Content marketing by AI: nothing to fear yet

Earlier this year, the DeepMind computer beat Go world champion Lee Se-dol. It was an important milestone because, unlike chess, Go has more possible outcomes than there are atoms in the universe. In short, the computer won because it was able to learn from its mistakes.

Cue more fear about the growth of artificial intelligence (AI). Even Professor Stephen Hawking has warned against it as a possible threat to human existence. That may be, but does content marketing have anything to fear?

AI-produced journalism has been around for some time now, much of it based on press releases or spreadsheets created by humans. The argument goes that by taking away the chore of rehashing PR fluff, journalists are able to get on with tackling the in-depth stuff.

But writing solid editorial that sells the brand or a product? That’s likely to be a little more challenging.

Marrying maths and emotion

One company aiming to do exactly that is Persado. This week the company, which specialises in AI-generated marketing copy, received $30 million financing from Goldman Sachs.

It also has backing from Bain Capital ($15 million) and clients including Citi, American Express, eBay, Microsoft and Neiman Marcus.

According to this helpful article, one thing it does is suggest subject lines in email. Persado claims the software, which uses phrases that will appeal to a given demographic, outperforms humans every time. Quite helpful because email remains crucial and opening rates more crucial still.

But here’s a suggestion for Persado: use your software to provide information about what it is you actually do. Maybe even a demo. Its site includes an opening video featuring the killer line: “Any message has the potential to change the world”.

The only reference to the technology features the buzz phrase ‘cognitive computing’. Effectively, a simulation of human thought processes. But to do what? Pick the right words? If only writing and journalism were that simple…

What can carbon-based lifeforms do?

Someone still needs to pull the trigger on computer-generated copy. For an example of how things can go wrong, see Twitter taught Microsoft’s AI chatbot to be a racist asshole in less than a day. One would presume it was a human who closed the account when the bot started denying the holocaust.

Getting back to Go. Yes, DeepMind might have won four out of five games but it still needed someone to move its counters.

Content marketing by AI: nothing to fear yet is part of Content24, the online magazine for London content marketing agency FirstWord.