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By Jessica Goodfellow, Media Reporter

February 9, 2016 | 7 min read

Imagination as its name suggests is an agency predicated on its ability to respond to all sorts of briefs and it has launched an academy to establish a pipeline of talent that can continue that tradition.

The recently launched 'Imagination Academy' sees it partner with universities and offer bursaries, placements and internships globally to foster creativity from a young age. The Drum spoke to global group chief executive Douglas Broadley about the academy and also took time out to hear from strategy director Tom Gray and chief technology officer Anton Christodoulou on how VR and technology are also shaping the agency’s future business models.

'Imagination Academy' launched with sponsorship of the Grayson Perry lecture at UCL’s school of architecture. So far the bursaries you are offering are for architecture students specifically, why architecture?

The academy has been set up to celebrate and develop talent at the business across 70-80 different disciplines, with the purpose of continuing to help those people to develop their careers and bring in new talent at every level, be it school leaver or masters level graduate. The academy was launched at UCL in order for the agency to develop relationships with institutes of learning.

The partnership with UCL is the first in what will become a number of relationships with universities around the world. We chose architecture, because we have a significant amount of work around the business which involves creating built environments, whether they be temporary or fixed.

For example, right now we are working with Shell around the world to help people understand the future of energy in a physical space, we also designed the new Harvey Nichols store in Birmingham, as well as Aston Martin’s retail stores around the world, so a huge amount of projects that Imagination deliver right now have significant elements that are about spaces and how people interact and connect with brands in spaces. Architects are experts in spacial design and can translate business briefs into 3D space.

I think there is an increasing need for academia to understand commerce, and importantly for the agency and creative enterprise world of commerce it is about how the industry can understand education better - what gets people wanting to join a business? It isn’t simply about money, people want to develop as an individual. We want people to build their career inside our organisation.

Do you have plans to provide funding in any other arts?

Moving forward, the next sectors we will be looking at will be business, strategists, art and technology, to bring out the next generation of creative thinkers.

In the past we have had some great people come from LAMDA, which helps in our delivery, and we will continue to look into that. It’s all about brands finding new ways of reinventing their creative output.

In 2016, we will launch seven global bursaries for masters level graduates in the Sydney, New York, Detroit and at UCL in London. We want to connect into centres of global excellence.

In his lecture Grayson Perry talked about industries coming together (art & architecture), do you think that synergising is the future of marketing for Imagination?

Nobody can work alone. I think this idea of the narcissism of agencies imagining that they themselves have the sole answers is utterly ridiculous, so I think everybody needs to work together- irrespective of whether you are providing lots of creative services for a client and you might be their only agency. The idea that you are doing that on your own is crazy, there are always going to be partners involved, with the ultimate partner being the client.

Partnership and collaboration is absolutely everything. Multi-agency structures, with all aspects working together for one global pursuit, helps a company remove barriers for a client, and create an integrated customer experience, which is absolutely critical. Companies that have a separateness to them are causing these problems with siloing and stopping the free flow of ideas.

How does the academy fit into your wider strategic planning?

Our strategic plan is to create and develop client business and relationships. We are called Imagination for God’s sake, we better be creative. That has got to be done in a way that is sensitive to cause and sensitive to the business environment that our clients are in. We have to answer their business problems, understand who their core clients are and give them creative ideas that can be executed in any context.

The academy is a symbol of Imagination’s commitment in creative development, and is a good statement to put out to our clients.

How will doing this generate more revenue?

Since the academy gives us the opportunity for direct recruitment, we are cutting out any third party recruiters, which is a significant expenditure for business.

It could also drive greater levels of retention of talent within Imagination, to prevent too much churn, which is tough on a business. Everytime someone leaves a company it costs an average of £35,000 to replace because of the disruption to work and reputational shift with that client. Agencies are a relationship world so we want to create that consistency that is imperative to the client. The creative industry is a wealth generator; we have over £200 million global turnover.

Imagination talks about the removal of waste to be replaced by the addition of value, how are you doing this different from other agencies?

Once you have simplified an organisation you can’t get any more value from it. The only way to make a business bigger is by inventing things that don’t exist yet, by being creative.

Our business is bigger, so we have the ability to invent things that don’t exist yet. We have structure and streamline, but the great advantage that Imagination has is its creative perspective to execute ideas that improve the growth and bottom line of our clients businesses. We add value through creativity, to the purpose of creative commerce. We don’t just advise on where a client could be more efficient, but add value as well.

Are you benchmarking from anyone in particular?

Inspiring businesses are not agency businesses, we don’t want to be looking in the rear view mirror. We are inspired by the likes of Pixar - there is no other film studio that has such a run of creative success. They have developed a very creatively focused agile business that has an incredible cohort of experts all working for a common purpose. It is highly collaborative, but there is a very simple structure of creative decision making. Also Google and SpaceX, which are disrupting the sector that they are in. We desire to be at the forefront of disrupting the agency sector; to be the best of start up and the best of stay up.

Can you see brands working together more?

Clients at CES cross into each other sectors continuously. This shows we are much more open to collaboration in 2016. The convergence of brands will help us deal with the future of many things.

The digital and physical world is converging, businesses are restructuring themselves in the interest of clients and customer experience.

A final note

Labs not offices are the way forward for Imagination. Take a look inside Imagination Labs in the video above.


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