scored words, phrases and images [we] enable brands to increase acquisition and retention while building long-term consumer relationships.”

Fuck me with a wooden spoon.

I don’t even know where to begin.

I don’t know if a human wrote that or a bot. I do know it’s a veritable crock.

There’s no such thing as “precise language that performs…” If writing were that simple, that formulaic, that precise, every song would be a #1 hit, every Broadway show would be SRO and every novel a best-seller.

I can just imagine a client meeting way in the future—like two weeks from now, or maybe tomorrow. 

“George, I love this copy. But did you use ‘precise copy that performs?’”  

"No, I just used the words I thought were simple and right."

"Will your copy resonate most [with] any audience, segment or individual.’ And ‘have you used tagged and scored words and phrases that enable brands to increase acquisition and retention while building long-term consumer relationships."

"Well, er...."

In 1923, a guy called Claude C. Hopkins wrote a book called “Scientific Marketing.” So, in other words, for almost a century scientific-types have been asserting that we can take “chance” out of creativity, and so make creativity an “if-then” proposition. In other words, if you do or say x, then y will happen.

Life, I believe, is not that simple.

And creativity is not that codifiable.


By the way, and this might be apocryphal, I heard somewhere that when the Navajo made a blanket or a rug, they always make it imperfect. 

Their line of imperfection--their deliberate mistakes--is what makes their rugs human. They call their imperfection the rug's spirit path. When they die, that path allows their spirit to escape their work.

What I mean by this is simple. Human-ness, imperfections, vigor and even sweat is what makes work work. Maybe I'm a Luddite. But I don't think machines will ever get there.

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