Creativity & AI: The Future of Storytelling at BrightHouse

Written by

Mike Lear Executive Creative Director, North America |

Apr 19, 2024 · 8-minute read

I was in London on business, searching for a bite to eat with my colleague. The nearest open restaurant was a rather posh sushi joint. Soon after we sat down, two gentlemen took the adjacent table. One of the men’s voices struck a familiar chord with me. I was certain I knew him from somewhere, but I couldn’t place it. In a matter minutes, my colleague and I and the two men started chatting. Hours flew by as we shared stories over beers and sushi. From time to time, I noticed flashes from cameras pointed our way. It wasn’t until we traded Instagram handles that I realized who this man with the familiar voice was. When all was revealed, we shared a big laugh. His identity? I’ll save that for the end.

Stories have been the heartbeat of humanity since the first cave paintings. They’re how we convey our deepest emotions and most profound ideas to each other. Our innate interest in stories is why video is the most shared form of media in the world today. And why the vast array of streaming services offers years’ worth of content at our fingertips. Shared narratives, real and fictional, bind us together. For many of you, all I have to do is mention the show “The Office” and a pot of chili, and you’ll complete the rest of the story in your mind.

Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner said that a fact wrapped in a story is 22 times more memorable than a fact alone. Pretty powerful. And scholar Neil Fleming found there are four modalities or styles to learning: visual, aural, read, and kinesthetic. Most people lean toward one or the other, and the beautiful thing is stories appeal to all four modalities of learning at one time. Stories aren’t fluffy or fanciful tales; they’re hardworking teaching tools that evoke emotion. They connect us with the human condition. In an instant, we know, we feel, and we remember something connected to that feeling or emotion we’ve experienced. Great stories rooted in insights unlock these emotions, and that’s why we put them to work for us in business. True and authentic stories deployed properly prompt people to do things not because they must do them but because they want to do them.

Stories aren’t fluffy or fanciful tales; they’re hardworking teaching tools that evoke emotion.

And now, we’re at the start of a new chapter: integrating AI into this ancient art form. When it comes to writing, we’ve found AI is fantastic at synthesizing data and giving us a starting point; but it misses the mark quite a bit in the creativity department. As a thinking partner, it’s proving to be an incredible tool.  But to get to something great, it still takes a keen eye and steerage from an experienced creative writer. It needs their direction to add emotion based in deep insight. Elizabeth Spiers, a writer for the New York Times, says AI reminds her of her toddler. For now, at least, AI requires constant adult supervision.

And so, it requires great intuition and taste to create something deeply meaningful and resonant. I read a great article from Rubrik Bipul Sinha, titled, “The Knowledge Economy Is Dead, Long Live the Intuition Economy.” His thesis is in the title, and I agree that this is where we are. Intuitive and bespoke creations are becoming more noticeable because the more content that’s created – and so quickly using AI – the more it resembles a heap of trash. Creative writing using AI without expert supervision can tactically hit the mark, but you won’t be making anything memorable or artfully excellent. 

But does it really matter? Why not just serve up what our clients ask for and move on? Why not just deliver excellent strategic writing, and not worry about this poetry business? If we did that, we wouldn’t be contributing to civilization in a way that I believe we should. We will only be adding to the garbage and drivel already detectable by the same language models that create it. The sea of sameness is real, and it’s up to us to chart original paths.

Remember in Dead Poets Society when Robin Williams’ character said, “Math and science and business are all noble pursuits, but poetry… Poetry, my friends, is why we are alive in the first place.” Great writing matters and has always been held in the highest regard in any civilization. It ignites our senses, challenges our thinking. And the best creative expressions within organizations do the same thing. Great creative writing works harder, sneaking into our psyche in ways we can’t easily explain. It shows us new divergent paths and creates fresh connections of thought. And it’s this deep insightful and emotional connection that we create that is paramount to what we do. AI struggles with the nuances and complexities of human emotions that are deeply contextual and subjective. It can mimic empathy or emotions based on cues but lacks a deep, intuitive grasp of these feelings. And so, in order to craft great stories that resonate, stories that linger long after they’re told, we use AI as a tool; but the artistry, the heart of the story – that’s all human.

Great creative writing works harder, sneaking into our psyche in ways we can’t easily explain.

Famed music producer Rick Rubin said, “Creative ideas are best evaluated through the senses, not the intellect.” At BCG, we work alongside the smartest people in the world to help the C-suite tell their stories. There’s often a desire from our strategic partners to quantify, codify, and repeat a creative success. Show me the data, they say. Or, let’s map out how we can repeat this. But great creativity just doesn’t work that way. 

For the most part, the creative mind works just outside the parameters of logic. We rely heavily on our subconscious, and, in many cases, our ADHD. We need incubation time and then more time to flesh out all the first thoughts and drivel. We need to release streams of ideas to be analyzed later. The nuances and subtleties that we pick up in the months and weeks we spend with our clients just can’t be captured with AI. Only a writer’s mind can do that. And this is our value. Orson Welles said, “Don’t give them what you think they want. Give them what they never thought was possible.” We’re trying to do something lasting and beautiful, that looks and sounds like nothing we’ve seen before. Something unique, inspiring, and empowering.

The nuances and subtleties that we pick up in the months and weeks we spend with our clients just can’t be captured with AI.

As a basic example, take a typical organization’s values. You can go on just about any company’s website and find them, usually in the “About” section. It’s there that I often see principles that don’t resonate, that ring hollow. Generic value titles like “Integrity” or “Respect” are the opposite of differentiated, engaging, and impactful. While perhaps strategically correct, these commonplace terms do not create strong stories that stick. The terms are so vague that people don’t know how to behave based in them. Not to mention, no one remembers them. They simply don’t work.

In contrast, I happen to love what we did for a large beverage maker in writing its values. It was pre-AI, and the copy we crafted for the project was artful, original, and memorable. The words resonated because we conducted many interviews, heard the nuances, and gathered the gems. When I presented our work to the founder of the company, he only changed one word. We captured his story perfectly and the entire organization still uses these principles to make every decision.

Jumping to the visual side of things, what about the use of AI in imagery? In our consulting position, we’re often asked to create a vision or iconic path with imagery. Much of our work is high-level and needs to quickly encapsulate a feeling or direction on an epic scale. Here, AI is proving to be a wonderful tool for us, when guided appropriately. Recently, we worked with an electric car maker overseas. Using AI, we were able to show them not just examples of photography that could be part of their new marketing efforts but actual photographs featuring their cars they could immediately use for campaigns.

As we step into a future increasingly intertwined with AI, it’s essential to remember that it’s the human touch that brings heart and soul to every tale. AI is a force, and it requires an equally strong force to direct it. As a tool, AI needs human guidance, discernment, and intuition to ensure bespoke and emotionally impactful creative work. It’s this delicate dance of technology and human creativity that will shape the future of storytelling in business and continue to bring the most effective solutions.

And by the way, the mystery diner with us that night in London was none other than my fellow Atlantan Mr. Christopher Bridges, or, as you know him, Ludacris.


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