Ahmed Tilly is the co-founder of the much loved ad agency, Black River FC. They are famously known for their cleverly crafted South African ads that include clients like Nando’s. We speak to Ahmed about the challenges when translating television ads into the online space, and he passes on some creativity tips for 2013.
Of all the advertisements that you have been a part of, which are your favourites and why?
My all time favourite has to be the Nando’s ‘Dictators’ ad featuring the the world’s most well-known dictators. I didn’t write this ad myself but I did direct it creatively. It is an ad that will be as watchable in 10 years time, as it was when it was first created. The global attention the ad received was phenomenal. The ad is the most viewed ad on you tube in South African history. It is iconic.
Another favourite would be a campaign I produced with PJ Kensley at Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town for Galaxy & Co Jewellers about 10 years ago. It’s not a popular campaign but it talks to my sensibilities. We captured real couples who were married for over 30 years in TV ads talking about how they met and fell in love. The ads ended with a title that read, “Real love deserves real diamonds”. It’s a favourite of mine because we used old couples to sell the dream to young people and we did it in the most authentic way.
Can you explain the relationship that Black River FC has with the online space/digital?
First and foremost, I need to mention that digital has penetrated our lives in the most intimate ways. It has to be integrated seamlessly into any campaign.
At Black River FC, we have simplified our view on the work we do; talk to people wherever they will be found. So, if our target audience spends most of its time online, we will talk to them there. If they are watching television, as a majority of people in South Africa still do, we’ll meet them on TV. And we will do it in a way that makes the most of that particular medium. We tap into people who understand this space and collaborate with them to create online magic.
What is the biggest challenge you face merging the offline/traditional ads with the online space?
Finding the right people is the key to any challenge in our line of work. Our challenge is to find those people who are creatively brilliant but technically and strategically genius. It will require this caliber of person to transfer understanding and skills to traditional agency staff who are skilled in coming up with great big ideas. Seamless integration will then follow. There are too many companies out there that are claiming to be digital gurus and because not many people understand this area of expertise, many clients are getting hoodwinked. Time will separate the real digital gurus from the buskers. It’s a transitional period and hence quite normal. But this period will be challenging for all of us.
The Black River FC adverts have a great South Africa flavour to them. What creativity tips can you pass on to us that inspire you and the BRFC team?
This is going to sound really obvious but if you’re in the business of communication, you have to have your ear to the ground. You have to know the South African people. You need to understand them intimately. Only then can you communicate to your audience in an authentically South African way. There are too many ads that get away with superficial insights, that smack of ignorance and blandness. The only way you can truly talk to a market is if you have staff who represent the market you’re selling to. Only they can understand and tap into nuances that are truly South African.
What exciting things can we look out for in 2013 from Black River FC?
It’s a brand new year. And we are committed to doing exactly what we’ve been doing the past 8 years. We have always, from inception, done real work, for real clients. We have always shunned doing work specifically for awards as most agencies are doing right now. We have always used creativity to solve business problems. We have always tried to break new ground. We have always tried to surprise our viewers in the most pleasant way possible. Nothing’s going to change in 2013.
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