"What prompted you?" campaign shows power of AI when presented with true stories

May 30, 2024
Emmy Liederman
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Dionna Dorsey, CEO and cofounder of Creative Ladder, draws back to a childhood memory as an AI prompt. (Creative Theory Agency) 

Dionna Dorsey looks back on a childhood of cereal and cartoons, Keem Hughley remembers bathing in natural light while cooking in a cathedral and Angel Gregorio cherises the empty parking lot of an auto body shop that would soon house a community. 

Angel Gregorio is the founder of Black and Forth, a strip mall in Washington, DC. that leases affordable space to Black business owners.

On billboards across Washington, DC where Creative Theory Agency is based, the shop is presenting how the memories of influential creatives make for the most detailed and imaginative uses of AI. While AI is often characterized as a deviation from reality, Creative Theory Agency reflects on what happens when it draws from what already exists.

“It takes several iterations for a good image that represents the story you’re trying to build,” Gary Williams, chief creative officer and co-founder at Creative Theory Agency, told Banknotes. “You could first get three arms or six fingers, but if we hadn’t tapped into that lived experience, we wouldn’t have been able to hone into the detail that AI needs to make a nuanced image.”

Getting major players on board 

The campaign also directs audiences to whatpromptedyou.com, where the agency draws a throughline between universal access to AI’s development and innovation.

“We’ve seen the level of thoughtfulness that global brands can approach their work with,” said co-founder and CEO Tamon George, whose main clients are Google, YouTube and Meta. “We know we need to revisit this and make sure there is a keen eye on this frontier in the same way.” 

Since it is the shop behind campaigns like “For Google, It’s You,” a campaign that worked to increase internal diversity, and worked on “Real Tone,” the Google Pixel software that captures darker skin tones more accurately, Creative Theory Agency has a grasp on what’s possible when it comes to inclusion in tech.

“Our success has come from moments when we felt the need to say something and didn’t ask for permission,” said Williams, who emphasized the need for inclusion at AI’s early stages. “It is our duty at this moment to say something and bridge the gap between these AI tools and access.”

Keem Hughley is the CEO and owner of Bronze, an afrofuturistic restaurant in Washington, DC.

Emphasizing individuality 

As more creatives consider how emerging tech may challenge their value, the campaign works to both generate more diverse interest in AI while laying out the stakes of excluding certain perspectives and stories. 

Carl Maynard is an artist and the founder of photography group Walk with Locals.

“People talk about prompts as this ethereal thing that you took out of thin air, but something came before that prompt,” said George. “What came before was a lived experience that gives you that special piece of nuance that then allows you to prompt.” 

Rethinking Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule, which states that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a given field, George stressed that the leaders in AI will be those who shift gears from studying the tech itself to tying in their own anecdotes.

“The future won’t be about how many hours you put into becoming an expert,” he said. “The people who can delve into 10,000 pages of their personal source code will be the most innovative users of these tools, and therefore get the most innovative outputs." 

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