Huge Global COO, President Steps Down After More Than 12 Years

By Patrick Coffee 

Shirley Au, the global COO and president of IPG’s Huge, decided to leave the agency last month after well over a decade in order to pursue other business interests and spend more time with her family.

“After 3 years in London and nearly 13 years at Huge, Shirley Au is taking a break in order to be able to help other companies she cares about get up and running,” said agency spokesperson Sam Weston, adding, “No one deserves one more. Besides keeping everyone sane as we grew from 10 to 100 to nearly 1500 people, Shirley introduced better leave for childcare, better work schedules for new parents, and even better tote bags.”

Au has not accepted another position and does not plan to go elsewhere in the agency world at this time.

Prior to announcing her departure, Au had been handling a large share of operational duties at Huge’s offices in both London and Brooklyn. Moving forward, managing director Lee Woodard will assume her responsibilities in the U.K. and Julia Page will do so in Brooklyn. Au’s announcement will not affect the role of Jeff Brooks, who joined the agency as its co-president in New York late last year after serving as chief commercial officer at MDC’s Assembly and CEO of M&C Saatchi.

Au joined Huge in 2004 as a project manager, becoming the agency’s sixth employee after working in the marketing departments of AOL and New Line Cinema. She later moved up within the organization, spearheading projects for such clients as JetBlue, Disney and Kate Spade. Her promotion to the COO/president role in 2013 inspired profiles like this Forbes piece on “The Rise of Female Chief Operating Officers,” and she was also included in Adweek’s 2013 “Young Influentials” list before moving to London to help launch Huge’s U.K. operations.

A 2015 AdAge piece outlined her efforts to help the agency “[invest] heavily in its working mothers” via more flexible maternity leave policies after starting her own family, and she spoke to The Drum about workplace loyalty early last year, saying, “I’ve been fortunate to have grown up in a place where performance has been measured on what I did and how I did it, versus whether I’m male or female.”

Regarding Au’s time with the organization, Weston said, “We can’t thank her enough for everything she’s done to help create and protect the collaborative, work-centric environment that defines how Huge operates today and how we will continue to operate in the future.”

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