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April, 2024

‘Anthropology v algorithms’: Archibald Williams partners split as Stuart Archibald launches special ops firm for CX, tech, creative, brand and strategy in Sydney, London

Algorithms have won over anthropology; people have lost their basic human understanding of customers.

Stuart Archibald, Founder, CA.5

After selling the London integrated agency he co-founded to Havas in 2012, Stuart Archibald returned to Australia to launch Archibald Williams and is doing it again with a special ops outfit in Sydney and London designed to pull teams of specialists who have worked on leading customer strategies for blue chip companies around the globe including Tesco, Apple, O2, Microsoft, Mastercard and The Economist.  

The new hybrid agency, called CA.5, sees Archibald exit from the independent shop he set up with former Saatchi & Saatchi and XYZ Entertainment strategic planning boss Bram Williams 12 years ago.

Williams said Archibald Williams continues under the abbreviated A-W moniker and the “service offering remains unchanged’, citing the latest work for the NBA “pushing beyond” conventional ads and communications into content and community building as an example of the scope of work.  

“Stu is a truly world-class practioner and I look forward to watching his next venture take flight,” Williams said. “At the same time I’m really excited to be pursuing the next chapter of A-W with the exceptional partners and team we have.”

For Archibald and CA.5, the remit is strategy first and a return to integrating more “human behaviour” understanding into tech-led programs.       

“I don’t think there’s a brand in the world today that’s gone down the technology path and is maximising the tech they’ve bought,” Archibald told Mi3. “Most find it very difficult to bring it all together. They’re buying tech but struggling to join it all up. They have pain points either in data, brand, customer journeys and CX delivery, or in creative or the tech itself. The broader challenge is that algorithms have won over anthropology; people have lost their basic human understanding of customers. Algorithms might be based on my behaviour but they may not be based on my needs. Technology is taking over basic human interaction.”

The fix via CA.5’s model is orchestrating seasoned practitioners with an outsourced structure across what Archibald defines as five marketing fundamentals – customer marketing data, tech, customer journeys, brand and creative. Archibald argues all of them should be grounded with an “anthropological bent” on customer behaviour rather than algorithms alone. 

“We had a global environmental group that wanted to launch so we got the team that worked on Make Poverty History – because that’s been one of the biggest movements the world has seen,” he told Mi3.

“We have a retail client in London so we’ve [coalesced] retail experts and the same with energy. We’re working on a new brand launch here and I’ve got marketing people that are proficient in sports, the new sports that are emerging [read the Olympics] so that we can tap into a new generation of kids,” he added.

“CA.5 is an alternative to the traditional agency and the consultancies. I’m not saying it’s better – but it certainly suits the sorts of initiatives we’re working on. Clients like the handpicked teams on the strategy side and on the execution side. But it is all about the strategy first. We see clients buying the tech and then often can’t join it with the data and data insights,” he said, nor make the experience human and seamless. “That’s a common problem – but it’s one that can be fixed.”

Archibald will split his time between CA.5’s Sydney and London offices.