Huge has hired Frisco Chau as its first global head of data and insights, the latest role created to support global CEO Mat Baxter’s transformation plan for the agency.
Chau joins from M&C Saatchi in London, where he was chief data officer. He will remain in London and report to Lisa De Bonis, global chief experience officer at Huge.
Though Chau started his career on the agency side, he spent 10 years in management consulting and had a brief stint client-side at Adidas. Through this experience across the industry, he noticed a lack of creativity in the consulting sector, but not enough focus on outcomes and results from creative agencies.
“There was still a little bit of denial that creative comms was the start and end of a solution,” he said. “That, to me, was a very narrow focus for solving problems for clients.”
Huge was appealing to Chau because “we take a more holistic approach in the solution,” he said. And, despite being a digital creative agency first, “data has a seat at the table.”
Chau will focus on building and scaling data products and services as well as embedding data into Huge’s creative process. The goal is to harness data to enable and inspire creatives, as opposed to viewing it as something to be feared, said Mat Baxter, global CEO of Huge.
“Creative businesses have been historically quite scared of data and seen it as the enemy of creativity,” he said. “Huge is the latter school of thinking: great data liberates, inspires and enables great creativity. That's something we want to invest in.”
In addition to repositioning the research discipline to take advantage of real-time data, Chau will focus on improving clients’ data literacy and ensuring Huge can support clients with unbiased recommendations in the data space.
Chau and his team have already begun building data-driven creative products that aim to help clients think about addressability in the creative space in the same way they think about it in media. One goal, for instance, is to help clients take a more dynamic approach to audience segmentation, adapting creative messaging in real time as that audience changes.
“Once that audience is in play, there should be a much more ‘living’ way of tracking, course correcting or benchmarking performance in real time,” Chau explained.
Huge plans to invest “tens of millions” of dollars behind building technology or partnering with best-in-breed providers to support the use of real-time data throughout the creative process, Baxter added.
Despite the agency’s ownership by IPG, which also owns data firm Acxiom, Baxter maintains Huge’s positioning around independence and objectivity in the data consulting space.
“We're not here to sell things clients don't need,” he said. “That's as true for the assets in our portfolio as those outside.”
Chau is the latest C-suite hire under Baxter, who joined Huge as global CEO in June with a mission to bring more operational rigor and a deeper focus on outcomes to the creative space. Baxter joins from the media side, previously running IPG’s Initiative as global CEO.
“If you want to be truly transformative, progressive and a true partner to clients, you need to buy into the fact that data is power,” he said. “When you know an audience better you can be more creative, precise, effective and results-oriented. That's what we want to be.”