Ad exec Dave Trott once pointed out the dictionary definition of “content” to unpack his distaste for that term in marketing:
“Content (noun): everything that is inside a container; the contents of a box.”
“So there it is: we’re in the shipping business. That’s what happened to what we used to call ‘the idea.’ The idea has become whatever goes into the box: just content. It could be anything, it’s not important…
“Content is seen as just stuff. The stuff that goes into the space that’s there to be filled…
“And there’s my problem with the word ‘content.’ It doesn’t matter what the content is. The content is now just something to fill up the space.”
Dave’s perspective came to mind as I thought about the use of artificial intelligence in marketing content over the last few years.
In 2020, OpenAI announced the latest version of their text-generation technology called GPT-3. It’s capable of writing just about anything you can imagine with very few inputs. The output can be generic and repetitive, but the quality of the writing is a step change over previous generations. Increasingly it sounds human.
Earlier this year, Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller described AI Generated Content as “spam” that was against Google’s guidelines. Yet he admitted that Google may not be able to detect whether this content was written by AI or humans.
Naturally, AI is being adopted by marketers for all sorts of marketing content. Whether creating articles wholesale, or used as a tool to help with some of the discrete tasks of writing (ideating, researching, outlining, writing, editing), artificial intelligence is increasingly a part of the process.
But it’s important to remember that AI is just a tool. It can help create create “content” more efficiently, but is it content that’s worth creating? Is it ownable, unique, and differentiated? Does it have a reason for being? Or is it just created to fill up a space?
We can’t break through the clutter by adding to it.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: