Powered at Nine’s Tom Birts: The ads we love, the lines we remember, are created by people

Powered at Nine’s Tom Birts: The ads we love, the lines we remember, are created by people

By Tom Birts, Senior Creative in Powered at Nine.


There is a restaurant in Karrinyup where a robot brings you your drinks. A robot! It glides around the tables, stopping to drop off bottles of Yebisu and yuzu cocktails. It brings you your food, too. This comes after the drinks and is 70% as exciting. Still pretty good.

The drinks-and-sushi robot is charming, attentive, and diligent. When it hits a shopping bag or an elbow or a foot people apologise.

It’s almost human.

Google the list of jobs that artificial intelligence will replace and ‘waitstaff’ is rarely there. Copywriter almost always is. This is because copywriters write, and artificial intelligence writes, and therefore copywriting is a job that a robot could do. Graphic designer is usually there, too. And teacher.

It’s not always clear who, or what, wrote each list but on that point – that copywriters can, will, should be replaced by artificial intelligence – the lists are wrong.

The ads we love, the lines we remember, are created by people. We read, watch, and hear them understanding that somebody, a team of beating hearts, has connected with the thing being advertised. It has made them feel something. And they – the humans – want us to feel it, too.

We value this layer of humanity, a living membrane behind every billboard. We experience it somewhere between our conscious and subconscious, but it is there. It’s why brands want their campaigns to be talkable, shareable. It’s why influencer marketing exists.

Generative artificial intelligence, as represented by platforms like ChatGPT, can write lines of copy. They can be funny. They can be sad. They can be true.

They cannot be poignant. They cannot be clever. They cannot be sincere. If we know they were not written by a human being, they cannot be persuasive.

Would we believe that good things come to those who wait if the line was dreamt up and delivered by proprietary code? Is the laptop I am typing this on lovin’ the new McTasty? If Siri told us to just do it, would we?

I like getting a cold beer out of a robot’s belly, and my daughter loves watching it tootle about. It’s fun, and it’s useful, and in its own way it helped me write this article.

I don’t want its recommendation for Kingfish Carpaccio or Mackerel Aburi, though. I don’t think I would believe it.