Content References: Bringing Your Vision to Life

James Dow

Rethinking Advertising: Content References

As creatives, we spend a lot of time trying to describe our vision to other people. When words don’t do us justice, we turn to moodboards or artistic references. It’s now possible to do the same when prompting AI. As well as using words to describe what you want to create, you can add content references to your prompt.

The Creative Challenge

Even if you’ve been using Gen AI for a while, it’s not always easy to find the right words for a prompt. As creatives, we might have a particular vision in mind, but translating that into a prompt for AI isn’t necessarily straightforward - you’re essentially trying to describe art that doesn’t exist yet. But there’s a fix: Content Reference or ‘--cref’ is a more advanced AI tool that allows you to utilize different imagery in order to bring your vision to life. We wanted to explore using content references as part of our prompting.

The Outcome

What we found was that --cref was particularly useful in instances where precision is crucial. Oftentimes the details of an image matter just as much as the overall aesthetic; for instance, in terms of product placement or brand tonality. Cref helps create images that are not only stylistically aligined with your brand or vision, but also make thematic sense. Using the -cref tool gave us a greater degree of control over the composition and content of the generated artwork.

The --cref tool was incredibly useful for ensuring that the AI understood and incorporated specific visual details that might have been difficult to convey through text alone. In the example below, it was far easier to use a style image than to describe the abstract art that we wanted to incorporate into the final output.

Providing the AI with an example image helps guide the content of the generated image. It’s much easier to translate your creative vision.  And it’s particularly useful when you want to ensure certain elements or themes are included in the generated artwork.

The Methodology

In this example, I will show you how to apply your brand world to a key product artwork in a few steps. First, you will need a key image you want to style and a style image to apply to the key artwork. Or more simply, a product image and a styling image. For this example, I will create a new style for an existing hairdryer product shot.

 1/ Use the "describe" feature to get our prompt going. Upload your product image to midjourney. When it's uploaded, hover over it with your cursor and click the (i) button to load the describe feature. You can now build a prompt from these sentences.

Now do the same with your brand styling or background image:

2/ Combine the two prompts together and add the two images we uploaded. Be sure to hover over each image and make sure --cref is selected (person icon).  

So we should have the following prompt recipe:

  • Key Image description
  • Style background description
  • image of product (selected as --cref) 
  • image of background (selected as --cref) 

3/ GO! It can take a few generations to get the perfect shot so make sure you stick with it!

PROMPT:  A model in a white dress is holding the red and pink Dyson hair dryer above her head, and there is an air dock on top of it. The background color should be pure black or gray to highlight the product, with high contrast between light and dark. The model against a black or gray backdrop in the style of white people, black & grey. Abstract background with colorful wavy shapes vector presentation template design, in the style of neon purple and orange colors, detailed, hyperrealistic, high resolution, high detail.

PROMPT: clean and minimalistic spray bottle mockup design, with brand name "Bubblex", product photography, professional lighting, on light blue background, front view, high resolution, high details, stock photo, in the style of by an artist. Intricate bubbles, with highly detailed textures, floating in the air against a dark background, rendered in a hyperrealistic style with volumetric lighting, vibrant colors, high resolution, and sharp focus, created in the style of octane render, with a cinematic quality.

PROMPT: 2 square Condoms packets floating. minimalistic. render. colors pink and purple small square package with contrasting color inside, brand name is written on the packaging "HIPPY LOVE", creative idea concept for condom package . Background white gray gradient, studio shot, high resolution, clear sharp focus, high quality, hyper detailed photo. lips and flowers, retro groovy background vector illustration in the style of 70s hippie art print with pink, purple, green, and yellow pastel colours.

PROMPT: A pair of white canvas sneakers with white laces and platform soles. The shoes have sleek leather uppers and a clean design that highlights their low tops and thick heels. They're floating at dynamic angles in the center of the frame to emphasize its unique style, perfect for casual wear or street fashion. Black background, colorful powder explosion, high-speed photography, Nikon D850 camera with Nikon AFS NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2G ED VR II lens. The color of the dust is bright and vibrant against black. High contrast between light and dark creates sharpness in highlights and shadows. Captured from different angles to show dynamic movement. High resolution for crisp details. The photograph is in the style of high-speed photography with vibrant colors against a black background and sharp contrasts between light and dark. --ar 3:2

The Conclusion

You should think of Gen AI as a creative partner - a tool that can help bring your vision to life. If you were working with a junior creative and tasking them with creating something, you’d probably show them visual references, as well as describing what you want them to create. It’s the same with AI. The --cref tool is a way of helping the AI understand what you want it to create.