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Alibaba claims its AI is about to change copywriting forever – for agencies and brands

Chinese tech giant Alibaba has claimed it has created an artificial intelligence tool that has passed the Turing Test – in other words, it is able to operate as if human – and is capable of producing 20,000 lines of copy in a single second.

The firm’s digital marketing arm, Alimama, insisted the development would allow agency copywriters and brand marketers to operate higher up the value chain and in a much more efficient way. It said the technology could “take care of a portion of their copywriting needs”.

And Alibaba claimed many brands – fashion chain Esprit and Texas clothing brand Dickies, for example – were already using the Chinese-language tool.

And in doing so the clients were able to tell the machine learning AI whether they wanted the tone of the copy to be “promotional, functional, fun, poetic or heartwarming”. It is not yet clear though if and when other language versions of the product will be available.

So far the tool was being used mainly on on Alibaba’s e-commerce sites Tmall and Taobao, where in the company’s words it “uses deep learning and natural language processing technologies learn from millions of top-quality existing samples to generate copy for products”.

The firm added: “Brands and advertisers can insert a link to any product page and click the ‘Produce Smart Copy’ button to see multiple copy ideas.

“The tool is used on average nearly a million times per day, by merchants and marketers on Alibaba-owned sites such as Taobao, Tmall, Mei.com (a fashion flash sale website) and 1688.com (Alibaba’s Chinese-language wholesale buying site).”

“And it significantly changes the way [copywriters] work: They will shift from thinking up copy – one line at a time – to choosing the best out of many machine-generated options, largely improving efficiency.

“As with design, copywriting involves a certain degree of repetitive, low-value work that can be made made more efficient. A single product might require up to 10 versions of copy for different ad formats, like posters, web banners, product pages and other special event pages.”

Attempting to explain the role for humans once the AI was employed, Alimama general manager of marketing Christina Lu said: “Human creativity is the cornerstone for the machine, which isn’t able to replace the creativity of people. AI for marketing allows people to devote more energy to richly creative work.”

It is not the first time Alibaba has developed tools that impact the media and marketing world. In April, it released a smart banner designer that could resize and reformat website ad banners automatically or with the slide of a mouse. In addition, the firm had created what it said was an AI-powered video-editing tool for brands to generate – in less than a minute – 20-second videos to use for promotion on Taobao.

Esprit head of e-commerce for Asia-Pacific Shaozhang Ding said: “The AI copywriter is a really amazing tool. Based on a massive database of existing copy and advanced AI technologies, the tool can reduce the repetitive and tedious copywriting workload for our teams.”

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