Nominated for "Advertiser of the Year": Petra Dreyfus, Wirz Communications

Petra Dreyfus, Co-CEO and COO of Wirz Communications, has been nominated for "Advertiser of the Year".


The fact that her Co-Managing Director Livio Dainese was nominated last year and won the award did not prevent the expert jury from nominating Petra Dreyfus as "Advertiser of the Year" this year. The agency is said to be "on a roll", winning new clients and undergoing a forward-looking transformation.

Dreyfus joined the agency in 2005 as consulting group leader, took a seat on the management board as Managing Director three years later and has led Wirz as Co-CEO and COO together with Livio Dainese in a team of two since 2017. 

The co-model works because the two complement each other perfectly. "We come up with exciting solutions because we think completely differently," explains Dreyfus. It is enriching to run a company as a couple. Because the different ways of thinking and approaches often lead to more mature, unconventional solutions, says the Basel native.

Dreyfus' affinity for analytical thinking is no coincidence: "I come from a very number-driven household," she says. Her father, for example, was a finance director at Bankverein. He still had some understanding for business studies, but less for her interest in marketing - a rational discipline that is difficult to comprehend. "It's probably typical that I chose this particular direction - but I've never lost touch with the numbers," says Dreyfus and laughs. 

She moved away from Basel, away from Switzerland, learned languages and got to know the world. She took a detour via corporate communications, discovered her passion for brand management and strategy - and a fascination for the work of creative agencies. "Big, super-logical, theoretical derivations and strategies in presentations only fly if you find your way from theory into practice. That requires a creative leap."

After a double baby break, Dreyfus joined Wirz in 2005, where he primarily looked after international clients. A formative stroke of luck: "While people in this country were still asking themselves whether it was better to run a TV or poster campaign, brands such as Pepsi or Mars, which were driven by the large global network agencies, were already looking at how to multiply messages or how to run 360-degree communication." Petra Dreyfus learned many things early on that have long since become standard today. The international brands eventually withdrew their marketing from Switzerland for cost reasons, and Dreyfus devoted herself to domestic brands from then on.

The industry, the market and the opportunities are changing. What remains constant is Wirz's DNA. "We know how to manage brands," says Dreyfus. The agency can also make full use of this strength in new fields, especially as a strong brand is becoming increasingly important in an ever more globalized world. "We are very advanced when it comes to networking performance-oriented and brand-supporting campaigns. This is one of the reasons why we were able to win so many modern, well-known brands last year."

Campaigns Wirz Communications 2018Migros


"The heroic stories of Finn the Migros gnome move Switzerland. So much so that they are being talked and written about far and wide. A Pixar-quality commercial with inestimable PR value."

M-Budget Mobile


"Where has this ever been seen before: a mobile phone provider calling for responsible use of smartphones. At once humorous, sharp and straight from life, this campaign for M-Budget Mobile is an example of communication with a much bigger idea behind it."

The Last Sweater

"With the Last Sweater, we not only invented a product, but also a means of communication and made it the surprising core of our campaign. It also enabled the WWF to tap into a new, young target group without any media budget."

Digital campaign for Kühne + Nagel


"The world's leading logistics company Kuehne + Nagel is so large and global that smaller companies often don't even consider it for intra-European transportation. We are taking countermeasures: with data-based, digital content - emotionally narrated, smartly controlled and continuously evaluated and optimized. A promising area for Wirz."


Advertising Week: Petra Dreyfus, what was your first thought when you heard about the nomination for "Advertiser of the Year"?

Petra Dreyfus: There were actually three thoughts: 1. me in public? 2. thanks for the recognition! 3. advertiser of the year? Shouldn't we finally change the title?


In general: What does advertising mean to you?

Communication fascinates me. Always finding new ways to connect people and brands. The beauty of my job is the mix: although we deal intensively with data, statistics and algorithms, we always have to find the way from "science" to emotion, i.e. from people's heads to their hearts.


Looking back on 2018: What was your personal highlight of the advertising year?

My two overly critical teenage boys finally liked one of our campaigns: the M-Budget Mobile campaign.


In which area did your agency improve last year compared to the previous year?

We have proven with our existing clients and in the many pitches we have won that we can get to the heart of our ideas very successfully - and thus also get people talking about them. This is one of the reasons why we were voted PR Agency of the Year - even though we are not a traditional PR agency. At the same time, we were able to make huge gains in performance marketing and launched international campaigns such as for Kühne + Nagel. I believe our success is based on the fact that we never forget the brand. We do performance with soul, so to speak.


What do you think your agency is particularly strong in?

Today's media usage demands personalized brand experiences from brands across all touchpoints and at all times. To achieve this, we need a good campaign and data, data, data. Our early involvement in Datalogue, a data specialist, and the fact that their specialists are based with us help us to achieve this. Then there is the issue of automation: which information is communicated manually and which is automated? We founded Younity for this purpose a few years ago, a department that already successfully operates marketing automation for Migros and Swiss Post.


Where do you see the biggest current challenges in the advertising and communications industry?

Finding and retaining the right talent. Be it for Wirz or as an external partner. It is becoming increasingly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. At the moment, everyone is shouting that they can do everything. Sentences like "I am digital" are a hoot for me. What exactly does that mean? Performance marketing? E-commerce? Social media? Screen design? No one person combines all these skills.


What makes you confident that it will continue to be fun to work in your industry in the future?

The fact that we work in a dynamic environment. We used to have three or four advertising media at our disposal. And it was always one-way communication. Ultimately, we had no idea what people really thought about our work. Today, we are in constant dialog. We know much more precisely in advance what people are interested in. This has increased diversity, but also the challenge.


How do you think the advertising and communications industry is perceived "from the outside"? Is its reputation good enough?

The star and rooster behavior of the past no longer exists. Today, clients and agencies work on campaigns together. Successful campaigns require so many different skills that anyone who claims to be able to do everything and everything better is untrustworthy. Virtues such as modesty and teamwork are in demand today and this can only be good for the reputation of our industry.


What has been the most difficult decision of your career so far?

Our children were still babies, my husband was buying into a doctor's surgery and I was starting work again when I received a job offer from AMV BBDO in London. But how was I going to manage that? Transplant my family to London, be a good mommy to my sons and at the same time start my career in a completely unknown environment? In the end, I didn't have the courage. I stayed in Zurich.


And which one the best?

To have chosen Wirz again and again afterwards. Choosing the long road and bringing the agency to where it is now. 


Where would you work if not in the communications industry?

I think I would be a pretty relaxed kindergarten teacher. My hearing impairment would also really benefit me. No, seriously: I would probably end up in another industry in strategic consulting.


What are your strengths?

I remember a Christmas card from a customer. He thanked me for working with him and asked me to be a little lenient because things don't always happen as quickly as I would like. That seems to be my strength: I don't let up and push forward. But sometimes that can be exhausting. For me and the others.


And where do you prefer to let others in the team take the lead?

When it comes to ideas. I can then assess whether they are suitable and viable.


What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Persistent, straightforward, open.


How would you describe your leadership style?

Communicative, personal, undogmatic.


You are given a day off tomorrow: how do you organize it?

The fair-weather version: enjoying the sunrise and marveling at how the world wakes up. But since I love watching sunsets just as much, I start to have problems with my sleep budget in midsummer at the latest. The rainy day option: reading some gloomy Danish thriller from start to finish without a break. Or binge-watching some trash series on Netflix.


Which superpower would you choose if you had the choice?

Stay fit without having to exercise.


Why would you be a good "Advertiser of the Year"?

Because I am an advertiser and not an advertiser, I would like to make a statement for all women in the industry: Yes, you can do it too. And because I would advocate holistic communication in which creativity, strategy and the perfect orchestration of measures go hand in hand on an equal footing.

The election procedure: The online election will take place next week (week 13). All subscribers to the MK Werbewoche Expodata newsletter are eligible to vote. The readers' vote accounts for 50 percent of the decision. The other 50 percent is contributed by the expert jury - each member may cast one vote for one of the three nominees. The winner will be announced on April 17 at the Best of Swiss Web Award Night in the Samsung Hall in Zurich. 

Interview with Petra Dreyfus

"The star and rooster behavior of the past no longer exists"

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