Idea Writers Still Needed. What ChatGPT Can’t Do.

We’re going in on digital. If anyone doesn’t want to learn the Internet, pack up your desk and leave.

We heard this from the president of our ad agency during a Monday morning employee meeting. This may not be scary today when  65% of all ad spending is digital. But in the late-2000s it caused worry. Why?

As a mid-career advertising copywriter, I built my expertise on traditional mass media ads. I instinctively wrote print ads, billboards, 30-second TV scripts, and 60-second radio ads. That’s what I learned in undergrad, at Portfolio Center, and what I had created for 10 years. I honed my skills and was good at them. My campaigns with art directors helped clients meet sales objectives and won creative awards.

The Internet Experiment

I still remember that feeling. For us who built our careers on mass media ads, it was like the rug was pulled out from under our feet. Did I spend all those years in school and years fine tuning my craft only to be replaced by Internet experts? Would they need us traditional ad copywriters anymore? I remember Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, known for creative traditional ads, announced they were no longer an ad agency – they’re a digital agency. Advertising Age even ran an article with a subhead, “The Advertising Age Is Over.”

Source: “Digital Set to Surpass TV in Time Spent with U.S. Media,”, August 1, 2013, Note: Hours and minutes spent with each medium regardless of multitasking.

What did I do that Monday morning? I looked at a picture of my wife and kids on my desk. I needed the job and income, and decided to learn Internet marketing. I did and created many successful digital and social efforts for clients including PRSA social media word-of-mouth awards and OMMA online media marketing and advertising awards. Today I’m a professor, researcher, and author of digital and social media marketing. By 2017 AdAge ran another article, “Desktop and Mobile Ad Revenue Surpasses TV For The First Time.”

ChatGPT Experiment One

That feeling came back when ChatGPT was released. I had ChatGPT write a blog post for me, “Top 10 Tips For Successful Social Media Marketing: ChatGPT Wrote That Article In Less Than A Minute Then I Spend Four Hours Writing The Rest.”  It scared me how quickly it wrote an article that may take me hours based on years of experience.

I concluded that human-written articles do offer benefits beyond A.I. We form connections and develop bonds you don’t feel from a chatbot. Having a chatbot create your content can’t replace the rewards of learning on your own and developing your voice and unique perspective. Writing and creating are learning. That anxious feeling subsided.

ChatGPT Experiment Two

Then the editor of our student magazine approached me with an idea. He wanted ChatGPT to complete a class assignment. I convinced myself I could do better writing on my blog, but what about a student report? If ChatGPT could do it why am I needed as a professor? There was that feeling of the rug being pulled out again.

Create A Situation Analysis for Spotify

For Marketing Principles, a key assignment is to write a situation analysis for a company. Students select the company with stipulations to ensure they’re accessing the kind of data that professional markers use to create their marketing strategies. Our university has databases such as Mintel and Statista so students can learn more by doing. Below is a general description:

Select a US product/service you’re interested in and conduct a situation analysis on the current marketing environment. Write an introduction, access a Mintel report (define the market, describe key trends, select one company in the market), assess the internal environment, assess the external environment, create a SWOT summary graphic, create marketing objectives (following SMART guidelines), a value proposition, and a conclusion. Use APA format with all sources cited in APA Style.

He instructed ChatGPT to write a situation analysis for a company in the streaming audio market in APA style and gave it my specific requirements. ChatGPT chose Spotify.


For the introduction, ChatGPT wrote:

The streaming audio industry has experienced significant growth in recent years, driven by increasing demand for on-demand audio content and advancements in technology. As a result, companies like Spotify have been able to capitalize on this trend and achieve impressive growth in terms of user base and revenue.

From this intro., it sounds like ChatGPT is accessing the right data and understands the purpose of the report and assignment.

Access Mintel Market Report

While what ChatGPT said is true, I would look for more in a student report. I ask them to summarize some of the latest trends that would be important to form a marketing strategy. According to the latest Mintel report “Streaming Audio – US – 2022,” there is more a marketer would need to know. Even the first paragraph of Mintel’s report highlights trends in the market that may influence Spotify’s marketing strategy:

  • 2/3rds of customers want help choosing what to listen to via curated content.
  • Exclusive/early access to new music, podcasts, and audiobooks can differentiate.
  • 62% of adults try to support services that fairly compensate artists and creators.

Internal Environment

For the internal environment, ChatGPT did a good job pulling the company mission statement from its website and describing the basic service. It even provided what looks to be an APA citation:

Spotify was founded in 2006 in Stockholm, Sweden, and has since become a leading global streaming audio platform. The company’s mission is to “unlock the potential of human creativity by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it” (Spotify, n.d.). Spotify’s primary product is its music streaming service, which is available to users on desktop and mobile devices, as well as through connected devices such as smart speakers.

ChatGPT does go on to provide some marketing performance numbers:

Spotify has over 365 million monthly active users, including 165 million premium subscribers (Statista, 2021).

The first number seems accurate, but there are more current numbers as of Q4 2022 from Statista of 489 million monthly active users (MAUs) and 205 million premium subscribers. I would expect students to find the latest data. A 124 million, 34% increase for MAUs and 40 million, 24% increase for premium subscribers is significant.

Then ChatGPT reports a revenue number:

The company has experienced significant growth in revenue, with a 16% increase in 2020 to $7.88 billion (Spotify, 2021).

The revenue number looks correct until you do some research and find the number is in euros, not US dollars. Spotify is a European company, but the assignment is to focus on the US market. To report revenue with a US dollar sign, which ChatGPT did, it should be around $8.47 billion. I also found a more recent 2022 revenue number of 11.72 billion euros or roughly $12.41 billion US dollars. The conversion difference is $59 million, the date difference is nearly $3.94 billion.

Lastly, under the internal environment, ChatGPT names Spotify’s main competitors:

However, Spotify faces challenges from competitors such as Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Pandora.

This sounds reasonable, but in Mintel’s report a graph shows Spotify’s close competitors as (1.) YouTube Music and (2.) Pandora. Because ChatGPT isn’t using real citations it’s hard to know where it got this and how old it is. Understanding current competitors is important to any strategy.

External Environment

For external environment, ChatGPT wrote:

Political, legal, and economic factors impacting Spotify’s marketing performance include issues related to copyright law and licensing agreements, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the music industry. Demographic, social, and cultural factors impacting Spotify include changing music consumption habits and the increasing popularity of podcasts. Technological factors include the development of new platforms for streaming audio, as well as advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning that are used to make personalized recommendations.

This is a good general list of issues that may affect Spotify and the streaming audio market, but there are no details that could turn into insights actionable in a marketing strategy. COVID-19 impacted the music industry, like all industries, but how? Mintel’s report explains how and indicates its negative impact was less than expected:

  • Growth slowed, but people found ways to listen to their favorite music and podcasts.
  • The low barrier to publishing helped artists publish even from home.

An important external factor missing from ChatGPT’s list is inflation – something Spotify needs to consider for product, pricing, and promotion strategies. The Mintel Report warns that high inflation of 8-9% in the past year could lower household spending on streaming audio with a large percentage of adults worried about rising prices.

The next requirement was to summarize what was found in a SWOT graphic of internal strengths and weaknesses, plus external opportunities, and threats.

SWOT Summary Graphic

Below is what ChatGPT provided:

The SWOT analysis for Spotify is presented in the figure below.

Obviously, it didn’t draw the graphic. I am not sure what it tried to access from If It did find a Spotify SWOT from Imgur it wouldn’t meet my requirements. That would be someone else’s SWOT based on their opinion and data, not a summary of what the student found in their situation analysis.

Marketing Objective

Next, ChatGPT wrote a marketing objective:

To continue its growth in revenue and premium subscribers, Spotify should set the following marketing objective: “Increase premium subscribers by 20% over the next marketing budget year, from 165 million to 198 million, through targeted marketing campaigns and promotions.”

This objective meets some SMART guidelines. It’s specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound. But it’s not relevant since there’s more recent data. They’ve surpassed this revenue objective.

I would also coach students about using global numbers versus market-specific numbers. Typically, marketers set objectives for different markets like the US or North America vs. Europe to set unique marketing plans for each. From Statista 28% of Spotify’s premium subscribers are from North America (57.4 million), from which you could set a more accurate marketing objective.

My bigger apprehension about ChatGPT’s marketing objective is that it might not be right based on what we learned from Mintel about concern over inflation. If most people are worried about rising prices can Spotify convince 33 million more people to add a premium subscription while not losing any existing premium subscribers?

A revenue or market share objective may be better to grow all users by promoting free and premium accounts. Spotify makes advertising revenue from free accounts. You don’t want a loss to competitors. This would depend on what we find out about the main competitor(s) and what they are offering, which ChatGPT didn’t describe.

Value Proposition

For the value proposition, ChatGPT wrote:

Spotify’s value proposition is based on its ability to provide users with a comprehensive library of music and audio content, delivered through a user-friendly platform that enables easy discovery and sharing. With a focus on user engagement and social sharing, Spotify encourages loyalty and helps users discover new music and artists that fit their tastes, while also providing access to popular hits and classic tracks.

At first, this sounds like a good value prop. But it’s more a general product description that could apply to any competitor in the streaming audio market. From a student, I’d look for a more nuanced understanding of the current market, consumer trends, and competitors. The value proposition should take into consideration Spotify’s unique place in the market in comparison to what competitors are offering and what consumers are currently looking for.


This was ChatGPT’s conclusion:

In conclusion, Spotify is well-positioned to continue to succeed in the rapidly growing streaming audio market, despite facing challenges from competitors and changing market trends. Developing effective marketing strategies and objectives is critical for Spotify to maintain its position as a leader in the industry. By leveraging its unique value proposition and focusing on key marketing metrics, such as premium subscriber growth, Spotify can continue to drive revenue and capture market share.

This sounds like a good conclusion, but there’s no real understanding of the current streaming audio market. It makes it sound so easy! Yet, if marketers relied on past/current offerings and never made adjustments based on changing market conditions, consumer trends, and competitor actions they wouldn’t be well-positioned to continue to succeed.


This was ChatGPT’s references:


Spotify. (n.d.). About Spotify. Retrieved August 29, 2021, from

Spotify. (2021). Spotify Technology S.A. fourth quarter and fiscal year 2020 financial results. Retrieved from


It hasn’t provided references to the multiple Statista data with URL links. The required Mintel market report is missing. ChatGPT seems to be mimicking some aspects of APA citation but missing a lot.

My Overall Assessment?

This report looks into the past, describes Spotify as is, sets a higher premium subscriber number, and says to keep doing what you’re doing to succeed! There’s no real understanding. It feels like a collection of incomplete facts organized into categories and written to sound like a person talking. I wouldn’t base my marketing strategy on it! If a student was hired into the marketing department at Spotify and their manager asked them to submit a situation analysis, I would not want them to submit this.

From my experience so far ChatGPT answers lack human nuance, insight, and refinement. Plus, if ChatGPT can answer it alone, why would a company, client, or audience need you? That’s what we all need to figure out. ChatGPT can be a great tool to jumpstart your thinking, but what are you good at that ChatGPT can’t do?

What Am I Good At?

Back in the late 2000s, I found the answer in Teressa Iezzi’s book The Idea Writers. She reminded copywriters and art directors (creators) that we weren’t experts at traditional ads. We were really writers and designers of ideas that connect brands to consumers no matter the tool. We’re experts in human truths and crafting stories that connect with target audiences through emotion to meet marketing objectives.

I could have had ChatGPT write this entire article, but I don’t think it would have the same relevance, reach, and resonance. Can you relate to the feelings I’ve had (in my past and current career)? How’s your anxiety over ChatGPT as a writer, designer, creator, marketer, student, or professor?

Look for Ethan Dyril’s article coming out in the Swinging Bridge on March 31st.

Free Social Media And Digital Marketing Certifications: What’s Available And What’s Valuable?

Today, there are many online training and certifications to help you learn social media and digital marketing skills. If you are a professional, student, or a professor it’s hard to know which ones to earn yourself and which to include in your courses. Below is a guide and links to certifications, badges, and additional training resources. Most are free or have minimal costs and represent a short time commitment.

Free Online Social Media and Digital Marketing Courses and Certifications are easily displayed in your LinkedIn profile.
Professional Certifications award badges that can easily demonstrate specialized skills online such as in LinkedIn profiles.

Why are these professional certifications and online learning resources valuable? A Marketing Hiring Trends Report indicates that 69% of marketers are hiring and 59% want digital marketers, yet only 19% of people with those skills are looking for jobs. This represents a 30% digital skills gap creating high demand for people who can demonstrate those skills.

9 Recommended Social Media Certifications

Facebook blueprint is Facebook’s free online courses and paid certifications for marketing on Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Over 87% of U.S. marketers use Facebook and 75% use Instagram for social media marketing. Recommended certifications include:

  • Facebook Certified Digital Marketing Associate (8-9 hours) teaches entry level marketing skills and foundational advertising concepts on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. The online courses are free to prepare for the exam which is $150 and requires scheduling in person testing.
  • Facebook Certified Media Planning Professional (9-10 hours) teaches what you need to create, place and measure effective Facebook, Instagram and Messenger advertising campaigns. The online courses are free to prepare for the exam which is $150 and requires scheduling in person testing.
  • Additional Facebook blueprint certifications include Media Buying Professional, Ads Product Developer I, II and III.

Hootsuite Academy is an online education site offering free and paid training courses and professional certifications. This popular social media management software is used by over 18 million people at top brands. Recommended certifications include:

  • Hootsuite Platform Certification (3-4 hours) teaches you how to use this popular social platform to publish and engage in social media while tracking results with analytics. It is useful to understand this platform but also how many social management platforms work. The online course is free. The certification is $99 for professionals and free for college students when professors enroll their course through the student program.
  • Hootsuite Social Marketing Certification (6-7 hours) teaches social media marketing skills to grow followers and increase engagement. It teaches social strategy needed to meet and track business results through both paid and earned social media tactics. The online course is free while the certification costs $199 for professionals and free for college students through professor enrolled with professors who apply through the student program.
  • Additional Hootsuite online courses and certifications include Advanced Social Advertising, Social Media ROI, and Social Selling and require payment ranging from $249 to $299.

HubSpot Academy is an online education site offering free and paid training courses and professional certifications. HubSpot is a top marketing, sales, customer service and CRM platform used by over 15,000 businesses. Recommended certifications include:

  • HubSpot Social Media Certification (5-6 hours) teaches effective social media strategy to drive conversation, build loyalty and attract customers. The online course and certification is free.

Snapchat Explore is Snapchat’s free online course and professional certification. Over 33% of U.S. marketers use Snapchat for social media marketing. Recommended certification is:

Twitter Flight School is Twitter’s free online training courses and badges for marketing on Twitter. Over 66% of U.S. marketers use Twitter for social media marketing.

  • Twitter Video Badge (2-4 hours) teaches how to create video and run video ads on Twitter. The online course and certification is free.
  • Additional Twitter Flight School courses include Twitter Ads Manager, Audiences, Campaigns and Reporting.

LinkedIn Marketing Lab offers free online training for using LinkedIn Ads. There are 3 Basic courses and 3 Intermediate courses and then two certifications you can earn through exams.

12 Recommended Digital Marketing Certifications

Google Analytics Academy is an online education site offering free training and professional certifications for Google Analytics. Over 88% of search traffic worldwide occurs on Google. Recommended certifications include:

  • Google Analytics for Beginners Certificate of Completion (4-6 hours) teaches the basic features of Google Analytics for creating accounts, tracking, basic reports, goals and campaign tracking. The online course and certification is free.
  • Advanced Google Analytics Certificate of Completion (4-6 hours) teaches advanced Google Analytics features for data collection, processing, configuration and more complex analysis and marketing tools. The online course and certification is free.
  • Google Analytics Individual Qualification Certification (3 hours) is the exam to become professionally certified based on skills learned in the two courses above. The online study guides and certification exam are free.
  • Google Analytics 4 Certification (5-6 hours) teaches Google Analytics 4 which will replace Google Universal Analytics summer 2023. The online courses, exam and certification are free.
  • Google Ads Search Certification (3-4 hours) teaches the basics of Google search advertising or Pay-Per-Click. The online study guides and certification exam are free.
  • Google Ads Display Certification (2-3 hours) teaches the basics of Google search advertising or Pay-Per-Click. The online study guides and certification exam are free.
  • Google Ads Video Certification (4-5 hours) teaches the basics of Google search advertising or Pay-Per-Click. The online study guides and certification exam are free.
  • Google Data Studio Certificate of Completion (3-4 hours) teaches how to connect and visualize data online to gain insights and collaborate.
  • Additional Google Analytics Academy courses and certificates of completion include Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics 360, Google Ads Measurement, Google Shopping Ads, and Google Ads Apps.

HubSpot Academy is an online education site offering free training courses and professional certifications. Recommended certifications include:

  • HubSpot Inbound Certification (2-3 hours) teaches the HubSpot Inbound methodology for driving customer acquisition from a marketing, sales and service perspective. The online course and certification is free.
  • HubSpot Content Marketing Certification (6-7 hours) teaches a strategic content creation framework for creating and repurposing effective content for search engines and customer engagement. The online course and certification is free.
  • HubSpot Inbound Sales Certification (2-3 hours) teaches specific skills useful to sales people. It explains inbound approaches to personal sales for identifying new prospects and connecting with them. The online course and certification is free.
  • Additional HubSpot courses and certifications include Inbound Marketing, Growth Driven Design, and Email Marketing.

SEMrush Academy is an online education site offering free training and professional certification for search engine marketing. Over 5 million marketers use the SEMrush online visibility management platform. Recommended certifications:

  • SEO Fundamentals Certificate (4-5 hours) teaches the essentials for search engine optimization. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Keyword Research Certificate (2-3 hours) teaches the basics of keyword research. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Mobile SEO Certificate (2-3 hours) teaches the specialized knowledge for mobile website visibility. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Technical SEO Certificate (5-6 hours) teaches the essentials for the technical aspects of search engine optimization. The online course and certificate is free.
  • Additional SEMrush courses and certificates include SEMrush platform functions such as SEMrush Site Audit, SEO Toolkit, Competitive Analysis, Keyword Research, Technical SEO, Link Building, Rank Tracking and Backlink Management.

Amazon Advertising learning console is an online education site offering free training and professional certification for Amazon Advertising. Over 54% of product searches start on Amazon. Recommended certification is:

  • Amazon Sponsored Ads Accreditation (3-4 hours) teaches Amazon Sponsored Ad types, targeting, strategy, reporting and optimization. The online course and certification is free.
  • Amazon Stores Accreditation (1-2 hours) teaches Amazon Store, benefits, features and how build and promote an Amazon Store. The online course and certification is fee.

Institute for Brand Marketing is a collaboration between Adweek and IBM Watson Advertising to provide free online courses and badges to teach brand marketing with technology.

  • Advanced Marketing Technologies (4 hours) introduces you to innovative marketing technologies such as machine learning, AI and blockchain and how they can drive business success. The online course and badge is free.
  • Monetizing Engagement (4 hours) covers ways companies can monetize engagement across social channels to measure ROI by attributing sales and other KPIs to marketing efforts. The online course and badge is free.

freeCodeCamp is an online non-profit that teaches people to code for free and earn certifications. Free verified certifications include Responsive Webdesign, JavaScript, Front End Libraries, Data Visualization, APIs, and Python.

10 Recommended Non-Certification Online Learning Resources

Academy of Influencer Marketing by Traackr influencer marketing platform. It offers courses teaching influencer marketing skills, strategy and measurement. The first course is free. Advanced courses are $495.

Adobe Creative Cloud Tutorials is an online education site offering free training for Adobe Creative Cloud software including Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere, After Effects, Illustrator, Adobe XD, and Adobe Spark. Over 90% of the world’s creative professionals use Adobe.

Adobe Education Exchange is a free learning program and community for educators to ignite creativity in thier classrooms and leverage Adobe software.

Canva Design School is an online education site offering courses from the popular graphic design platform Canva. Free online courses include Graphic Design Basics, Social Media Design, Branding Your Business, and Presentations to Impress.

Code Academy is an online education site offering courses that teach how to write code in popular program languages such as HTML, CSS, Python, JavaScript, Java and SQL. These program languages are useful for web development, data science and design. Basic classes are free. There a $19.99 per month fee for Pro support.

ConvertedU by Leadpages is an online education site offering free and paid training and professional certification for conversion marketing. More than 40,000 small business use Leadpages to build landing pages, pop-ups, alerts and websites. Free online courses include Email List Building and Leadpages Launchpad. Paid courses include Conversion Marketing and Drip Marketing Certifications.

Google Academy for Ads is an online education site offering free courses in Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, Google Ad Manager, and Google My Business. Google Ads Certification is available, but you must work for a Google Partner business and use that business email to take the exam.

How to Use TikTok for Business by Later is a free 35 minute video course. The course gives insights into creating viral videos, understanding TikTok’s algorithm and using TikTok ads to reach new audiences.

Pinterest Academy is Pinterest’s online education site offering free training courses for marketing on Pinterest. Over 35% of U.S. marketers use Pinterest for social media marketing.

Social Media Examiner Training Videos is a YouTube channel by this popular soical media publication and conference. Their channel offers short training videos by social media experts. Videos are updated often and are usually 5 to 15 minutes long.

YouTube Creator Academy is an online education site offering free courses that teach setting up YouTube Channels, YouTube Content Strategy, Video Production, YouTube Channel Optimization, Money & Business, on YouTube, and YouTube Policies & Guidelines. Over 53% of U.S. marketers use YouTube for social media marketing. A YouTube Certification is available, but only for those with a YouTube partner manager or access to Content ID.

11 Additional Online Learning and Certification Options

Other online courses and certification options include AMA Digital Marketing Certification (Exam), Blogging University (WordPress), LinkedIn Learning (Wide Variety of Subjects), Marketo (Marketing Platform), Meltwater Masterclass (Social Management), Microsoft Advertising (Ad Platform), Microsoft Dynamics 365 (Microsoft Business Applications), Moz Academy (SEO), Salesforce Trailblazer Connect (Salesforce CRM), Trading Academy (Programmatic Ad Buying), and Yoast Academy (SEO).

Whether you are a professional, student or professor I hope you find these recommendations to be useful. Even though I’ve highlighted 40 free and low cost online learning courses and certifications I may have missed some. What online courses and certifications have your used that your find to be valuable?

Ready to put these skills and certifications to use in a social media job?

See my post “Social Media Career Guide: What You Can Do and Where You Can Do It” and my guide to creating a social media plan for your personal brand “Consider This A Sign: Now Is The Time To Create A Social Media Plan For Your Personal Brand.”