Banks returns to the fray as Imagination chairman

Former FCB London chief is to drive company expansion and raise its profile.

The former agency chief John Banks is returning to the business at the age of 61 as the chairman of the design and communication company Imagination.

News of his appointment comes slightly more than a year after he stepped down as the chairman and chief executive of FCB London.

His arrival reactivates his working relationship with Gary Withers, Imagination's founder. The pair worked together during the 70s and early 80s when Banks ran Ogilvy & Mather's flagship Ford account. The car-maker remains one of Imagination's biggest clients.

Banks' role will be to drive the expansion of Imagination, which has 450 staff and operates in more than ten countries, and also to raise the company's profile at the highest levels within client companies. Imagination's client portfolio includes Coca-Cola, BT, Ericsson, Guinness and Warner Brothers.

However, Withers, himself a former senior agency manager, denied Banks' appointment would trigger a move by Imagination into above-the-line advertising.

"We didn't want an executive chairman who would just turn up for board meetings, but somebody who could help us to develop our business," Withers said. "John is fantastic with clients and we want to benefit from that."

Banks, whose agency career stretches back more than 40 years, was Young & Rubicam's international chairman when he helped launch the then Banks Hoggins O'Shea in 1991. The agency was sold to FCB seven years later.

He said: "There's a lot of rubbish talked about integrated communications but the fact is that, in most international networks, the route to an integrated solution is a tortuous one. Imagination is a company without boundaries and comes at problems in a totally different way."

Banks takes on the chairmanship as Imagination seeks to strengthen its global offering further via the launch of its so-called ONE offer.

The company turns over about £100 million a year.

- Close-Up, page 17.

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