In Conversation - Simon Hadfield talks to Mat Baxter

8 April 2024
Simon Hadfield.

An occasional column with Simon Hadfield, Executive Partner at DMCG Global, an executive search and recruitment business.

This time it is Mat Baxter – CEO @ Huge, Global CEO / Chairman @ Initiative, CEO @ UM WW.

Firstly, a very warm welcome back to The Harbour City. You’ve been AWOL now since 2015 taking on the world, is it nice to be back?

Thanks Simon. It’s beyond “nice” to be back. It’s bloody amazing. Speaking candidly, 8 years in New York takes its toll. It was the right time for me to come home and reconnect with family, friends, and the industry. Being home reminds me just how vibrant, talented, and pioneering Australia is when compared to its global counterparts. 

You had a great stint with IPG moving through UM, Initiative and ultimately Huge. Did the move to Huge feed some of the creative juices that I think you possess and allow you to step away a little from media?

I joined Huge because I really wanted to disrupt myself. I’ve preached about the need for brands to do this for most of my career, but realised I’d never taken my own advice. It was a massively challenging move, but it was equally as rewarding. It definitely gave me the opportunity to exercise my creative muscle much more than before. However, it also gave me a newfound appreciation for how difficult it is to work in a purely creatively driven business. 

Anything in the pipeline you can share?

I’m exploring a number of things right now. It’s very liberating to break free from all your previous responsibilities and reassess your career path - ensuring it’s genuinely calibrated for the future. Whatever I choose to do will be transformative and future focused. I want to be a contributor not an observer in our industry. 

Any work you’ve seen recently that you admire?

I think Mattel was incredibly brave to pursue the Barbie movie. They could have easily fallen into the trap of casting the brand as perfect and infallible, ignoring its questionable history. Instead, they tackled potentially explosive issues with authenticity and humour. It was a very impressive, branded content strategy. 

What have you learnt in the last 5 years?

That nobody has a clue what they’re talking about (myself included). The market now moves so dynamically and unpredictably it’s the people who can take a step back, be objective, garner opinions and admit they don’t have all the answers that win. Whoever claims to be the “expert” in the room IS inherently labelling themselves as the “amateur”. 

Tell me a secret you’ve been hanging on to but now can reveal?!

I hate the Godfather movies. 

If you hadn’t ended up in agency world, what alternative career may you have fancied?

I studied law at university so perhaps a lawyer. Having said that, I would have been the worst lawyer on the planet. Law is black and white, and I operate best in the grey in between. I would have disappointed all of my clients and probably practised for less than a year. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

Never underestimate the transformative power of technology. Get into a digitally centric job NOW. Eat less Darrell Lea soft eating liquorice. 

Outside of business, what keeps you out of trouble?

My German Shepherd Lux. He’s an ex-police K9, so is pretty demanding. Lux has absolutely no tolerance for sleep ins, his walks take priority. The same can be said for working late. Not only is he my buddy, he also keeps me incredibly accountable for my time. And time is something our industry often surreptitiously claims. 

 What are you driving, what are you listening to and what are you watching?

I’m driving a car. I won’t go into more detail on that front as I’ll be trolled relentlessly. Thanks to my 12-year-old niece I’m listening to Taylor Swift. I’m currently watching Love is Blind (embarrassing but sadly true). 

Favourite band?


Where is your next holiday?


Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

Read more about these related brands, agencies and people

comments powered by Disqus