Now We Collide is a Sydney, Australia-based creative agency that is embracing AI as part of their everyday. We talk to Ryan Bodger, co-founder and now the CCO about navigating AI via their arm Collide-AI and what this entails.
Appeared in THE CREATIVE STORE newsletter.
Ryan, give us the backstory – who are you and where did you come from?
A couple of decades ago, I started out as a junior broadcast cameraman and video editor at the Nine Network, where I stayed for a few years until the transition to a new digital world took hold through the dot com bubble in the late ’90s. In 1998 I co-founded the digital agency Tricky Design (now 24digital.com.au) and delivered campaigns and projects for high profile clients including Telstra, IBM and NAB (to name a few).
In 2003 I was given the opportunity to work in Japan as the Digital Creative Director for Nikkei Net, Japan’s largest news corporation, taking the lead in the redesign and development of Nikkei Net’s English website.
In 2006 I landed back in Sydney and went on to co-found Now We Collide with business partner and CEO Keir Maher in 2015, where I now work as CCO, with an awesome team, overseeing and delivering digitally integrated campaigns and projects for a broad range of great clients.
You have a great range of clients – do you focus on certain sectors, or enjoy the breadth and variety?
We are lucky in that the client partnerships we have built over the years have continued to grow and prosper. We have really spent the time nurturing them, helping them achieve their business goals while building strong relationships. While we don’t focus on particular verticals we specialise in helping big global brands deliver their marketing efforts across APAC and other regions.
Your website states you are pioneers in the field of AI – how are you working in the AI space?
Right now we are witnessing the rapid advancement of deep neural networks in language, image, audio and video synthesis, resulting in remarkably precise, realistic, and customisable outputs. What was once blurry and low-resolution has now transformed into highly realistic and aesthetically impressive imagery, ushering in a new era of synthetic media. In late 2022 we setup Collide-AI driven by a passion to test, experiment and learn what this new technology can do, while seeing an opportunity to bring it into our everyday workflow.
How do you see the future of AI changing the face of a typical agency?
At COLLIDE-AI we believe that AI is not the creative solution for all projects or briefs. It doesn't provide all the answers, or simply replace more traditional creative development or production, nor should it. It is our belief that AI should be adopted as another creative tool for brands and marketers to get their message to market, at speed, in unique and exciting ways. We are conscious of the ethical issues surrounding its use and ensure we are not using it in the wrong way, using specific artists as reference for style and output. What is incredible about generative AI is the way we can come up with new ideas we may never of dreamed of in a much shorter period of time. This is based on how we are using it, prompting and engineering our outputs. It is not a simple process of prompting a few words in and hoping for the best. The processes we use, especially for AI video, is quite complex and uses a number of tools and techniques to get results that push the boundaries. In terms of the future and changing face of the typical agency, I think it is up to agencies to find the AI tools that suit their style or approach best, to find ways to adapt. There is no value in sticking your head in the sand and being stuck in old ways, the game has definitely changed.
Covering Content Marketing – Do you recommend HubSpot as the main tool? How & why would you recommend this CRM for clients?
We work with our clients from developing initial strategy, through to creative and ideation, content creation and media distribution. HubSpot is a fantastic platform to help us understand how all this comes together to achieve objectives and gain insights on what's working and how to optimise. HubSpot connects marketing activities, with sales, content management and customer service - so it really allows us to see the full customer lifecycle and understand the impact of marketing throughout all those stages. We work closely with our clients to ensure they are getting the best out of the software and we collaborate to gain insights, plan and optimise marketing activities.
What has been your most exciting creative to work on to date?
As a person with a life long love of playing and watching basketball, a campaign we recently delivered was for ESPN, creating their brand platform ‘Your Home For Hoops’. This initiative has been in development for a few years now and it has been exciting to see it unfold through such a strong period of growth for basketball in Australia. I’d like to think the campaigns we have run for ESPN, NBA, NBL, NBA Basketball School in Australia have helped to fuel this interest and growth. What has been most exciting about it, is the opportunity it has given us to push the creative boundaries and experiment with many different ideas, production techniques and concepts. You can check out some of the work here.
How do you curate a positive culture at Now We Collide?
By being open, honest and collaborative with our clients, our team and everyone we come into contact. Early Fridays' in summer, flexible working, rostered birthdays off, fun events, regular 'community days' where we give back to the community, the odd long lunch and gatherings and a passion for nurturing ideas and creativity also helps.
Do you look to other companies / have a mentor – whether that is in Australia or overseas?
I’ve been lucky enough to end up with a business partner who at times acts as a mentor, keeps my wandering creative mind on the straight and narrow and ensures things are as much about function as well as form.
As far as other companies go for inspiration I have always had a curiosity for tech-enabled creativity, so am always on the lookout for people, agencies or artists doing new, incredible things, be it here or overseas. I feel like the space for creative innovation is now more exciting than it has ever been before.
How has 2023 been for you? What are you looking forward to in 2024?
2023 has been exciting but challenging. Coming out of Covid posed many new challenges. I felt empathy for employees and clients who had effectively been working in a bubble for over two years, while this year gave people an opportunity to properly reconnect and travel again without as many rules and restrictions. I think people came into 2023 feeling quite restless with a need to explore again. As an agency, we doubled in size during COVID so it was a tricky juggle to find new talent and integrate them into the business. 2023 has opened things back up and brought the team back into the office, which is so important as a creative agency. 2024 will be another exciting year for us with many new and exciting projects currently in the pipes set to launch in the new year.
Collide-AI watch this space.