Next Creative Leaders: Micaela Gallino
on Oct 28, 2017
Sr. Creative Art Director - Johannes Leonardo New York
Three words you’d use to describe yourself?
I need yerba mate.
What work are you most proud of and why?
“Raising Voices,” a pro-bono campaign we did with Lomas Oral Foundation. The project was conceived to help a school of hearing impaired children raise funds by showing the whole country what they learned in school: how to speak and sing. That campaign taught me how far we can go with ideas, and how much we get back when we put our energy and creative minds into things that are socially committed.
What’s your “breaking into advertising” story?
I was about to start a career in medicine [cut to a medium shot of me, in a graduation gown, majoring in Graphic Design]. Even though I loved design, I felt it was mostly the last piece of a very complex system that I wanted to be part of. So I went on and studied creativity. I came in second in Argentina's most prestigious student awards and that helped get my foot in the door at a big agency.
You won Argentina’s first ever Best In Discipline at The One Show. What did that mean to you?
I remember Javi Mentasti (my ECD at Ogilvy & Mather) coming into my office and shouting with excitement “Mica, we’ve won Argentina’s first ever Best In Discipline!” A week after we were on a plane going to pick it up. It’s not that usual in Argentina for senior creatives to travel to pick up awards, but I was more junior at the time, and there I was, on the stage, next to two ECDs I considered mentors.
The award gave me great exposure (and opened the door to my opportunity in the US) but my biggest gain was confidence. So when you have an idea you believe in and it’s for a good cause, put it forward. Even the Pope will write back (for real).
How is your experience different as a woman creative in the US than in Argentina?
The advertising industry in Argentina is so male-dominated that numbers speak for themselves: there is only one woman ECD in the whole industry. So of course, back then, surrounded by male creatives all the time, I felt I had to be tougher, speak louder and have a stronger presence in the room.
The US has included women in the creative process faster than Argentina, and that's been very calming and empowering for me: every time I enter a room here I feel I can just be and talk as I want to.
What made you put yourself forward for Next Creative Leaders?
Throughout my career, my (male) bosses and peers gave me compliments like: “You have a great sense of humor—not feminine at all,” or “ awesome way of thinking! You can’t tell it came from a woman.” And even I started to think that my “manly way of thinking” was this great asset. Poor me and poor every other woman that feels proud that she can “think like a guy.”
What concerns me most is that this reflects a way in which ideas have been judged throughout the years, the way the bar has been set: if it’s a good idea there must be a male brain behind it. I think we are on the path to change that perception, but it will only happen for real if we as women believe it too. It’s not just about adding more women in leading roles, it’s about adding our female voices to the conversation.
You’re at Johannes Leonardo—an agency that’s a “melting pot” of global talent. What do you gain from working with such a diverse group?
If you go to Johannes Leonardo’s office and walk all the way to the back, you will hear at least eight different accents (some of them as weird as mine). We are all from different parts of the world and this embodies the progressive and radical spirit of the agency that was once envisioned by Jan Jacobs (from South Africa) and Leo Premsutico (from Australia).
Empathy and cultural knowledge are key for great creativity, so working with such a diverse group makes us an engine of global insight.
What’s your advice to creatives feeling stifled or unsupported by the structure of the place they work?
As Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” This is very important during your most challenging moments. Don’t let frustration consume you, let it be a chance to take a different road.
Sometimes agencies have very vertical structures and that is everything but an idea-friendly environment. This can overwhelm you, but, creativity can take place and shape anywhere. We have all the tools to develop our ideas and let them come to life. If you feel you have a good idea, follow your gut and make it happen no matter what. Don’t have money? Use any of the online platforms for crowdsourcing. Don’t have the know-how? This is the excuse for you to learn new software or a new technique. Don’t have people? Find the smallest expression of the project that requires only one person. With Foodxury , one of my latest side projects, I proved myself that this is possible. Keep in mind that not all awards are made out of metal.
You prioritize happiness in life and at work. How do you do that in an industry that demands such long hours?
My work is part of my life, and it is all about balance. Also I have to take care of myself. I work because I love what I do. So yes, I work a lot, but I also draw the line. I choose to have dinner at home rather than in the office for example. It is a small thing but it is something that keeps me grounded. Also all of this should be fun. My partner and I laugh every day at the office. We come in and make the most of the day but also enjoy each other. At the end of all of this we are friends and that is the most important thing.
You have many amazing manbassadors, but don’t yet have a woman in your corner. What are you looking for in a mentor and how can she get in touch?
I would love to connect with fearless women, unafraid to fail and unafraid to succeed.
You know what? That sounds like BS. We all have fears. The key is to face them and get things done, even with the fear working alongside you and your cup of coffee. So If you have a project and want share the load of battle, you can find me here .
You want to task the ad industry with the “ultimate brief.” What do you mean?
It’s a strange irony that in the industry where new ideas are born and shaped every other minute, we haven't yet taken the time to think up how to evolve faster. Agencies should get more acquainted with the talent they already have and fill the open seats with completely different kinds of people. Then they should empower their employees’ strengths and support their side projects. Finding a way to bring diversity to the table should be the most urgent brief.