This spring I hired a team of freelance copywriters from the 19th century. All of them are dead, but their writing survives. So I used their books as source material and trained a computer to write like 4 Victorian-era authors from the worlds of architecture, interior design and adventure novels (just to spice things up). Their day rate was very affordable.

I asked the team to come up with short copy lines for an imaginary brand called Spruce (a CPG home cleaning brand), and extoll the virtues of an all-new, organic cleaning spray. They went to work and after about 20 minutes I received about 50 unique copy approaches.

As a brief, I gave them some examples of the “product-focused” copy I was looking for:

"The all-new organic cleaning spray.""Powerful cleaning, light touch on the environment.""Shop all new scents.""20% more effective than others.""Buy online now.""Save 10%"

I asked them to write in their own literary voice, and not to compromise their style for this “commercial” assignment (writers can be so temperamental). Below you’ll find the copy lines they came back with as well as my feedback on the writing.

Here’s what they came up with. These came directly from the machine — I didn’t write or edit these lines in any way:

Option 1:

Every flower pot, lamp and wall,or every closet in every room, windows and floors.Every surface--even the dark passages inevery closet--will be cleaner when properly treated,than when left to its own devices, unaided.

Feedback: Beautiful! A bit long, but definitely adds some drama to the cleaning spray category.

Option 2:

"The effect was instantaneous, instantaneous."--HENRY CLARK

Not sure who Henry Clark is, but I love the use of reviews from everyday people.

Option 3:

Research shows that by using this product, you will save40% to 70% of the energy used by your home.Everyone says "it's bad for the environment." They are wrong.

We’ll have to check with legal on these stats, but I like the myth-busting aspect of the final line.

Option 4:

Signature body wash.Jasmine was so happy when she first tried this that shewore it out of the house for two weeks.

Nice angle on the testimonial!

Option 5:

Cream or paste, use it or lose it.

Love the colloquial “use it or lose it” phrase, but this product is not available in cream or paste.

Option 6:

It is so fast and pure, that it is like eating tea.

This may resonate more with the UK market.

Option 7:

Yes, it's easy to use. Yes, it's effective.If you love animals and wild flowers, then this will change yourlife.

Loving this connection to the natural world.

Option 8:

Easily removes dirt, grime and grime-likecolours. This produces lovely, delicatecolours and beautiful shimmers and a good-lookingfloor, when not carpet.

Yes, anything grime-like we want to remove and agree this should not be used on carpet.

Option 9:

100% Money Back Guarantee.

Sadly this is not true.

Option 10:

100% natural and free of dyes. And, it has no harsh fragrances.How could it not be considered the latest innatural fragrances. The mystique that surrounds it disappears atfirst. But after a while the subtle fragrances--thewarm, delicious, delicate notes of old-world art, springto mind, then become as cloying as when firstexperienced. If ever you fancied buying some of theimitations made of old Italian pottery, Chinese porcelain, antiquematerials, or tapestries--or trying to decide which to love, inorder to give it up altogether as old fakes, forget it, for you areadhering to the same principle. To buy Italian Chianti, or any ofthe beautiful old Chinese perfumes, let them sit for several days in acool place, with light winds and a clear sky, and when all is dried,examine carefully for the presence of spirit. Spirit is everywherein these wonderful perfumes, and when thoroughly dried, they areunique, enchanting, and immensely hygienic. They exude acertain wonderful, but mysterious, scent. You must be possessed withthe power of combining this secret with the aid of artificialscent in perfumes, or you will never get beyond the condition of achild in the dark.

Wow — thanks for this! This might work for the :90 manifesto TV spot we’re working on. Will forward on to the broadcast team.

Why did you do this?

As creative and AI become more and more intertwined, I wanted to see how computer models could play a part during the course of a creative project. I wanted to focus on this idea of a “provocative ai creative partner.” This idea reminded me of some of the human partners I’ve had at creative agencies over the years, and how every person is wired differently (with their own personal and cultural experience, and unique creative voice) — resulting in personal approaches to coming up with ideas and writing copy. I thought that if I “hired” a team of writers with a distinct, unique voice, I could partner with them to come up with ideas for copy that I wouldn’t have been able to create on my own. I wasn’t expecting that the machine would write perfect copy lines for me, but I was hoping it could help me explore new territory.

How did you do this?

I used a machine learning platform called Runway AI, and I uploaded old, public domain books that I found online to create a “model” that was “trained” with these old texts. This essentially taught my machine how to write. I chose these Victorian-era writers because I wanted to the new copy lines to feel distinct and unique, rather than more of the same kinds of copy I could write on my own. It was also easy to find digital public domain copies of their work. Then I uploaded examples of the kind of lines I was looking for: short, product-focused writing like “The all-new organic cleaning spray.” And finally I asked the machine to generate about 100 lines. 50 of those were coherent, complete sentences, and about 20 of them were potentially appropriate for the task.

Did you accomplish your goal?

Yes! Some of the writing was really poetic, dramatic, and not what you’d normally expect from the world of household cleaning products. While most of it wasn’t immediately usable, the lines definitely opened up my mind to the possibility of elevating the task of household cleaning to something more important than just getting your countertops clean. And this was basically the goal — if you hire a bunch of Victorian-era writers to wax poetic you’d probably get something like what I got, and that can inspire new creative ideas even if the writing isn’t perfect. I mean, this direction takes me to a completely different and more interesting place than when I started. Say it out loud:

Every surface--even the dark passages inevery closet--will be cleaner when properly treated,than when left to its own devices, unaided.

It could be really helpful to explore this angle: cleaning even the “darkest passages” in your home, the places you don’t dare look, with a powerful, organic spray. Or the “if you love wild animals and flowers” line could spur thoughts on the organic connection to nature. While these lines aren’t perfect, they can help kick off new thinking.