Imagination Asia, Hong Kong

Imagination was launched in London in 1968 by Gary Withers. The independent communications agency has grown its non-traditional, experiential marketing business to 16 offices around the globe. We dropped in at Imagination Asia's headquarters in Hong Kong and spoke to Mark Barrett, CEO, Asia Pacific who exercises executive management over Imagination's nine offices across the Asia Pacific region. All being well, this could soon be 10 offices so watch this space…(28 Nov '13)



Sat Bal How different is Hong Kong from the rest of your Asia Pacific clients?

Mark Barrett (L) Hong Kong is different but in Asia Pacific we've found that every market is different. Our strategies for each client are different and so is the work that we do. So while we lead with our global offer it's always done in a slightly different way. This is  just down to the nature of the cultural aspects, the budgets and client expectations. 


SB How's your business changed here?

MB We've had phenomenal growth. A snapshot of us in the year ended to 31 August  shows we're probably 35 -45% up on revenue on last year  In the past three years we've invested in China, with operations in Beijing and a very large office in Shanghai. We have a new office in Singapore that's going extremely well servicing the Hewlett Packard and Shell accounts.  We've also invested into Bangalore and Mumbai.

We're starting to see the returns from those offices now. On top of that our Australian market is the largest in the region and we opened  a new office in Melbourne in the past year . It's all happened off the back of positive conversations and commitments from clients.

Imagination’s automotive show work
SB How much interaction do you have with the London office?

MB We're always talking to London whether it's accounts or organisational issues,   so we are very connected. At the same time London can always look to us for better ways of working and for new ideas.


SB What about growth in your global territories?

MB We've had an increase in revenue across all our global markets not just Asia. But Asia has probably had the biggest growth.


SB Is it challenging getting the kind of of staff that you need?

MB It has been challenging trying to get the right people resources. Three and half years ago we probably had 45 staff here and today we've got 148.  As a region we couldn't have everyone under one roof servicing clients centrally because that's not what the markets want.

But our skill sets are that we resources that we share across the region so while they’re not all sitting here in this office  we have got all the human capital to deliver on the Imagination promise. 

Jaguar Land Rover has been in China for about three and half years and has had  phenomenal  growth in the luxury market. We've worked with them on 36 auto shows for them in three years alone.

We also did some of the work when Prada decided to list in Hong Kong. We handled  the material for the roadshow campaigns. It shows that the luxury market here is huge. While China's having bit of a slowdown, and I was in India recently and they are too, the luxury market isn’t affected.


                   Imagination HK : not quite the same view as the London office

SB While business is hard-headed out here it seems that no organisation can afford to ignore superstition and Feng Shui. How far does a British company like Imagination incorporate these beliefs?

MB Look, when you’re in Rome you do as the Romans do. Rightly or wrongly, we have a feng shui master in every year especially in our Shanghai and Hong Kong offices . The feng shui master comes in and advises us on where to put things after refurbishment to ward off evil.

SB So at 45% growth for Imagination Asia, the feng shui master's a good investment?

MB (Laughs) I hope that's more to do with our business than feng shui. 


SB Your cornerstone is 'unique experience 'projects, what events have lingered in your memory?

MB A bit biased I know but last year Imagination was the creative partner for Sydney’s New Year’s Eve spectacular. It was memorable and Kylie Minogue was  creative ambassador to the event. Elsewhere the motor show in China is astonishing for its performance level and the respect for the Asian audiences is striking.


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