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Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.
Creativity Squared Episode Cover Art featuring Phil Gable
Phil Gable has worked in advertising for 25 years. He started as a copywriter and currently freelances as a Creative Director and Strategist in New York City where he also runs his production company Porcupine Armadillo.

Ep6. Phil Gable: Keep A.I. Absurd

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Creativity Squared Episode Cover Art featuring Phil Gable

Ep6. Keep A.I. Absurd: Embrace A.I. Creating Bizarre Content with Advertising Creative Director Phil Gable

Advertising Creative Director Phil Gable joins Creativity Squared for a laugh-out-loud, mostly PG-13 conversation that touches on the current state of the advertising industry, the dangers of censoring A.I., and examples of his absurd A.I.-created content. Spoiler: ChatGPT had a hard time nailing down a conversation between Alice Cooper and Jay Leno in iambic pentameter about wood! 

Phil has been working in advertising for 25 years. He started as a copywriter when the Internet was young, then moved on to Creative Director roles at some big agencies in New York and Atlanta as well as some smaller ones in the Midwest before setting out on his own. He’s currently freelancing as a Creative Director and Strategist for several agencies in New York City, and he also runs his own production company called Porcupine Armadillo which specializes in weird, low-budget comedy. 

Unsurprisingly then, Phil wants to keep A.I. absurd and sees it as a playground for creating bizarre content. A.I. tools are handy for him as a creative director when it comes to editing, efficiency, or finding a word; however, actual humans are still needed to create really good strategies and new ideas. A.I. can help us appreciate strange, chaotic things. Be prepared to laugh and read on to learn about some of Phil’s absurd prompts, why he wants to be the bizarre czar, and his darkly humorous, interesting takes on A.I. and humanity.

Absurdity, Dark Humor, and the Creative Process

Phil describes his humor as fairly dark and sardonic. The closest thing he has to religion is an appreciation for absurdity. And ChatGPT doesn’t necessarily get that. He asked it to write a promo for a comedy special featuring him and it pulled in generic words like quirky, offbeat, and observational, which did not resonate!

“The new Googling yourself is ChatGPT-ing yourself and seeing what it does.” 

Phil Gable

Phil’s creative process varies, and he basically just thinks about stuff. Movement can help get him unstuck but he believes that you shouldn’t oversteer, especially as a creative director. He’s actually suspicious of people if they say they have a really specific creative method.

The Ever-Changing Advertising Industry 

After 25 years in the industry, Phil has seen advertising go through different phases and cycles, from fun and light-hearted to serious and emotionally driven. However, he prefers to create humorous content as it resonates well with audiences.

“I find A.I. to be a handy tool. I think it’s going to take a while before it can do strategic and creative brand-level thinking.”

Phil Gable

Currently, the advertising industry is facing various challenges such as tight budgets and client acquisition. There is also concern about using A.I. to generate content, but Phil finds it to be a useful tool. He believes that A.I. still has a long way to go before it can handle strategic thinking and creative brand-level ideas. It can, however, assist in rewriting content in different voices or styles. It’s a handy tool and may replace some things that interns may do but more complex, creative work still goes to the humans.

He doesn’t even find A.I. helps with brainstorming but it’s a quick editor. Currently, A.I. is not going to generate originality but rather it generates the generic. He jokes that if it was a junior writer, it would get fired pretty quickly!

Knowing When an Idea is Good and How A.I. Plays a Role in Advertising

Phil goes on to say that right now A.I. doesn’t really give new angles on a concept. For him a good idea is something that surprises him. A.I. can give you some predictable examples but isn’t going to reinvent the creative wheel.

“I’ve heard people refer to A.I. as hallucinations, which I think is a good way to describe it.”

Phil Gable

Phil likes playing with the image generators and it’s great for generating a quick piece of concept art. He’ll have Star Wars meet Gone with the Wind and see what weird thing is produced. Phil does believe that prompting is a skill that needs to be developed so you can get what you need. A.I. can also help alleviate some of the grunt work and work as an editorial assistant. Production wise, there’s a lot of stuff that will speed up the workflow.

Right now, it’s a great time for making things that are dumb and so bad that they’re good. It’s about having fun with the A.I. tools including voice and enjoying the weird stuff that comes out of it.

Censorship and A.I. Prompts

“It’s such a weird moment of people all around the whole spectrum trying to censor things by other people. And then it’s like, we have to decide how the robots are going to censor things.”

Phil Gable

When it comes to copyright and A.I., there’s a lot of murky questions that need to be answered by lawyers. For example, Phil asked Adobe Firefly to do something in the style of Wes Anderson and it wouldn’t. He has to revise the prompts several times on occasion to get rid of the offensive thing to the program.

Recently, Phil tried to have A.I. generate an image of a deer shooting back at a hunter, something that was done in the Far Side comics. A.I. rejected it saying that they couldn’t condone violence and the rejection letter makes you feel really bad for even asking. 

ChatGPT wouldn’t draft a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham about teaching witchcraft in public schools. It said it was unable to influence public policy. For Phil, there’s a sarcasm disconnect. He wasn’t serious in his request, but the program can’t grasp that.

Quality Content and the Bizarreness Czar

“The most enjoyable side effect of artificial intelligence is artificial, inadvertent dumbness.”

Phil Gable

Phil sees so much bad content produced by humans. And now, there’s a supercharged arms race to flood the internet with even more low quality from A.I. So we have to be careful using these tools as tools — not replacements for good ideas. Phil always worries about appreciation of quality from clients — whether it’s A.I. or human-generated.

While the technology is moving at rapid speeds, it still is somewhat new. Sometimes it nails what you want and sometimes doesn’t. A prompt asking ChatGPT to write a conversation between Alice Cooper and Jay Leno in iambic pentameter about wood was disappointing. It got the iambic pentameter but gave Alice Cooper a superficial voice. It made Phil worry that ChatGPT didn’t find enough material out there on Alice Cooper to simulate him! 

Hopefully, A.I. will be used to make better things but ultimately, it’s a mirror of humanity. For the good parts and the bad.

“The great promise of A.I. is to help people appreciate strange, chaotic things.”

Phil Gable

There are the large-scale doomsday fears about what A.I. means for society, but Phil is more focused on the powers that be putting the brakes on what you can and can’t do with the tools. You can make some really weird, funny, cool stuff right and embrace the awkwardness of it all. Phil doesn’t want that to get lost. It’s a fun playground to explore. 

Phil explains that we’re lumping the good, bizarre with the bad bizarre. He nominates himself for the bizarreness czar appointed in the U.S. to differentiate between the two! Phil believes we should have fun making odd stuff and use it as a handy tool for work rather than relying solely on it for creative ideas. At the end of the day, keep A.I. bizarre and weird! 

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Thank you, Phil, for being our guest on Creativity Squared.

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