Event Innovators 2016: Chris Cavanaugh

The executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Freeman has grown the company into one of the largest experiential marketing agencies.

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Photo: Courtesy of Chris Cavanaugh

After two decades of experience in corporate communications, production, and as an executive for Jack Morton Worldwide, Chris Cavanaugh joined Freeman in 2012 to help the company expand its services as a strategic and creative agency. Cavanaugh, 54, consolidated a variety of existing assets within the company to create FreemanXP. Now, just four years later, it is one of the largest experiential marketing agencies, with close to 300 employees working with a diverse roster of clients such as Google, Salesforce, Anheuser-Busch, and Visa. In May 2015, Cavanaugh moved into the role of executive vice president and chief marketing officer of parent company Freeman.

Building on the success of FreemanXP’s initiatives in technology and digital solutions, Cavanaugh says the company is getting “hyper-focused on event tech.” In late 2015, Freeman announced the formation of Freeman Digital Ventures, a fund to accelerate innovation by investing in tech-based start-ups. Its first initiatives are a partnership with app vendor DoubleDutch and the acquisition of Klowd.com, a provider of second-screen technology.

“The integration of live and digital technology is only going to be more and more relevant,” Cavanaugh says. “We are constantly looking at event technology companies and figuring out whether we partner, build on our own, or buy these organizations and integrate them into our ecosystem.”

Cavanaugh says he’s also focused on expanding Freeman’s content development efforts. “When you become the size and scale of Freeman and you touch so much of the ecosystem of the event space, there is a big opportunity not only to serve that space and do great client work but really to help evolve the category,” he says. “[Clients] want us to provide our point of view on where the business is going, how it’s evolving, how it’s changing ... how can they create experiences that are really transformative.”

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