Meet the leaders: Huge’s Martin Riley

Earlier this year, digital agency Huge opened its doors in Singapore, appointing Saatchi veteran Martin Riley to lead the agency as managing director.

Riley talks about leadership for the agency on local shores:

1.Describe your management style
I would say it’s “Protective.” I really want people to feel at home, safe, and supported on the job so they can focus on creating great work and enjoying the process.

2. Career path
I followed a girl to New York, where I worked for a charity and the UK Mission to the UN. On return to London I joined a graduate training programme at Saatchi & Saatchi. I started as an exec and put my head down. 15 years on I’ve worked across local, regional and global clients from luxury to FMCG, financial services, lingerie, charity, fashion and baby care – all fascinating categories I loved learning while posted in London, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.

Last year, I joined Huge as a managing director and have been enjoying growing the Singapore office, our hub for APAC, ever since.

3. Your first job 
I subjected my long suffering parents to several first jobs. At 10 I offered to feed our family dog for five years for the payment of a dog of my own… my parents weren’t expecting me to stick with it. Five years later I was asking for my dog payment.

4. Who was the mentor who most influenced you and why? 
Lee Daley (then CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi, London). A maverick character who believed in the young talent of the agency and lived the agency’s spirit of Nothing is Impossible. Under his tenure there was no playbook and you could try anything – in my case buying a black London taxi as a mobile research facility and pitch room, and ending up face-to-face with the likes of Rebekah Brooks in agency pitches despite being a relative newbie.

5. Proudest moment in your career
I always like the bit when I get to give someone a job.

6. Your biggest blunder in your career
As a dyslexic I was once at the mercy of email spell check, signing off a note to an important female client with the immortal phrase ‘I look forward to seeding you later.’ It at least generated less email than an out-of-office reply I once left that read ‘thank you for your massage.’

7. When you’re not working, what will you be doing, aside from spending time with the family? 
Training for some ill-conceived ultra running challenge, befriending the dogs of my local neighborhood or drinking way too much coffee in the Tiong Bahru Bakery.

8. Harshest thing said to you in your career
“Can you wear something cute for the meeting?” (In the hopes a challenging client might fancy me. He didn’t.)

9. When you were a newbie in the industry, did you dream you would be leading it one day? What kind of leader did you want to be and how closely have you stuck to it?
I’m a firm believer in creating the agency you want to work in, which is what I did for many years as opposed to jumping around the other agencies.

As managing director in Singapore, Huge gave me the chance to truly build the office from scratch, which I love. I’ve always wanted an office to feel like a home – a place where people feel comfortable and can focus on making great work. Our office is in a gorgeous conservation house on Ann Siang Road, the kitchen is the center of the office, we have an affectionate dog called Dakota, and a fantastic group of talented people.

10. Craziest thing your staff has told you
“I once had a bad experience with hamburger flavored crisps..”

11. One thing you would say to a newbie in the industry
Enjoy it. Life is short, the creative industries are full of remarkable people and wonderful challenges, so we should take the time to enjoy it.

12. What’s the toughest thing about your job?
Remembering to enjoy it. Agency life is great; there’s a lot of variety and it can be incredibly fast-paced, but it’s important to occasionally refocus and remember that you’re in this line of work because you love to create.

13. One thing you hate most about advertising

Hates a strong word, one thing I dislike is holding companies stripping out revenue from agency brands vs investing in them… actually I do hate that.



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