When B.J. Novak was preparing for his directorial debut for The Office; he sought the advice of his friend’s father, Al Ruddy, who produced The Godfather. He said, “You only need two things to direct: what you want and how to get it.” I love this sentiment, and I feel it applies to most creative endeavors.
As Generative AI has made its big splash into more publicly available tools like Chat GPT, Midjourney, DALL-E, Runway and more, creative tools are suddenly at the hands of artists and non-artists alike to make something that they could never make that quickly, or to make something they could never make at all.
So how does Generative AI help us become better creative directors? How does it help us know what we want and how to get it? What are the best tools to do so?
This is my perspective on how Copywriters, Designers, Art Directors and Content Creators on in-house and agency creative teams can best answer those two questions:
1- Actual Intelligence > Artificial Intelligence
Great creativity almost always lies within a human insight with few exceptions. Yes, we can prompt ChatGPT to give me 10 headlines for laundry detergent that now boasts you can wash your white shirt with your red socks. But what we really need is an insight, a human truth or habit that drives the meaning behind those headlines.
This is strategy. We already know we need this. It’s why we have strategists on our respective creative teams. This will lead to more interesting copy, better storytelling and stronger executions in your creative.
How do you get what you want? Start as a human, and prompt your AI to help explore what those insights are. Be curious. Ask “why” relentlessly, like a toddler. ChatGPT is great at exploring, brainstorming and giving references and examples. And ChatGPT has endless patience for your “whys.”
2- Writing > Prompting
Your output is only as good as your input. A prompt is creative direction. A prompt is literally where you write your “What you want.” Don’t go cheap on it. Don’t expect incredible results from lazy writing.
How do I get this? First, you should write something everyday, without AI writing for you. Write in a journal, a blog, poetry, anything. But YOU are the author. Then edit and learn through your AI tools and other forms of feedback.
When writing for AI- it’s the time to micromanage. Tell your Generative AI exactly the role they are playing and exactly what you want. Build the story, with details. There are several opinions and ways to do this. I find this one to be the most universal:
State the role that the AI is playing
“A creative copywriter for an advertising agency.”
Storytell the ask
Instead of telling it exactly what to do, tell a story of what you want it to accomplish, with lots of detail.
“You’re writing headlines for a new laundry detergent that is able to wash all types of clothes and colors in the same load. You’re inspired by idea of a young woman in her freshman year of college where everything is new, a little bit scary, and a bit overwhelming. But the promise of all these different minds coming together and accomplishing a larger goal is inspiring. Write me headlines that captivate the feeling of different people existing toward a common goal, and make them inspiring”
Give it rules/guidelines/limitations
Hopefully you know the brand you’re working for. Are they funny? Serious? Straightforward? Help guide the tone of the output by your understanding of the brand/brief.
“Avoid humor, political statements, or anything that overpromises an ideal world or output. Keep the lines between 1-10 words so that it can work on a billboard.”
Edit and repeat
Any creative needs feedback. AI is no different. Look at the results, reevaluate what you want. Then repeat the above to get it.
3- Efficiency > Speed
AI will help you do things faster. THAT DOESN’T MEAN THEY ARE BETTER. The goal should always be to yield the best work possible. If a designer had 10 hours to design something, they often have to abandon their design by hour 10. AI can help them get to the same place faster, but we still want to give them the full time to bring you the best result possible.
I compare this to the food industry. If you want a burger, you have lots of options. You can get one in 30 seconds, or you can get one at a nice sit-down place. Sometimes, all you need is a $1 menu indulgence. Sometimes you want a culinary experience.
How do I get it?- Manage expectations. Don’t shorten timelines if you want quality creative work. We can now be more efficient with that time. Give creatives as much time as possible. New AI tools are developing by the hour. There’s so much to try and explore. Allow time for that. Otherwise, you’ll get old work- just faster, with no new thinking or time to find new solutions.
4- Solidarity > Collaboration
I stole this sentiment from the first shop I worked at called Struck, but I still live by it. Collaboration doesn’t always yield the best results. Solidarity does. This is the “Know what you want” and make sure the people and tools you use get you there.
How do I get it? Have a solid brief and a solid ask. “A well-stated problem is half solved.” Be committed to what you want the output to be. Be committed to what AI tools you want to (and don’t want) use.
People may disagree, you may need to make a decision based on leadership or client feedback/parameters. Just make sure you’re solid on what you want to make, instead of trying to create it all together as a group.
I am certain new tools and programs will help us do our jobs better. But I think the underlying advice remains constant: Know what you want, and how to get it.
– Dane Rahlf