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.