Imagewest works to rebrand Harlaxton Manor

Front row (from left): Alan Schneller, Rachael Fusting, Matt Love; back row: Faculty advisor Mark Simpson, Martha Holmes, Davide Fellini, Nicole Coomer, director Heather Garcia

Elliott Pratt

Imagewest is one of the few completely student-ran advertising agencies in the country and is based out of WKU’s School of Journalism & Broadcasting.

Since the program’s origination in 2004, Imagewest has traveled internationally to places such as France, Spain, and Italy. But none of these places have presented them with the honorable challenge that matches to the Harlaxton Manor in Grantham, England.

Imagewest left for the United Kingdom May 28 as part of an eight-week study abroad trip with a goal to rebrand the image of Harlaxton Manor.

Harlaxton, built in the 1830s, is the British campus for the University of Evansville in Indiana and while it is mostly known for its college, the objective of Imagewest is to rebrand the manor as a premier event venue, said director Heather Garcia.

“Right now, Harlaxton Manor hasn’t established an identity for themselves so they have no brand, no look, no feel, they have nothing to put out there to the public,” Garcia said. “What we are going to leave them with is a whole brand identity so that they have an established image of presence with a logo, slogan, and website.”

Harlaxton Manor is set in the English countryside just north of London. The Manor hosts over 30 events a year from weddings, concerts, and conferences.

Programs and Events Coordinator at Harlaxton Simon Hawkes has worked with Imagewest through the summer and said it was obvious that Imagewest did their homework on Harlaxton Manor before arrival.

“They have a real spark. That was the first thing I noticed,” Hawkes said. “There was a definite electricity with this group and I could tell they were going to be great to work with.”

Students, or Ninjas as Imagewest calls them, are generally required to intern with the agency for a semester before studying abroad. Due to a need of positions, Nicole Coomer is working for Imagewest for the first time at Harlaxton in working in public relations.

Coomer said the biggest difference she’s noticed is the style of advertising between the United Kingdom and the United States.

“The European style of advertising isn’t as in-your-face,” Coomer said. “You’re not overwhelmed with messages everywhere and billboards. It’s much more relaxed and sophisticated over here than it is in America. It’s subtle, but definitely noticeable.”

Coomer said one of the difficult transitions for the team has been to approach the process from a British standpoint and not display too many American influences.

“That’s been difficult, trying to get out of our own minds and enter someone else’s,” Coomer said. “At the same time it’s interesting and exciting because it’s stepping out of our comfort zone. I feel like we’ve learned a lot in that sense.”

Matt Love is one of the senior designers for Imagewest who is also studying abroad for the first time. Love said one of the things he’s learned so far is that tradition is a focal point at Harlaxton.

“Things tend to be more representational,” Love said. “We gave them two logo ideas. One was traditional and the other was more conceptual and of course they chose the traditional one even though the really liked the conceptual one.  Ascetically, there was more concern for consistency over the decades that they’ve been established.”

The group is halfway through their time and will leave Harlaxton July 25. Hawkes said he is blown away by the product Imagewest has created at this point.

“I’m fully confident that we’re going to get a product that fully exceeds our expectations,” Hawkes said. “We didn’t have any real web presence for Harlaxton Manor enterprises, so we’re delighted that we’re going to have a more visual presence, which is what Harlaxton is all about.”

Love said Imagewest still has a couple of ideas up there sleeves that will continue to keep Harlaxton impressed.

“They’ve been blown away every time we show them our stuff,” Love said. “We’re trying to keep some things hidden so we can continue to do that.”