Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Sam Kelly, Managing Partner, Global Executive Board, AKQA

We’re asking some of our industry’s leading figures to nominate their digital hero and to explain what’s so special about them.

Sam, who has served at seminal digital agency AKQA since 2008, has been in the digital industry for over twenty years, starting off at digital music pioneer Peoplesound.

Who is your digital hero?

For me it’s Ajaz Ahmed, a good friend of mine, who’s also the founder and CEO of AKQA.

What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?

It’s the mentorship that Ajaz has offered me throughout my career, and the constant feedback and his belief in my ability.

There’s a continual strive for improving everything we do. Nothing is ever finished. To me it’s a great attitude, as it means that we’re constantly re-evaluating everything we do and asking ‘why does it have to be this way?’. This also permeates through the work and through our team.

I also love his passion for giving back to our world, through our work and also through our own personal opportunities.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

If you look at the contribution to the industry – it’s been significant. Many of the AKQA team have gone on to become leaders in their own right at other agencies, and their time at AKQA was invaluable to the vision and values that they uphold today.

What the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

The biggest challenge is to stop looking at digital as a niche or industry. It’s like water, or electricity, it’s just ‘there’.

For me, the biggest challenge is to help clients understand how creativity can help improve the world around us as well as helping to drive their business.

I see it every year in our Future Lions student competition for Cannes, there’s no mention in the brief for the ideas to have a social impact, but the entire next generation of creatives are always thinking about the positive impact that their ideas can have on the world.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

I’d like to think it’s more about the contribution I’ve made to other people’s success, rather than my own personal achievement.

I hope that I’ve been able to guide many of my team and provide them with valuable experiences that shape their careers.

My Digital Hero

More posts from ->


My Digital Hero: Marco Ricci, Global CEO at Takumi

Marco’s background in adtech pans over 20 years He has led technology teams at WPP GroupM and Microsoft, before moving to Google to lead Sales Teams both in New York and London. As CCO of Condé Nast he transformed the business into a digital-first company, delivering profitable growth for the first time in 12 years. He joins as Takumi’s Global CEO at a pivotal time for the Influencer Marketing sector.


My Digital Hero: Dan Douglas, Founder, The Cloud and Compass

Dan Douglas runs the startup accelerator, The Cloud and Compass, working with founders to help them scale up. He is the founder of StoreBoost, the retail media to OOH DSP and previously founded Liveposter, which sold to Denstsu and digital agency de-construct to Aegis. We asked who his digital hero is.


Related articles


Sean Betts: The Marketing Singularity Is Nearer Than You Think

I can still remember my excitement back in 2005 when Ray Kurzweil published his book The Singularity Is Near. I spent weeks pouring through it, having my mind blown by each of the seven chapters in the 652 pages of the original hardback edition. To this day, I don’t think there’s been another book I’ve read that has quite left the same imprint on me in my professional career. Maybe The Cluetrain Manifesto (2009) and Valve’s Handbook for New Employees (2012) run it close, but let’s not go down those rabbit holes!


MullenLowe partners with Co-op to launch Christmas Brand Campaign

Integrated communications agency MullenLowe UK, has partnered with Co-op to launch its Christmas Brand Campaign, which aims to showcase the power of giving back during the festive season, in an effort to support local community causes this Christmas…