Wavemaker’s Peter Vogel on media’s ‘industrial revolution’ and how to build credentials in the market

CEO of GroupM agency Wavemaker, Peter Vogel, chats to Mumbrella's Calum Jaspan about the new age for media agencies, building credentials in a competitive market, and his return to the MFA board.

A diverse client list: this is what Wavemaker regional CEO Peter Vogel says is a large part of Wavemaker’s transformation into becoming a “modern media agency”.

He chatted to us prior to the news this morning that OMD CEO Aimee Buchanan has taken on the role of GroupM CEO but despite no one in the role when we spoke, he shared a strong opinion on what will help Wavemaker continue to build its credentials in the market.

Vogel points to having a strong mix of multinational clients, as well as tapping into some of the iconic Australian brands, such as Jetstar, Australia Post and several state governments.

But the key to it all, he believes, is the agency’s growing list of new economy and tech clients picked up in the past three years.

“If you look at all of those (new economy clients), the Bumbles, the Netflixes the Airbnb’s etcetera, that is also a big differentiator and hopefully sort of a tick of approval that we are sort of a more modern media agency,” he explains.

Having these data and tech clients will help Wavemaker, and GroupM, with its global clients in Google and Facebook continue to grow in what Vogel calls a new era for media. This new era focuses on making advertising and technology work better for people, and having the right people in place helps deliver that, according to Vogel.

“In today’s world, having a strong group, with a really good, strong group strategy is essential because I think we’re going through a completely new era of transformation. As the fragmentation of media continues, it’s all data privacy issues, the demise of cookies and the acceleration of e-commerce.

“This is probably the biggest fundamental change that is happening in our industry. It’s almost like the industrial revolution for media. And to cope with that you have to have the experience, the reputation, the scale, and from a data and insights perspective, the technology and the partnerships with these big platforms to truly advance, and I think that is the power of the groups.”

Given his “group” now has a new leader, it will be interesting to see if Vogel’s ambitions for Wavemaker take a new direction in the coming 12 months.

Vogel is optimistic about the industry adapting to the looming removal of third-party cookies, despite it pushed back to 2023, last month. He believes this is a step in the right direction in achieving greater transparency, and providing a product that works for the consumer.

“I don’t think that there’s anything to fear in that regard. I think it’s the right thing to do. We do need to be more respectful of consumer data, so I think the whole global initiative is absolutely right. You don’t want to be re-targeted with 10 ads after you’ve just bought a product. So it’s all correct and right, and we need to be respectful of that. Otherwise we’ll lose the respect or the trust of the consumer.”

On this aforementioned group strategy, Vogel says the clarity it provides is has been playing a major role in driving Wavemaker and fellow GroupM agencies forward in the interim.

The group has seen its fair share of change in the past six months, first with former GroupM CEO Mark Lollback departing in March,  and then soon after the takeover of WPP AUNZ by WPP Plc, and the subsequent departure of WPP AUNZ CEO Jens Monsees’ departure in May.  While Monsees is officially on gardening leave, the departures left the WPP and GroupM leadership teams with gaps for a number of months, and there is still the question of who will assume the new WPP country manager role, the replacement role for Monsees. Some are pointing to WPP AUNZ chief strategy officer Rose Herceg as the likely candidate.

Vogel was adamant that the structures in place at each level of the group meant that business could continue as usual.

GroupM global CEO, Christian Juhl

“It’s really easy for us as a leading multinational organisation to continue. As I say, Christian Juhl (GroupM global CEO) is an amazing, dynamic person. He set GroupM’s new strategy in about January or February last year, and that’s the part we’ve all bought into. We are all extremely supportive of it.”

In terms of the industry pressing forward with modernising, Vogel was reappointed the board of the MFA at the beginning of this month, six years on from departing in 2015 when he moved to Hong Kong as CEO of MEC Asia Pacific. Vogel takes up the spot left vacant Mark Lollback back in March.

GroupM’s new CEO, Aimee Buchanan

In this six year hiatus, Vogel says that the biggest issues at the heart of the MFA’s purpose have come a long way.

“Obviously we’ve got to ensure that we are attracting the right people in the industry, but not just the right people, driving that diversity and inclusion agenda so that we are making sure the industry is more representative more future-proofed. Equity and inclusion is a key pillar that we are working on, and transparency is one.”

On whether Vogel has intentions to take one of theses issues on, or something else and really make it his own, he said looks forward to tackling the big issues head on.

“I had this discussion with, Peter Horgan (chairman) and Sophie Madden, the CEO, and I said you know what? Absolutely attracting the right talent, diversity, inclusion, and transparency are the big things. We might have people that are even better place than myself, Aimee Buchanan and the likes that are driving diversity and inclusion. With my experience, with my knowledge of clients, certainly transparency and ensuring that we drive not only a great business going forward, but an ethical way for clients to use their media is something I’m passionate about.”

The MFA board, as of 1 July 2020

Three and a half years on from Wavemaker’s foundation, Vogel firmly believes the merger of the two media agencies, MEC and Maxus was the right move in order to continue modernising.

“We decided to make a new brand, and that allowed us to develop what we believe is a more modern media agency proposition and direction. Yes, we mostly drew on some of the strengths of MEC and Maxus, but it just allowed us to reframe it and I think that was the exciting part of it.”

While there is a group strategy, it remains important for Wavemaker to differentiate itself from Mindshare and MediaCom. Vogel says that Wavemaker and GroupM’s client base represent the extent which both have embedded into the industry here in Australia.

“I think as an agency, we’ve connected into the fabric of the local market that we operate in, and as a network we’ve got five offices in Australia. I don’t think there is any other network that has five. That’s indicative of our client base.”



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