What’s in an AI magazine cover?

This June/July issue of NZ Marketing features three AI generated images on three separate covers (pictured above), printed with innovated ink and paper technology. Here’s what went into the making of the covers, and the new opportunities AI presents for publishers.

With all the fuss over AI, be it the use of ChatGPT by journalists to assist in story writing or sales managers to write proposals for potential advertisers, there’s much for publishers to get excited about when it comes to the technology.

So, the team at NZ Marketing decided to test the technology out for ourselves on our cover, with the help of the smart people over at Brand IQ. 

Through their AI Studio, the agency headed up by Steve Ballantyne, developed AI images inspired by the theme of the issue. The result, several incredible images, three of which have been chosen as individual cover images, with readers receiving at random one of the three special edition Ecofoil copies.

We chat to Steve about the process, and the future potential of AI generated images in marketing terms.

What was your process for developing the NZ Marketing magazine cover images?

The brief was to develop a cover image that represented what the future marketer might look like, metaphorically. As the magazine was using new Ecofoil paper technology for the cover, we were to incorporate layers of metallic colours to enhance the image to create something futuristic and amazing. 

We used the AI generative programme MidJourney, following our usual process, which is to imagine the subject matter from many, many different angles. A bit like a brainstorming session, we look at the subject from lots of angles rather than jumping down the first rabbit hole. So different subject matter, different styles, combinations of photorealistic, illustrative, and surrealistic styles, then we imagine and render lots of versions of the image. That’s the first thing. In the second round we mash it up a bit. We will take images we like and mix them together to create new and different variations.

For the cover images we came up with a few different ways of communicating the key message and then we took some of those executions and mixed them together to create a style which is different and not predictable.  What we wanted to communicate was that AI generated imagery won’t replace human capabilities, or the future marketer, but enhance and augment them. Rather than calling it artificial intelligence, I prefer the name augmented intelligence or augmented creativity. It will enable us to generate more creative ideas, faster. 

What are the benefits of AI imagery for marketing purposes?

The benefits are many. You can create a full suite of images and subtly incorporate visual branding into all the images. For example, if you have a circular shaped logo device, you can produce a series of ultra-realistic photos where you infuse circular shapes and forms into backgrounds, landscapes, objects in the photos. You can create images that are difficult or impossible to shoot. You can create anything from high-end, ultra-realistic photos through to collages, three dimensional designs, animated characters, illustrations, fine art – and you can base them on any style that you like. You can reduce the need for expensive photo shoots and save literally tens of thousands of dollars. Both creative agencies and clients can see high-end finished visual ideas a lot faster. 

What makes an image an AI image?

It’s an image that has been created by a generative platform like DALL-E, MidJourney, or Stable Diffusion. It’s a human putting a text-based prompt into one of those platforms, that produces the image – a photo, an illustration, a sketch, a collage – whatever. 

What do you love about AI technology and its use within marketing?

I feel like a kid going to Disneyland for the first time. 

I’ve been in the industry for 30+ years and this is by far the most exciting technological innovation that I’ve ever experienced – bigger than designing on a Mac when it came out. We’ve been studying this space for the last year and since our team started playing with it six months ago, the improvement in quality has been amazing and we think the next two years we’re going to see an even more dramatic improvement in quality. My prediction is that within two years you’ll be able to produce high quality short form video content from text prompts. You can do “ropey” stuff now, but I’m talking about marketers being able to produce broadcast quality video content from text prompts. 

It really supercharges or amplifies your creativity. Like the movie ‘Limitless’, where Bradley Cooper takes the pills that gives him super brain power. I feel that as a creative it exponentially to the power of 10 extends your capabilities. Every idea that you have, you’re able to see it visualised in real time and come to life before your eyes. It speeds up the creative or ideation process. You have an idea, and you can see it and then use it to springboard off to another idea or to adapt it, in a range of different styles. Back in the day if we had an idea, someone had to get the squeakers out and draw up their idea to show the team or the client what they were thinking. Now, using text prompts, we can visualise ideas within seconds. So, it’s the speed, you can see the idea almost in its finished form, immediately. Clients are excited about it because they don’t have to imagine the squeaker visual in its final form. It’s cocaine for creativity.

Any pitfalls marketers should consider when using such technology?

Be careful that you’re not ripping off an illustrator or artist who has a unique style that is obviously theirs. We don’t use specific illustrators as reference images for our work, we use more general theme styles and our own way of prompting which we have developed. We also like to remix or mash up different illustrative styles to create unique looks. For example, pop art meets baroque. 

You need to be creative, have good ideas, and be able to concept. You still need Photoshop. Unless you take the time to use the platforms you won’t get the most of them. It’s easy to use the platform to publish a lot of crap, like cat rock bands and royal dogs, but if you want to do unique, sophisticated work, you’ve got to take the time to understand prompt engineering and how to maximise the potential of the platform. Our team has spent literally hundreds of hours studying different prompt strategies from AI creators all over the world. One of the great things about the AI image creator’s category is that everyone is generous about sharing their knowledge.  

The print process

Printed by SCG on the Fujifilm Revoria PC1120 using Ecofoil paper exclusively stocked by Spicers, and Colorlogic software, NZ Marketing has been able to achieve an incredible foil effect cover that gives a new and exciting dimension to our AI generated images. 

For more information about BrandIQ visit www.brandiq.co.nz or get in touch with Steve [email protected].

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