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AI copywriting. Let’s put the record straight!

Jonathan Wilcock glitch – I do not use AI for my writing

On June 26th 2024, I received an email from the lovely Leif Kendall at ProCopywriters:

Hi Jonathan,

Ever wondered what copywriters are earning? 
Or how copywriters approach projects? 
Or how copywriters engage with clients? 
Or how copywriters feel about AI?

The ProCopywriters 2024 survey is our biggest ever survey – including loads of new questions about the life and work of commercial writers.

And you can now read the full report – for free!

You’re welcome to share any part of this report online (including screenshots of graphs etc). We just ask that you link back to the original report.

etc. etc. etc.

This is a survey completed by 422 professional UK Copywriters. A pretty significant number – and I was one of them.

On June 28th 2024, I read the survey.

I got to page 19 and had to pinch myself:

Screen grab from ProCopywriters survey 2024

Do you use any generative AI tools in your copywriting work?

59% said YES. Pow!

Are your clients aware of AI’s role in your work?

81% said NO. Aaaaargh! Zoink!

Does AI-produced copy ever feature in the finished work you share with clients/stakeholders?

51% said YES. Whaaaaaaaaaa… Kerrboingo!

I must be on a different planet. I was totally gobsmacked. Like Oleksandr Usyk had taken a run up and belted me on the jaw with his best uppercut.

I’m no mathematician, but by my reckoning, if 422 Copywriters took the survey (and assuming they’re all telling the truth), 201 of them are using AI to assist with their day job, and their clients are oblivious. And 127 of them are leaving AI-generated words in their final copy.

That’s 127 professional writers allowing an algorithm to steal, cut and shut existing copy from around the Internet, then passing it off as their own. Mmmmmf!

Thirty seconds later, I was on LinkedIn, having a mild rantlet.

This is what I wrote:

On a scale of 10 to 10, how sad does page 19 of the 2024 ProCopywriters survey make you feel?

And you know what you can do with this:

Rewrite with AI screengrab from LinkedIn
This is the annoying window that appears when you’re trying to write something human in LinkedIn.

Unsurprisingly, a few Copywriters I’m connected with chipped in with their comments.

Chris Guiton said,

Shocking, Jonathan. I’ll give it an 11 out of 10! Are people really just throwing in the towel, this quickly? The implications of the responses to the ‘client awareness’ question are particularly disturbing. What does that say about professional ethics?

I replied,

Seriously, Chris. If this is the way forward, I’m going to quietly walk backwards to 2019. #Copyshiters

Lea Tierney said,

I was pretty shocked by it

I replied,

I’m mentally scarred by it, Lea. Shameful in my opinion. 👎

Mel Barfield said,

Yes Jonathan!! 81% not telling clients! Absolutely mind boggling. I was a bit ambivalent about the code of conduct idea* but maybe it’s needed after all. But then I guess if someone doesn’t mind fibbing to clients they won’t mind breaking a code of conduct 🤷🏻‍♀️

(*ProCopywriters have been asking members if we thought a Copywriter’s Code should be drawn up)

I replied,

Exactly, Mel. Who’s gonna police the shysters?
I’ll let my conscience be the guide.

Anna Metcalfe said,

I haven’t yet seen an AI tool able to in-depth interview a subject matter expert effectively, or chat with a client’s customer about their experience Jonathan. There’s hope…

I replied,

Hi Anna,

Agreed, but the more I think about it, the more it’s not about what the machines can or cannot do, it’s what we humans will use them for.

I don’t care that they can magically fill my empty page with regurgitated copy, even if it all makes perfect sense.

I want (and need) to go through the process of interrogating the brief, writing my own drafts, heading off into dead ends…

The process is the journey, and the journey we take dictates the destination we end up at.

I know hundreds of Copywriters (I’ve seen the stats and the banter) will disagree with me. “It’s the future, Jonathan.” Well, it’s not mine.

I may have to go back to using a quill and parchment. 😠

Leif Kendall said,

Jonathan Wilcock – freelance brand voice copywriter To be fair, we don’t know whether the copywriters who don’t mention their use of AI are just using it for brainstorming or for creating outlines… The Copywriter Code aims to define a professional boundary between writers and AI – and give clients reassurance they’re not being conned.

I replied,

Hi Leif,

Each to their own, I guess. But I’m struggling to get my noddle around why Copywriters are using it at all. Maybe it’s a generational thing? Maybe I’m stuck in the dark ages.

Speed and efficiency, by my reckoning don’t necessarily mean better writing. I know I’m over-simplifying, but the process of cracking the blank page with your own brain/heart/soul power is, to me at least, a vital part of the process.

Absorbing the world in 3D, filling your memory banks with emotive connections, learning the craft… Writing for humans, from a human perspective. Seems more ‘real’, more worthwhile from where I’m standing.

If there is a code, can it just be a pledge?

‘I am a human Copywriter. I solemnly swear not to use machines to write my clients’ copy for me.’ Thoughts?

Damn, I can feel a blog post coming on.

And here we are.

I, like every Copywriter in the world, have been thinking about AI and how it may change things/nick our jobs/signal the beginning of the end for mankind.

For a couple of days I was imagining the worst. But, rather than getting bogged down by it, I simply observed from afar, reading the social media chats that were bouncing around in the creative community.

There was plenty of panicking. Even more barracking – slagging off the results that people were getting from their ChatGPT experiments.

Some were lauding it as a fantastic research tool. Some were saying it was useless. Loads of people were banging on about all of their work drying up because the machines had taken over.

I got bored of the whole thing.

I think the closest I got to joining in the fun was posting a tweet – something about ‘You can stick it up your AI-rse’. Then I wrote a blog post entitled ‘Suck on this ChatGPT’ to, hopefully one day, bring the machines to their titanium knees. Well, someone had to.

At this point, I would like to caveat everything in this post, because…

…I have never even tried ChatGPT!!! Not even “just because”.

Does that make me a technophobic Neanderthal? I couldn’t care less to be honest.

I’ve been a writer long enough to know how I work best, and it’s dead simple:

– Clear brief
– Ask questions (to a human)
– Rummage through my brain/research/throw down ideas/go for a walk/draft
– Ignore for a while
– Round two, three, four… of scrapping, hacking, re-jigging and smoothing out the bumps
– Ignore for a while
– Fine tune and send
– Client feedback
– Tweaks
– Sign-off and celebrate with a fist pump, and a lie down

I enjoy it. It works. My clients are happy.

As I said above, the journey is as important as the end goal. I don’t want a cobbled-together machine version to throw me off the scent. Whether I’m ‘missing out’ or ‘not keeping up with the times’. I honestly don’t care.

All I know is, if you choose to work with me, you will get honest-to-goodness writing, from my unique and genuine human perspective. If that means I’m not your bag, it looks like there’s at least 127 professional UK Copywriters who probably are.

Good luck with that.

And if you’re a Copywriter who uses AI for whatever, that’s up to you. You may be on to something, and I may just be an old-fashioned guy with his head up his tail. But, at least have the decency to ‘fess up to the client who’s paying the bill. Or don’t. What do I know?

Anyway, back to my trusty swan’s feather and lamp black. I feel a scroll coming on.

Love and patience.

Jonathan x

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
You can drop me a line here, or email

PS. If you spellcheck ‘ChatGPT’, it tries to change it to ‘Catgut’, which tells you something.