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Local company embracing the tools and capabilities of AI

'Playing with AI is a beautiful way to exercise your brain, because it's having a conversation where you have to match the words with something that people can process visually'

Magic versus Machine or MVM is a company based in North Bay that has a global reach.  

“We're a small team that punches above our weight. We work with the Grammys, and the Golden Globes, and we've done work with Tesla in the past. We turn startups into challenger brands and household names,” says Kelsey Cole-Dodaro, who co-owns the business with her husband Angelo.  

At its core, MVM is an Advertising Agency specializing in digital space and utilizing AI technology for their clients in eCommerce, entertainment, and technology.  

“I was working at Revlon in makeup and cosmetics leading the Public Relations side for their brand across Canada and my husband had his own small digital advertising agency that was mostly focused on organic digital content,” says Cole-Dodaro. “I fell in love with this idea that people in Silicon Valley were changing the world with technology and I just became fascinated about what they are doing down there?” 

Cole-Dodaro says what Silicon Valley had lots of were engineers, and what they needed was people who could market big ideas to the general public.  

“You couldn't get anybody to communicate those ideas the right way. So I started to just  volunteer my time in Silicon Valley and work on different projects to see if I could get more exposure in that network. It worked really well and I did a lot of free work, I call it time investment and building relationships and building a portfolio in the tech space.” 

Cole-Dodaro says she launched the Extreme Tech Challenge which is a non-profit life sciences startup competition, whose goal was to support leading corporations, policymakers, universities and more to build their way into the tech space.  

“That's really where our agency was born nine years ago in San Francisco when they said we need a logo to put on our website, and my husband and I said ‘We don't have a logo’ and we don’t even have a company’ so we made one and that’s what we do now in Silicon Valley,” she says.  

“The first AI project we worked on was IBM Watson. The only thing people knew about Watson was it won a game of Jeopardy and we were helping people use this technology to help market their startups. So that was the very first iteration of what we do.” 

Cole-Dodaro says they started getting referrals for other big projects and the company has not looked back.  

Recently, Cole-Dodaro was invited by Coca-Cola as the only Canadian representative to attend their Real Magic Creative Academy, which included 16 AI artists and experts from around the world. 

Cole-Dodaro says, “One of the people at this academy is a Danish creator who made filters for your apps that have over 65 billion views. It was trending on TikTok, ‘what is your celebrity look alike’ and ‘what is your Disney Princess look alike’ and all those interactive filters on Instagram and Tik Tok were created by her using a combination of computer science and computer programming and then a lot of artistic talent as well. She was one of the folks that was invited.”  

Cole-Dodaro says they were there for three days of workshops and learning programming skills.  “It was super intensive. It was an incredible VIP experience. They brought us into the archives, it’s a warehouse that is all temperature regulated and they had archivists that showed us things like the very first piece of Coca-Cola gum that they did with the Wrigley's company that is now worth half a million dollars. They showed us all of the old Norman Rockwell paintings and drawings from his original pitch with Coca-Cola, the original Coca-Cola Santa, and the comments from the executive team and how it changed.” 

Cole-Dodaro says the 16 artists were tasked with creating some concepts that Coca-Cola could take to the market, collaborating with brands they hadn’t collaborated with before. She says she also spent a lot of the time talking about North Bay with these higher executives.  

“It’s these connections that really could be putting North Bay on the map. I showed them pictures, I suggested having some sort of  gathering in North Bay around artificial intelligence, and that's something we are actively exploring.” 

She adds there’s an easy tie-in for Coca-Cola to North Bay.  

“I've got Coca-Cola eyeing up this area because we're not too far from the Polar Bears and Christmas is a huge part of their brand and it's a huge part of the storytelling in North Bay, so I'm very, very excited about the vibrancy of technology and entertainment that's growing here and I'm trying to help attract more attention to North Bay.” 

Cole-Dodaro is not originally from the city but has family ties to North Bay on her father's side. She says, “I have no illusions about the fact that the landscape is changing, and it is because people like me are moving here. But I believe that there's a way to come and bring a positive impact and help the whole community and the whole economy grow.”  

She adds, “There is a really special magic here and I find especially when you're creating and you're collaborating with other folks, the great ideas and the moments of connection don't happen when you're in a boardroom. They happen when you're in the community when you’re out at an ice fishing hut, those things that North Bay can truly offer.” 

Cole-Dodaro says this is an industry where people are really just letting their imagination take over and finding ways to promote their own creativity.  

 “Playing with AI is a beautiful way to exercise your brain because it's having a conversation where you have to match the words with something that people can process visually and so AI is a really beautiful way to take the words that you've written or spoken to something and turn that into an instruction that makes a picture. Well, if that picture is not what you wanted, then you have to change your instructions. Therefore, you have to use your imagination and you have to go back and forth until you get what you want,” she says.  

“I challenge people to use their imagination. Find something you’re super excited about. Or better yet, think about what you really dread and then figure out if there's a tool that can take that load off of your plate. In the show The Jetsons, Rosie the Robot would come around cleaning up after you. We would all love to have a house robot, but what does a house robot look like in your work life? Are they answering emails for you? Are they clearing spam from your inbox? Are they helping you brainstorm ideas because you just really don't have any ideas today because you were up late watching Game of Thrones or whatever? How can you use a robot to delegate the work that you don’t want to do?” 

She says getting rid of those monotonous tasks could lead the way to a greater work-life balance.  

“If you delegate that, then you will have more time, and what could you do with more time? You play? What happens when you play? You get inspired, and when you're inspired you're in a state to create. Your imagination comes back. You have more time to enjoy life a little more. Cook dinner, walk the dog, and play with your kids. I think that AI gives us more of that. So my greatest tip for people is just figure out either how to use it for something you really love or how to use it for something you really hate.” 

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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