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Faheem Chaudhry. Picture: Supplied
Faheem Chaudhry. Picture: Supplied

The names of the judges for this year’s FM AdFocus Awards have been announced. For the 32nd year running, the panel consists of an all-star mix of local advertising heavy hitters. The 12-person team features CEOs from through-the-line, media and PR agencies, as well as industry consultants and clients. They are responsible for adjudicating the entries across all categories for this year’s competition.

Leading the charge is jury chair Faheem Chaudhry, MD of M&C Saatchi Abel Joburg. He explains why such business-focused honours are relevant to a creative industry.

Why does AdFocus matter?

FC: AdFocus is about measuring and awarding holistic business performance. It’s the only award in the industry that evaluates agencies for the businesses they are, not just for the work they produce. SA is home to some phenomenal agencies, and recognising them for the smart, innovative and imaginative ways they run their businesses matters. It shows that as an industry we’re filled not just with unbelievable creative talent but also with sharp business and entrepreneurial thinkers.

Why did you get involved? 

FC: I was invited to sit on the jury in 2020 and 2021 and loved it. The jury debates are robust and meaningful, and get to the core issues facing our industry. It’s rare to get a group of industry leaders together to engage at this depth. I also find the brilliance of the agencies in our country incredibly inspiring and want to play my part in giving them the recognition they deserve.

What is the industry’s biggest challenge this year? 

FC: There are challenges beyond our control, such as rising inflation and shaky infrastructure, which have a direct impact on businesses of all types, including agencies. To me the biggest challenge specific to the industry is one of talent. We’ve got a few pressures on this front. First, a growing number of people are opting to leave the industry for new pastures, such as working with technology and platform businesses. We’re also seeing a resurgence of the brain drain, with talent moving overseas, which is no surprise given the capability we have locally. And then, attracting the brightest young minds to the industry vs more traditional career paths is a constant challenge.

Why is this year’s AdFocus theme, ‘Bouncing Back’, relevant?

FC: There are always challenges facing the business environment in our country. But if we choose to wallow in the difficulties of operating, we’ll never be liberated enough to be the change and growth we seek. Bouncing back is indicative of this approach; not just looking to survive as an agency but finding a way to thrive. The best agencies in our industry have shown that time and time again, when crisis hits, they find a way. We have so many examples of agencies who were founded, and even had their best years, during recessions and periods of a downturned economy.

What should the industry be most proud of? 

FC: We can be proud of the fact that despite the difficulties, we remain capable of performing at a globally respected and admired level. Agencies have still grown, hired new people, built new relationships and continued to produce fresh, effective and standout work. This is a remarkable achievement during the greatest pandemic of our generation.

Why should every agency enter the awards?

FC: Agencies deserve to be recognised not just for the work they produce but also for the fantastic businesses they run. From small agencies to specialist ones, every company has its own individual challenges it has overcome and its own set of opportunities it has taken advantage of. There is hidden brilliance that goes into running the most successful agencies in our industry. That brilliance deserves to be recognised.

Entries for the awards are open until September 8 2022. For more info and to enter, go to

The FM confirms that all the information submitted by agencies on their entry forms is secure and protected by the Protection of Personal Information Act. To read the act, visit Because of the act, the Agency of the Year questionnaire for 2022 has been amended.

Partner: Managing director at M&C Saatchi Abel and Adfocus Awards chair Faheem Chaudhry on what makes the awards special. "It is the truest reflection of who the best agencies are in our land and the great work that they make."

The jury for 2022

As is the tradition with the awards, a tranche of new jurors joins second-term jury members to determine the year’s winners.

The new jury members are:

  • Zanele Zwane, MD, Duke;
  • Firdous Osman, MD, Saatchi & Saatchi;
  • Nimay Parekh, chief digital officer, King James;
  • Merissa Himraj, CEO, Wavemaker;
  • Wandile Collins, founder and chief strategic officer, Black Swan;
  • Sharon Keith, marketing director, Heineken; and
  • Ana Carrapichano, founder and owner, Mediology (served on the AdFocus media jury in 2021).

They join second-term jury members:

  • Faheem Chaudhry, MD, M&C Saatchi Abel Joburg (AdFocus jury chair 2022);
  • Gillian Rightford, founder, Adtherapy;
  • Lebo Madiba, founder, PR Powerhouse;
  • Luca Gallarelli, group CEO, TBWA\SA; and
  • Warren Moss, founder and CEO, Demographica.

Financial Mail editor Rob Rose shares why Adfocus has become a part of the publication's DNA and its focus on the business of media.

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