Agency merger creates Leeds-based powerhouse

Already employing 400 people, IMA Home has plans to recruit 200 more roles.

IMA Home: Steve Sowden (left) and Dave Sewards
IMA Home: Steve Sowden (left) and Dave Sewards

Two Leeds-based agencies are to merge to create a major new operation that plans to have 600 staff within three years.

Home, which last year was the second biggest UK regional creative agency by billings, will link up with IMA (formerly Intermarketing), creating a new agency called IMA Home.

Advantage Smollan, the sales and marketing outsourcing specialist, acquired IMA in 2017 and is adding Home (including its group companies Fusion Learning and Chilli) to its portfolio. It will merge the agencies together.

Based in Leeds, with 11 offices across six countries, the new business will have a combined turnover of £70m and has ambitious growth plans. Far from planning any redundancies, IMA Home is actively hiring for new roles at its offices in Leeds, London, Manchester, Gibraltar, New York, Amsterdam, Sydney and Cape Town. 

The merged agency already employs 400 people (previously 220 at IMA and the rest at Home), and has plans to recruit for 200 more roles in the next three years. It will have a client list including Jet2, Royal Canin, Dr Oetker, Adidas, Reebok, AG Barr and More Th>n.

Steve Sowden, chief operating officer at IMA, told Campaign the merger would make both businesses more resilient and help plug gaps in both company’s skillsets. 

He said: “One of the things we’ve [IMA] become world class at and well-known for is our retail experience capability. Our core clients in the market are brands like Adidas, Reebok, North Face and they’re typically fulfilment products so we’ve very good at making it happen… Where we’ve been spending a lot of time is trying to become more strategically capable. That’s difficult to do quickly and brilliantly so merging with Home is fast-tracking that for us.” 

Dave Sewards, group chairman and majority shareholder at Home, said: “Home is more strategic and in the digital world, our DX and customer experience sides of the business are very, very strong.”

'Growth and opportunity for our people and our clients'

Sowden said he had “admired Home for a long time. It’s an awesome agency with great people and a fantastic culture.

“This merger is all about growth and opportunity for our people and our clients. Like Home, IMA is already in a very healthy and profitable position and despite Covid-19, it’s fair to say that we’re both flying.

“The past 18 months have been tough and we are more committed than ever to creating amazing futures and opportunities for all colleagues at IMA and Home.”

Sewards, meanwhile, said the merger was “an incredibly exciting opportunity for everybody involved”.

He added: “When Steve and I first started talking it was immediately clear we shared incredibly similar values. This really feels like a very natural collaboration.

“We’re committed to maintaining Home’s culture and start-up mentality, something that was very important to us when we opened the doors 20 years ago and remains visible in both our culture and service to clients today.

“Maintaining that agility at such a large scale means we’ll continue to offer clients a bespoke service, and as a combined entity will have even stronger expertise and breadth.”

IMA Home plans to merge its two Leeds offices at IMA's site at The Malthouse. Both Sewards and Sowden will retain their current job titles ahead of a full amalgamation, expected in January. 


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