In our exclusive Modern Marketing Industry Interview series, Ahmed Tilly, Creative Consultant and judge of multiple marketing and advertising industry awards, lists ‘never being satisfied’ as one of the keys to his success. He also says people in the creative industry are not ‘pure artists’ but salespeople too, whether they are selling brands, products or services.
Tilly has judged the Loeries Awards since 2002, was appointed to the judging panel for Cannes Lions in 2015 and served on the New York Festival’s panel in 2019 and 2020. He was appointed as an Exco member of the Creative Circle in South Africa from 2012 – 2018. In 2016, he was appointed to the board of the Association for Communication and Advertising in South Africa. He has been voted a Top 10 Creative Director for five consecutive years by his peers and in 2016, he was recognised as ‘The Most Admired Creative Boss’ in South Africa by marklives.com.
After 25 years in the advertising industry, Tilly chose to step out of classic agency life to consult. Today he conducts talks on advertising to corporates, advises several creative agencies and clients and has also founded an online mentorship initiative called Ask Ahmed Anything.
What have you enjoyed most about working in the advertising industry?
‘The people. It has been said many times, but that’s because it’s true. People in this industry are the smartest, the most interesting and most curious,’ he said. These include people who are directly and indirectly related to the industry, like clients, film directors, artists, photographers and creatives.
Tilly also enjoys working in a creative field where anything is possible. ‘I like being able to take something from your imagination and making it into something that affects businesses – creating something that you can see.’
What important industry-related changes have you noted?
Tilly said the greatest change has taken place over the last five to ten years with the advent of the internet and social media, which has fundamentally shifted the world, and the world of advertising, in particular. ‘The world is faster and so is business. Budgets have become tighter and money is tighter, which has impacted the industry. From a technical and digital point of view, the world has opened up and the possibilities are endless.’
He said this change goes beyond advertising and includes creative businesses, such as music – how musicians market themselves and make and sell music, for example, has changed. ‘The same has happened with advertising – everything has fundamentally changed. Not just regarding the speed at which we work, but also what and how we create and how fast it gets out there. It is scary and equally exciting.’
Keys to success in this industry
‘I have attained what is deemed as success but I don’t think it’s an end point at all. I’ve always surrounded myself with amazing people – I’ve piggybacked on them and garnered a lot of the credit from their brilliance. I understand the role of really smart people in my area of work and how they make me better at what I do. The key to anyone’s success is not ever believing that you can go it alone – it is impossible.’
Tilly said that it is also good to have like-minded people as your clients. ‘Working with someone who’s not like-minded is going to make your life difficult, frustrating and limit you from producing anything good. The points where I’ve had success in advertising are where clients that I interacted with were like-minded, understood what was required, were equally as brave as the agency and as smart as the people who came up with the creative idea.’
Lastly is the insatiable desire to continually do better. ‘When you are satisfied with what you produce, what you are or what you have done, you are going to become lazy, complacent and unlikely to produce anything good. Never being satisfied with what I’ve done and wanting to do better has egged me on to be the best I can for that moment in time.’
To find out more about Tilly’s keys to creating successful campaigns as well as his take on advertising trends, view the full interview below.