The marketing industry and business landscape as a whole have changed significantly since Peter-Jan Grech set up BRND WGN in 2006. In that time, both Peter and the WGN – as the team has come to refer to it – have evolved in tandem, leading to growth, new ventures and opportunities. 

But before we get into the reasons behind Peter dubbing 2023 ‘the year of new beginnings’ for BRND WGN, let’s delve into the journey that’s led them here.

Looking back on the early days, Peter recalls, “the industry was very skewed towards the administrative side of marketing, and very much geared towards a ‘the more you spend, the more successful your campaign will be’ approach.” What he disliked above all, however, was a lack of respect for the creative part of the job, and the lack of strategic thinking. “Creatives were treated like mushrooms – left in the dark and fed shit. They were paid miserably,” he quips. 

It was against this backdrop that he founded BRND WGN, although his intention was never to start an agency. “It started out as a freelance network through which I worked with creative directors from different companies and designers from other agencies at the time. It was all about collaborating with people who were doing good work,” Peter explains.

That all changed when Kris Vella Petroni – then a talented designer at a UK agency, and now COO at BRND WGN – returned to the island. Recognising his valuable experience and high standard of work, Peter didn’t want to lose him to a competitor and thought, “somehow or other, I need to employ him. I could only afford one wage, so I paid it to him, while I figured out how to get on by doing lots of odd jobs.” Describing the initial years at BRND WGN as ‘very tight’ financially, the CEO laughs, “we went paperless in those days mainly because we couldn’t afford files and paper!”

The company grew from there, welcoming Martin Dimbleby a few years later. According to Peter, Martin typified the kind of person he wanted to represent BRND WGN. “Apart from being a great designer, he was a DJ and really good with people, and I wanted the people who fronted the company to really understand design. Most people who work in creative industries have a lot of empathy, and I believe that this is the secret to great work. The more empathy you have, the chances are the more you’re going to understand your client.” 

BRND WGN would go on to enjoy a number of landmarks, landing interesting accounts and going from strength to strength. In 2012, the agency opened an office in London, though Peter candidly admits, initially, it made “zero cash”. Still, it had its benefits. “Because we had an office in London, people in Malta thought, ‘oh, they must be good!’, so we had a lot of significant clients start to pay attention. At the time, it was the most expensive marketing mistake we made, but it actually worked out. We never closed the London office, and after a while, it too began to grow.”

Another landmark moment for the agency was winning the AirMalta account, which Peter describes as “one of the biggest things that happened to us because we went from handling clients with local budgets to having campaigns across every major European city. It also involved a lot of travel, and gave us the opportunity to form allegiances with agencies all over the world.”

It would lead them to get noticed by a Tier 1 UK agency, the same agency which Kris originally worked at. A collaboration formed between the two agencies, with BRND WGN working as the creative studio on global brands like Google, Oracle and Dell. “We worked on some amazing projects in this way, and it helped us to grow up a lot,” says Peter, but when the agency became interested in acquiring them, the team was forced to make a difficult decision. 

“Despite being a great opportunity, the reality was that the work we were doing – albeit for amazing brands – wasn’t the creative work we wanted to do. Branding and creativity was always our passion, so we decided to walk away from the buyout. It was mainly due to the fact that, by then, we had collected an amazing team of people who really believed in our dream, so if we had to sell, we would be selling out on this dream,” he says.


After walking away from the acquisition, the WGN set its sights on going global on their own steam, led by Peter, Kris and two fellow partners Gareth Sciberras and Chris Knights. “We reasoned that, if we were good enough to work for brands like Google underneath this big UK company, we’re obviously good enough to do it alone. So, we coined the phrase ‘Go global or go home’, and we started doing a lot of significant work and landing international accounts,” Peter continues.

As part of this growth, they decided to set up shop in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2019. But, despite major investments in people and training, COVID-19 hit hard, and completely derailed their plans. “We lost 70 per cent of our business within two or three weeks. It was devastating, and we had to let go of some of our people. We did it very early on, and did what we could to help find new opportunities for them, but it was a terrible time,” the CEO recalls sadly.

Yet while the pandemic may have created a significant speedbump, the team continues to be intent on growing the WGN outside of Malta. “The idea behind this is more of a franchise model. The problem is that a lot of great creatives are fantastic at the creative side of things, but not as confident on the business side. And what we see happen a lot in the industry is people starting their own thing and not being able to sustain it. At this stage, we’re very process-driven, and by giving them all the tools, the budget and the people, the idea is to give people the opportunity to run their own agency, with our support.”

Peter is also keen to seize new opportunities that have come about as a result of the changing scenario. “One of the most important things that COVID-19 taught us is the importance of employer branding. The fact that we had such a strong employer brand and that, even when the bad stuff happened, we still kept in line with our fundamentals is what enabled us to grow the organisation back,” he explains, and this has led them to ask themselves ‘what are the things we’re doing that work; that we could apply to other businesses?’

The answer to this question led BRND WGN to create an employer branding framework for other organisations. “This opened up two new services: employer branding and brand advisory. Today, we do a lot more strategic work at the management level, which is very interesting for us. I see a huge opportunity within the creative industry to really apply itself to this new area of growth,” Peter explains.

And that’s not all that’s new, he continues. 2023 has also seen the addition of two new partners: Martin Dimbleby and Raissa Camilleri. “We’re always thinking about what’s next. While I’ve built a good reputation over the years, I’m not under any illusion that I’m going to be here forever, so I’d like to take my wisdom and experience to pass the baton on to the next generation,” says Peter, adding, “the energy is there, and it’s about powering up that potential to unleash the next generation of leaders.” 

The plan, he says, is to continue making BRND WGN more of a network and a partnership, “where the senior guys slowly exit and let the next gen come in. BRND WGN needs to outlive us.”

Rounding off Peter’s ambitious plans is the setting up of WGN Ventures, with a view toward investing in other areas outside of BRND WGN Malta and BRND WGN UK. Revealing two new ventures they’ve embarked on thus far, he explains, “first, we’ve gone into partnership with Farsons to open up creative co-working space The Vats. The second one is strategic PR advisory firm PRSS WRKS, in collaboration with journalist Ivan Martin. The idea is to look for more opportunities like this with people who are masters of their craft and help them to focus on what they do well by creating the perfect structure for them to be successful. It’s an opportunity for us to use everything we’ve learned in 17 years of business to enable talented people to build a business and succeed.”

Looking ahead at their exciting ‘year of new beginnings’, the CEO maintains, “we have spent the last two years really investing in people. 2023 has to be about reaping some of the benefits of that. Fundamentally, BRND WGN’s vision is to be the branding agency everybody wants to work with – whether it is a client or employee. For us, the only way to do that is to focus on three areas: our people, our portfolio and our clients. To me, it’s very simple: better people make better brands, and better brands make a better world. So let’s invest in those people who can really help our clients become better businesses, and in so doing, help the world to become a better place.”

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Written By

Sarah Muscat Azzopardi

Sarah is a writer and editor at Content House Group. With a strong background in business publications, she is passionate about connecting the dots to produce superb content that creates value. When she’s not picking the brains of Malta’s business leaders, Sarah enjoys discovering new eateries, spoiling her senior dog and working on her embroidery business.