Ahmed Tilly grew up in Polokwane, studied in Jozi, lived in Cape Town and considers Johannesburg as home. Tilly worked as a sales assistant, switchboard operator, PA announcer, supermarket cashier, toy, confectionary and shoe salesman before entering the communications industry.
He started his career in advertising at Lindsay Smithers FCB in 1996. He then moved to Publicis before relocating to Cape Town get into The Jupiter Drawing Room. He also did a stint with TBWA.
In 2005 Tilly moved back to Johannesburg to start Black River FC. The agency has handled the accounts for 1st for Women Insurance for 11 years, MINI for 8 years and Nando’s Worldwide Licensing since 2007. Black River FC was responsible for advertising the Nando’s South Africa brand between 2005 – 2013, for launching Virgin Money, 1LifeDirect and Vuzu Amp into South Africa, relaunching Mazda SA and Wonga.com. Recently the agency has done some of its best work for ChannelO, Mzanzi Magic, Mnet Movies, Mnet 101 and Vuzu Amp.
Tilly has been elected as a member of the Creative Circle of South Africa for several years,judged the Loeries Awards for close to a decade and judged the Cannes Lion Awards in 2015.
Thanks to the work he has had a hand in, he is unwelcomed in India, Zimbabwe, parts of South Africa and China. His creative philosophy; “If it’s not worth remarking about, it’s not worth doing”. His greatest achievement to date however has been his ability to rock up at talks such as this one in sneakers.
Buying power in the country has shifted into black hands yet, the people marketing to these audiences still haven’t. Research is now the only guiding light. The problem is that everyone’s getting the same research and very few people in our current landscape have the cultural depth and familiarity to interpret the research correctly. The result; a generic display of ads showing the rise of a young black man from humble beginnings to a successful entrepreneur.
It’s time we see a radical shift that reflects the South African demographic in the advertising, digital and marketing industries. It’s not only the right thing to do it’s also the business savy thing to do.