Remembering Peter Vaz

Peter VazPeter Vaz will always be a legend in the Canadian advertising industry, he was (and is) respected and loved by many, his contributions have touched many careers.  On October 9, 2019 passed away at the age of 54 after a strong fight against ALS.  While our team did not have an opportunity to spend a lot of time with Peter and get to know him, we wanted to give a few others a chance to share their thoughts on Peter Vaz.


Patrick Lauzon

When was the first time that you met Peter Vaz? 

  • First time I met Peter was within the IAB board meeting when we were really just starting to structure the industry.
    My impressions of Peter were that he was a very humble and insightful individual and wanted to get involved to
    accelerate change !

What is something that made Peter different?

  • Very humble and likeable . No ego and curious

Biggest impact he leaves behind on the Canadian advertising industry?

  • He has initiated a lot of innovation for many clients ! He would work closely with media publisher and platform and be a champion in initiating new innovations to better understand them and help his clients find news ways to connect with their desired audiences . He truly was a pioneer and champion for the digital media landscape and he led innovation on many fronts

Dawna Henderson

When was the first time that you met Peter Vaz? 

  • I met Peter in the early 2000s. I think it was at AIMS. Remember them?
  • There weren’t that many of us in the industry at that time, so we were a very close-knit group. We were mavericks taking on the world and supporting each other in our quest to bring Internet advertising and marketing to Canada’s marketing landscape.

What is something that made Peter different?

  • Peter was quiet, humble and a real gentleman. He was very professional, smart and extremely passionate about the Internet. Peter was always driving to move the needle forward. I don’t think many people knew that he had a dark and wicked sense of humour. Peter and I always had great laughs together.

Biggest impact he leaves behind on the Canadian advertising industry?

  • I think the most significant impact he had on our industry was helping early on to establish Internet advertising standards in Canada (which are still in place) and that steady wins the race when it comes to selling in new and innovative ideas to clients. He was also a great teacher and always willing to share data, intelligence and knowledge to benefit the industry as a whole. It was never about him. He had no ego. Only how could he use this thing called the Internet to communicate in new and different ways while still having an impact on our client’s bottom line.

Andrea Parnell

When was the first time that you met Peter Vaz? 

  • I first met Peter years ago when he first moved to Canada. He interviewed with me for his first job in Canada. I was looking for an entry level candidate. Peter really impressed me with his passion, and his drive. He had had experience in India, but was having a hard time getting someone in a Canadian agency to take a chance. We hired him and I never looked back. He was one of the best hires of my career. I’m so happy he was willing to take a chance on us.
    What I remember most about his was his quiet humility.

What is something that made Peter different?

  • Peter was one of the smartest people but he never grandstanded, was never boastful. He never took enough credit for the things he accomplished. He led with understatement and grace – which are rare traits in this industry that overvalues extroverts.

Biggest impact he leaves behind on the Canadian advertising industry?

  • Aside from his obvious contributions as a digital pioneer in the Canadian media industry, I think his biggest contribution was to demonstrate to people, colleagues and partners, that you can achieve greatness with quiet perseverance, and humility. You do not have to be a relentless self-promoter, a table-banger, an egotist. You can lead and effect change by being involved, speaking your mind, listening, and interacting with respect and grace.

He will be missed.


Theresa McVean

When was the first time that you met Peter Vaz? 

  • I met Peter in 2000 when he was VP Director of Digital at M2 and I was a national account manager at Bell Globemedia Interactive, having come from the Globe and Mail digital advertising team. I was having trouble getting in to see him, which isn’t unusual at all. So, my shortcut was to call and leave a message as though I was booking a meeting for my VP, Gary Fearnall. That worked like a charm.

What is something that made Peter different?

  • When we met, I realized right away that Peter was special. Over the years I found him to be thoughtful, intelligent, gentle, experienced, gracious, and generous. Sharing stories about his background, professional and personal, I learned a lot about the man he was. He told me about planning print media in India in something like 13 dialects. Digital advertising would be no challenge to him. He spoke so highly of Susan, his wife, crediting her for his ability to work hard, long hours, and eventually complete his MBA.

Biggest impact he leaves behind on the Canadian advertising industry?

  • Over the years, I saw more of Peter. We were on the board of IAB Canada together. I’m a quiet person and so was he. Quite often we were the ones who listened more than we spoke, worked quietly behind the scenes, and chimed in when it was essential to reach a consensus. Peter worked tirelessly on many IAB Canada milestones.
  • We worked on large integrated campaigns. One I remember well was a “convergence program called Innovating Tomorrow with the newly created Bell Globemedia for GM’s new Cadillac CTS model. Content-based on the innovation theme ran as half-hour TV programs, vignettes on specialty nets such as ROBtv (now BNN), in the Globe and, through Sympatico, included a microsite and a contest.” (I picked this description up from a 2010 Strategy Magazine piece about Hugh Dow if you’d like to refer to it.)
  • Sometimes working with agencies can be so challenging. Working with Peter never was. He was always gracious. So much so that one year, I was away with my family on an island on Georgian Bay. The only time he could meet to negotiate the annual digital contract for GM and BGMi was while I was away. I happily drove back to Toronto for our meeting, and my family didn’t mind at all, knowing how highly I regarded him.

I will miss him.


Graham Moysey

When was the first time that you met Peter Vaz? 

  • I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know Peter over 15 years. Until recently I had always worked on the media owner side of the business which meant that Peter was my client.

What is something that made Peter different?

  • As I reflect on Peter over all those years I would have to say the word that comes to mind is decent. Peter is a very decent man. Kind, direct and never one to suffer fools. I always appreciated that Peter would afford me the audience with his busy schedule and I always knew we would connect on a personal level first and then have a very direct and constructive conversation about business and potential opportunities to grow our partnership.

Biggest impact he leaves behind on the Canadian advertising industry?

  • I sat on the IAB board with Peter for a period and his expertise and experience with clients and specifically the digital landscape shone through. Later in his career when Peter took on his executive MBA I was slightly in awe of his ability to commit to a very difficult task and finish the tackle. Peter certainly got stuff done!
    I talk a lot about authenticity and values and Peter has both in spades. He is missed in the industry and by me.

Brent Bernie

When was the first time that you met Peter Vaz? 

  • The first time I met Peter was when he approached me after one of my first presentations when Media Metrix was launched in January of 2000. I remember distinctly him saying to me “I know about Media Metrix and think this is great that they are coming to Canada. We will do business” He was our first customer in Canada within weeks. The fact he was already on top of what was happening in the U.S. with third party audience measurement for the web just underlined how progressive and on top of the digital space he was. At that time when structure was badly needed in the space, he was way ahead of the game. Truly impressive in my mind.
  • Most importantly, he was not just interested for himself and his clients but in developing the whole industry to realize the potential he saw. A true visionary.

What is something that made Peter different?

  • Peter was a man of great integrity which I find to be rare in the advertising space. His word was worth something. He was always straight with you in business whether it was good news or bad. There were no games. For that reason alone he was a joy to work with as a client and on the IAB board as we began to shape the industry.

Biggest impact he leaves behind on the Canadian advertising industry?

  • Besides all the things mentioned above, I believe Peter’s biggest impact on the business was he was always pushing things forward to the next level. Never content with status quo he always wanted to “look down the road” to what should be done next. Whether that was standardizing digital ad sizes, initiating cross media measurement to demonstrate the value of digital or advancing mobile measurement, Peter was always on the front edge of the industry trying to get a competitive edge but also to move the space forward quicker.

What can others learn from Peter?

  • Keep striving to be better even if it challenges the status quo. Recognize that if the industry improves its processes or approach to problems everyone will benefit. Finally… as you work through those challenges, do so with respect and integrity for your colleagues, clients, suppliers and even competitors.

Peter is survived by his wife Susan; his mother Flory; his brothers, Francis and Richard.

nabs and McCann Canada have joined forced to create the Peter Vaz Scholarship, donations can be made here.

Photo Credit: Andrea Parnell