On January 1, regional digital agency Hug is to rebrand as AKQA.
AKQA is a network under the WPP holding group. Hug, which has offices in the UAE, Egypt and India, has been part of WPP since it partnered with Grey Group two years ago.
Hug’s CEO and founding partner Tim Baker told Campaign that for about a year the two agencies worked closely together. “The relationship was great, but we both came to realise that actually Hug and Grey were doing the same thing in the same markets,” he said.
Hug, says Baker, remains grateful to the team at Grey for “bringing us into the WPP family”, both in the region and further afield. He particularly name-checks Nirvik Singh, CEO and chairman of Grey Group Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (and, as of earlier this month, global COO of the grouphttps://campaignme.com/nirvik-singh-made-coo-of-grey-group/). However, over the past year, Hug’s management had to ask themselves where to take the agency.
Baker says AKQA will still work closely with Grey. He also says that Hug’s founders – himself and Oussama Jamal – had long admired AKQA. Baker calls AKQA “all that Hug has always wanted to be”.
AKQA’s stated purpose is: “to create a better future through the imaginative application of art and science”. Baker says that’s what Hug wants too, although “we never put it in such a high-minded way”.
Hug’s rebranding will give AKQA a presence in the Middle East. Hug has a strong presence in the UAE and Egypt and, as well as historically working with Saudi clients, has had an on-ground presence in Grey’s Riyadh office. It will be opening a stand-alone office there – branded AKQA – before the end of this year.
Including Hug’s people, AKQA has about 2,200 staff in 28 countries.
Baker and his team will be doing more than just leveraging AKQA’s name in the region. The merger goes beyond the sign above the door, as evidenced by strong cooperation already. Hug’s senior management has been to London to work with AKQA’s founders, and while Baker was speaking to Campaign, one of his team was at a WPP-client meeting in Singapore representing AKQA at a management level.