Launched in 2006 as a freelance network of creatives, BRND WGN has evolved into a highly respected strategic and creative advisory firm known for developing impactful brands that add true value to their people and customers.
As a promising young ad man working for a respected local agency, a twentysomething Peter-Jan Grech was quick to cotton on to certain flaws in the marketing modus operandi of the early 00s. Firstly, agencies were pouring too much energy into selling advertising space over developing innovative creative ideas. And, perhaps more crucially, while the execs enjoyed plenty of perks on the job, the creatives who were expected to deliver the goods were treated rather poorly.
It was through these simple but significant realisations that the seeds for BRND WGN were sown. Teaming up with friend and fellow creative Kris Vella Petroni, Peter initially set up BRND WGN as a freelance network of creatives. The rest, as they say, is history. Fortifying the core of the business further through the talents of accountant Gareth Sciberras and digital entrepreneur Chris Knights, Peter has overseen the growth of the agency from a two-person enterprise into a 30-strong team spanning Malta and London.
A forward-thinking mindset has ensured BRND WGN has blazed a trail of firsts in the local sector, including being one of the first agencies in Malta to achieve ISO certification, unassailable proof of their global quality standards in brand strategy and creative services.
“From the start, we really prioritised creativity and strategy as a real marriage made in heaven,” Peter explains. “We wanted to empower our creatives to flourish. So, we shifted our focus from selling advertising space to selling great ideas. In fact, we were the first local agency to stop selling advertising altogether back in 2015.”
With an eye keenly on rising online trends, the agency also pushed ahead in earnest with offering social media advertising as a service way before others in the industry took note. “At the time, a lot of the bigger agencies pretty much ignored Facebook. We really saw an opportunity there for a new way of helping our clients connect with their audiences. And that gave us a lot of kudos. More people started to pay attention to us and what we were offering.”
Landing Air Malta as a client in 2010 was arguably the milestone that finally catapulted the agency into the big leagues. And, as the business has evolved over the past 16 years, so has Peter’s role as CEO.
“In the early days, I was one of the main key providers within the agency. So, I dedicated a lot of my time to working in the business as opposed to working on the business. Then, as we began to grow, my attention turned to securing the right talent to join our team.”
In 2010, BRND WGN also took its first steps towards globalisation with the opening of its London office. Plans for further expansion were already underway when COVID-19 effectively brought the entire world to a standstill. Peter admits that the pandemic “ravaged” the agency. Much to the CEO’s chagrin, it was forced to let several people go and Peter realised that, to help the team weather the storm, he was needed back in the fray, helping with the day-to-day of the business.
“Letting members of our team go was one of the hardest decisions of my entire career. But I took the time to make sure we had secured jobs for everyone. Thankfully, things have begun to settle over the past year and we have re-hired a few people. It’s also given me the space to return my focus to setting the strategy and vision for BRND WGN going forward.”
Core to this vision is an ongoing goal to empower the entire BRND WGN team to shape the company and have a say in its future.
“Our three main principles at BRND WGN are: challenge everything, be brutally honest, and find a way. These principles serve us to challenge and question anything that comes our way, not only our work and ideas but also potential clients. We will ask ourselves: do this client’s values and ethical practices align with ours? If the answer is no, then let’s actively seek out those clients who inspire us to deliver our best work.”
2022 also saw BRND WGN strengthen its strategic services, boost its creative manpower, move into new offices at The Brewhouse, and upscale its London premises. The team also took some much-needed downtime after 24 months of being on a never-ending roller coaster.
“I would say that, overall, our mood and spirit are at the highest they’ve ever been,” he says with a genuine note of satisfaction.
The agency is also ensuring it remains ahead of the game by exploring emerging digital innovations. While Peter admits he isn’t particularly bullish on Metaverse, he and his team have singled-out low-code/no-code development as being the next real game-changer in the industry, an innovation that will help clients design and deploy their websites and online services much quicker than ever before.
But with the digital potentialities for building brands in a constant state of flux, does Peter believe there are any fundamental components behind a successful brand in the modern age? And how is that success measured?
“When everything is against a brand and customers still choose their products and services over the competition, that’s when you know you’ve created a truly impactful brand. More than ever before, a brand needs to know how to add value to its customers without trampling over its own values towards society and the environment.
“And that’s where we come in at BRND WGN. We work collaboratively with our clients to really try and understand what’s important to them, but also what’s important to their own customers. We help our clients navigate challenges beyond just marketing and design. We talk about their strategy and find ways to implement impactful decisions across all levels of their operations so they can add greater value to their employees and customers. I believe this is what truly differentiates BRND WGN from a lot of other agencies out there,” Peter explains.
Looking back on a 16-year legacy that positively shook up the local marketing sector, surviving the two-year pandemic, and looking forward to what BRNG WGN has in store for the coming years, it would be understandable should Peter feel it’s time to ease his foot off the pedal a notch. Far from it, his sights remain fixed on bigger and brighter prospects for the entire agency.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is that my role as CEO isn’t to hold the weight of the business; it’s to inspire our people to reach their full potential so that together we can push the business forward. I have huge respect for our team and for all the people who’ve stayed loyal to BRND WGN over the years. And I want to give our people a real voice and a level of freedom that enables them to explore new possibilities that will define the company. Ultimately, I see the growth of BRND WGN not in it eventually being sold off in some multimillion deal, but through building a company which is truly infinite, and which enables our people to own and shape its future,” he concludes.
This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders
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