Can Robots Relate? What Persado Means for Copywriting

Apr 12, 2017

Hi There, Megan! Open to See Your Reward: 20% Off

Only a year into the industry, I am faced with an age-old battle: Woman vs. Machine. Persado, the new copy generator, has come for my cute little entry-level job.

Persado is a system that machine generates subject lines, digital ads, display ads, tweets and even subway PAs. It’s described as a “cognitive content platform that combines natural language processing to generate words, phrases and images that inspire any audience.” It touts inflated open and click-through rates for clients such as American Express, eBay and Microsoft. And it claims to outperform creative copy 100% of the time—with a little disclaimer:

In rare instances, variations resulting from brand or legal guidelines, serving methodology, or other outlier variables might affect message performance.


The Era of Authenticity

My first reactions when I see these: Are these brands seriously using 1990s-Macintosh style emoticons to relate to me? I thought we were past this—where are the confetti cannons and pizza slices?

There is no denying that Persado has a great track record. Their results have created a cult of believers, gazing in awe at the amazing numbers and stats, waiting for the big saucer in the sky to take them away. Oops, I forgot we’re talking about robots, not aliens. I also forgot that this isn’t a sci-fi movie. On a scale of 1 to Isaac Asimov, Persado is about a 2.

But there is a danger of delving into a sea of sameness by utilizing this program. Persado lines are instantly recognizable.

It’s not news that there is an increasing demand for brands to be authentic and transparent. As we evolve, so does our filter for advertising. People everywhere are recognizing sales-speak, and instead crave content that relates to them.

Some brands and audiences are value-oriented. For these, Persado a great fit, as most of its lines feature language around exclusive offers, special savings and rewards. Some target audiences might respond better to checkmarks and smileys than iOS emojis (and the merit of those is another debate entirely). Yet there are times when deals just don’t cut it.


Context Clues

I was curious how my writing would stack up to this big, bad machine. So we A/B tested against one of my subject lines:

“Long week, Amy? Here’s something to look forward to…”

Why yes, I HAVE had a long week. However did you know?!

Our target audience for this project was, to put it simply, hard-working families. Our strategy for this email was that hard-working families deserve something special after a long week. Voilà: a subject line was born from ol’-fashioned pen and paper in about five minutes.

It won.

Persado cannot accomplish relevance on its own. It cannot read the body of an email and relate to its design, strategy or timing. It has the inability to relate to a consumer’s environment, conditioning and demographics. In that respect, many copywriters are safe. For now.

But should we be scared anyway? David Atlas, the CMO of Persado, claims it simply Eliminates the drudgery of what is very often pretty repetitive fast turnaround writing, where you are just looking for an effect.”

What this means for agency writers is that youll get time back to put your creative energy toward higher-level projects. If youre feeling bogged down by writing direct response copy and feel your oh-so-valuable time could be put to use in other ways—like toward TV spots and outdoor boards—go on, get working on better things, ya bigshot!

For our clients, that means artificial triggers for direct response pieces, while getting better organic creative for high-level pieces.

Copy and behavioral context go together like creative jobs and crippling self-doubt. But rest assured fellow writers, if you keep evolving your copy game, you too could stay one step ahead of the Matrix.

–Jamie Brucken, Associate Copywriter