MEDIA HEADLINER: Terminal zealot relishes idea of taking OMD UK into Europe - Peter Magnani tells Eleanor Trickett he needs stretching after ten years with Western

’Gaaah! Who put those chocolate biscuits in here?’ Peter Magnani cries, as he hurtles into the near-derelict meeting room in the bowels of Bowater House.

’Gaaah! Who put those chocolate biscuits in here?’ Peter Magnani

cries, as he hurtles into the near-derelict meeting room in the bowels

of Bowater House.

As he whisks them out of sight on to a chair, I wonder how he could

possibly worry about getting fat, appearing to burn up more energy

holding a normal conversation than most people would by running a

half-marathon. As he ricochets off the wall like a human pinball, it

becomes abundantly clear why he has finally made the decision to leave

Western after ten years to go to OMD UK - there’s not enough room.

’Oh God, I’m talking bollocks again, aren’t I?’ he says, his waving

hands narrowly avoiding knocking my coffee all over my lap as he throws

himself into his chair.

What he’s trying to tell me is how much he’s looking forward to his new

job (director of communication strategy for Europe), sticking his head

over the international parapet once more to look after OMD’s beloved

pan-European client Sony, while also adopting an, as yet, unprescribed

European strategic role. ’I’d be stupid to try and define it now, before

I’ve even started,’ he says, though his reporting line (through OMD UK’s

chief executive Paul Taylor and managing partner Mark Palmer) would

indicate that it is about writing large the strategic nous of the London


Magnani is well qualified to take on both a strategic and an

international role. During his decade at Western - starting when it was

the media department of Lowe Howard-Spink - he has carved out a

reputation for international diplomacy (no mean feat when you’re dealing

with the big brands and bigger egos prevalent in the Interpublic Group)

and strategic beef, especially for his instinctive feel for the United

Distillers Vintners business which he ran for six years.

Yet, as Magnani readily admits, he’s a bit of an unknown on the wider

stage, although he is at pains to point out that he is the ideal person

to take a European role within the enormously political OMD - although

he has set himself clear boundaries. ’I do hope some of my initiatives

will be catalysts to make the whole OMD thing better,’ he says, ’but

there is inevitably going to be a clash between those who have massive

stakes in their own companies and those who are employed by the network.

You get a lot of that in the Lowe Group.’

If anyone can say that, he can, having spent two years as Western’s

international media director trying to knit together some sort of

relationship between his network and Universal McCann. ’I was mis-sold

the idea,’ he recalls, with something less than undiluted pleasure. ’It

was supposed to be about swapping great ideas around but it wasn’t at


His fingers slightly burnt but still cock-a-hoop about life in general

as only the terminally enthusiastic can be, Magnani came back to run the

UDV business.

’Sales rocketed,’ he boasts, but it was the subsequently unsuccessful

repitch that he led in 1998 which, paradoxically, steered the agency

towards its long-awaited winning streak.

’I got the whole company working on it and it was the first time that

all the directors had got together. That was the springboard for all the

other business we did win eventually.’

But it was the loss of UDV that did it for Magnani in the end. ’I never

after that had the opportunity to do what I do best. But now, I’ve got

Sony - what a great brand!’ he whoops. ’I need stretching after spending

ten years in a comfort zone.’

Western has indeed provided a very cosy environment for Magnani and he

is the first to admit that it will be slightly daunting going from the

company, with its slightly wan mini-network, to the mighty OMD, about

which he splutters: ’It’s ... everywhere.’

What Magnani doesn’t (quite) say is that he will be relieved to leave

behind the rocky patches that have befallen the agency and the difficult

relationship with the Lowe Group. But he does admit: ’I have been

working in an outfit which is the poor relation and, year by year, our

ranking goes down as everyone else grows and we stay still.’

But, in his endearing habit of lurching from one viewpoint to another,

he admits he’s gratified to have done it all. ’I’m glad to have been a

part of the process,’ he says diplomatically. ’But I’m not going to

lecture you about how great OMD is. The main thing is that, with the

people and the energy within, there is a level of control that we never

would have had here,’ he says, looking around the patchy walls with a



1987: Charles Barker City, media trainee

1988: Lowe Howard-Spink, planner/buyer

1990: Lowe Howard-Spink, group head

1994: Lowe Group, international media director

1996: Western International Media,deputy media director

2000: OMD UK, director of communications.