After seven years in a senior role for the global advertising agency behind Nike’s ‘Just do it’ tagline, US-based Nilesh Ashra is now blazing a trail with his own innovation consultancy.
Named in Ad Age’s 40 under 40 list in 2016, he has been profiled in the print edition of Fast Company, the influential American business magazine. He is a high-profile speaker who has appeared at events including SXSW (the annual conglomeration of jointly organised film, interactive media and music festivals and conferences in Texas), Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and numerous other conferences. And he has won several industry accolades, a winner of Webby, Cannes, Fast Company and D&AD (Design & Art Direction) awards.
Nilesh (OE 1995–2002) launched his consultancy, Pragmatic Futurism, in January last year. “My consulting work involves helping companies face the future of technology, work, and business,” he says. “We give our clients new ideas, new strategies; we create prototypes, and redesign their internal processes – all to help them face the future in a more optimistic way.”
His interest in technology was apparent early – he started coding at the age of 11 – and after QE, he took a degree in Artificial Intelligence at UMIST (now part of the University of Manchester).
On graduating, Nilesh says he was “interested in working in a ‘non-traditional’ technology space. That led me to a digital creative studio called Poke, in London.”
In his four-and-a-half years with Poke, there was, he says, “barely a corner of modern, open-source-stack web development that I didn’t have the opportunity to work on.
“From there, I was headhunted by the iconic Wieden+Kennedy.” Not only had W+K famously produced Just do it for Nike, they also created all of Nike’s TV commercials.
He began his seven years with W+K, based in Portland, Oregon, as Creative Technology Lead and was later promoted to Director of Creative Technology. In creative industry circles, Nilesh is best known as the founder of W+K Lodge – the agency’s technology-focused division. One example of the Lodge’s work was the 2017 launch of Nike’s new retail experience that combined video-game-style motion capture and projection mapping to reduce the time needed to customise shoe graphics from eight weeks to less than two hours. This was short enough for it to be done on demand and in-store.
“My professional obsession has been the profound and positive impact that emerging technology can have on culture and on businesses alike. After many years in the spotlight at W+K, I am now committed to my young family, and to humbly helping my clients thrive in their careers.”
Nilesh is married and has one daughter aged six months and another who is four. “I have found myself very settled in Portland. It is mostly a liberal, relaxed, and positive community of creative people.
“I’m an avid surfer, and have surfed all over the world,” he adds.