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How Sandwich Video uses AI in its business.

The impact of AI in a creative industry.

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I’m exploring how businesses use AI and am excited to bring you a deeper look at how Sandwich implements it internally.

Sandwich Video is a creative agency specialising in video commercials. It’s behind many tech companies' videos, such as Slack, Square, Shopify, Instacart and Figma. You’ve probably seen their work—all videos are here.

The company is known for translating complex product features into engaging, understandable video content. It was founded in 2009 and is based in Los Angeles.

Thank you, Adam Lisagor, Founder & CEO of Sandwich, for spending time with me and revealing many interesting insights.

What stood out to me most from this conversation;

  • Reacting to AI with scepticism and fear

  • Inspiring experimentation and involving your team in discussions around adopting AI

  • Automating processes around the work by using AI as an assistant

  • The use of AI tools for creative work

  • AI’s current capability for generating videos and screenwriting

  • Using AI as a thought partner—he shares links to actual conversations he’s had with AI which are truly fascinating

  • Using AI characters to leverage specific expertise

  • AI’s Hollywood future and its place in creative work

  • Democratisation through AI

Reacting to AI

Adam’s first exposure to AI was when a friend introduced him to Midjourney—sharing his screen, typing in Discord, and generating images.

But with the recent NFT boom, Adam saw these generated images in that context. Cool imagery that was technologically enabled—generative but somehow its value is lost.

Midjourney was very early, with distorted faces and that kind of thing.

He had heard of DALLE, but it wasn’t something he wanted to be a part of quite yet. He could see where it was going but thought it didn’t really apply to him yet.

Then he began playing with Large Language Models (LLMs) after one of his client’s founders had early access to GPT-4.

He approached AI again with a sense of scepticism and "high threat detection mode," scrutinising its ability to replicate what his company does.

He showed me in a slack how he could basically do a prompt about something related to my company. How would sandwich make us do a script for a video, blah, blah, blah. And I watched it generate the output in real time. And I thought, that's freaky, but it's not threatening to me. I was looking for threat. I was on high threat detection mode. Can it reproduce what my company does? And the answer at that point was, no. So I don't have to be afraid of it. I feel like possibly everybody's first reaction to AI is fear. And I still come across that.

Many people initially fear AI, prompted by concerns about job replacement and negative press. This reaction to AI, a mix of curiosity and fear, is common.

He mentioned that many people view technology as a fixed entity in a static frame rather than a dynamic, evolving story.

This perception is problematic because technology, including AI, should be seen as a narrative with ever-advancing potential and unfolding possibilities.

Embracing AI with your team

In late 2022, Adam played with the then-public GPT-3.5 and had interesting conversations with it, seeing what was coming.

He got his team of 16 together at Sandwich for a roundtable discussion to ask;

  • What do you know about AI?

  • What do you think about it right now?

  • What does that mean for us, it can make pictures?

They had already worked with AI clients like Jasper, Descript, Synthesia, and Casetext. But they understood those technologies as a novelty rather than a foundation, as it wasn’t the current AI wave yet.

Those tools were such a black box for those specific companies at that point. They weren't consumer facing at all in terms of the AI level. OpenAI was the first one that I was aware of. That exposed the application layer to the consumer and said, this is what's possible and that changed everything, obviously. So because I mostly tell stories about consumer tech and how your average person is going to use tech and not how your average developer-engineer is going to use tech. I need to be able to understand the products on that level as a consumer. Way more so than I have to understand them as an engineer.

The team, being creative, naturally had fear-based reactions.

  • What are you saying?

  • Are you going to start hiring AI from now on?

This may seem familiar.

But they sat down and discussed it because AI is coming and their business will change.

the reason we're sitting down to talk is because AI is coming. Our business is going to change. It's going to change in the sense of who we're working with. The tech. Industry. Is being overcome by AI companies right now. That's where the funding is going. So we're going to have to know about it. And also the tools are coming, and we're going to have to embrace them. And either we embrace them or we don't. And if we don't, we disappear.

So they invited everybody to think about how to use these tools. ChatGPT and DALLE-2 were now live.

But not much happened after giving the team the go-ahead.

Sometimes people need handholding unless they're naturally curious, and not everyone wants to pay $20 to try something.

Adam realised his team needed to use the latest and greatest LLMs, not the basic level ChatGPT if he wanted them to embrace them.

Scaling their work

Sandwich, as a creative agency, couldn't scale. But there’s so much process work that could benefit from using AI.

What if Sandwich could scale?

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