Mat Baxter on the Making of Huge Moves
Ahead of the launch of our debut publication, I sat down with Huge CEO Mat Baxter and asked him to help define Huge Moves. Here, an excerpt from our Q&A:
Photography by Weston Wells
Why did you decide to green-light this magazine?
Baxter: We’re advocates for storytelling. To brands, we’ll say: “The best way to grow is to tell great stories and engage with audiences.” All we’re doing is exactly what we’ve recommended clients do for 20 years: Tell a great story, grow your business.
Let’s practice what we preach.
Almost no ad agency runs ads for itself. Isn’t that the height of irony? If you really believe in the power of advertising, why wouldn’t you spend it on your own business? There’s a contradiction there that is pretty irreconcilable.
Historically, Huge has been digital-first. Why publish a print publication?
It brings a degree of gravitas to the brand. It makes it feel more real and tangible. We’re publishing the magazine in both physical and digital formats because that physicality adds meaning and a degree of confidence.
We’re producing an independent magazine, instead of sticking to white papers or pay-to-play branded content. Is that a huge move for this company?
Yes, because I’m not in control of what’s being written. There’s an independent voice for the brand that is unencumbered and uninfluenced by the agendas that exist in the business more broadly. We want an independent, objective editorial voice for the brand. We want to be provocative and audacious. And we want that to be free from those business-centric concerns that often bleed into these sorts of things.
We’ve been very intentional in saying that Huge Moves should run as an independent, separate part of the business. It’s producing compelling content that only has one objective — to engage with an audience.
Do you believe that the craft of journalism can thrive within this context?
Of course. But it doesn’t thrive when it’s constrained. The craft of journalism is about an independent voice and objectivity. You can’t have a journalist being directed; look at some papers where that’s happened, where journalists are being told what to write and what’s off-limits. Those outlets have lost all credibility, because they’re not celebrating and living the craft of journalism.
Each year, we’ll publish the 10 Huge Moves we think will change the business world in the year to come. Is futurism part of Huge’s DNA?
Oh, 100%, because you can only guide brands if you’ve got a point of view about where they need to go and what they need to do. That means you’ve got to have an idea of where the world is going. And so futurism is the mechanism by which you strategize for brands.
You’ve got to stay ahead of the curve.
You do. This industry is all about looking ahead and having the skills, the talent and quite frankly the courage to look forward and plan in an accurate and hopefully inspiring way. A lot of the most established brands in the world are the ones struggling the most with that. Their businesses have so much legacy and heritage, they haven’t been able to look to the future and free themselves of the past. The days of brand pedigree and heritage playing a really important role in young people making a decision to buy a brand or not: Those days are waning.
Do you see this publication as part of the overall transformation at Huge?
Yes, because it sets a beacon for the company to say: Here are some of the themes that are huge moves, and it provides that reference point not just for our clients, but for our own people.
If you don’t know what huge moves look like, how are you meant to deliver them for your clients? It’s as much about articulating and educating our own people as it is about educating our clients. There’s a duality in that strategy. You’ve got to do both. Educate internally to facilitate externally.