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Building global media brands; interview with Federico Gaggio

Federico Gaggio shares his best tips on how to tell purpose from bullshit and how his career has evolved over the years. 


Tell us a bit about yourself

I'm an Italian Londoner, and I work seamlessly across strategy and creative, helping leaders in creative organisations to build brands and audiences. Together we figure out the why, how and what, then I put together top teams to deliver it through stories, design and experiences.

I studied philosophy and graphic design, then worked as a designer, director, producer, strategist, creative director in agencies and media companies. I was former ECD at Discovery (…Channel’s parent company), building brands and growing the creative culture. Since 2015 I've been an independent consultant, collaborating with like-minded talent and agencies.

How does a regular day look like?

I get up early, have breakfast, then put in at least two or three hours of ’deep work’ in the morning: focusing on one task at a time, eliminating as many distractions as possible. Then I go for a walk, read or do some research. I try to keep email, calls and social media to a minimum. I do collaborative work and meetings in the second part of the day. After dinner with family, I read a book or watch a film or series (strictly ad-free and on-demand). As I often work with people in other locations and timezones, I travel, or have calls at odd hours, so there are many non-regular days too.

What makes you tick creatively? Where do you find inspiration?

What makes me tick is finding complex problems to solve, and collaborating with diverse, passionate people to crack them. I find inspiration everywhere, especially travelling, reading and talking to people. I stay curious and enjoy all kinds of stories and experiences that combine thought-provoking ideas and emotions in magical ways. I try to not get carried away with seeking inspiration though. As Chuck Close said: “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”

What do you do to work around a creative block?

As above, I stick to a regular work routine. Picasso also said: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”. I read and write. I do ‘morning pages’, to purge any junk cluttering my head and allow the good stuff to come out. When generating ideas, the most effective way to get around a block for me is to work with another person. It’s amazing what you can do in a couple of hours when you put curious minds together.

How did you start your career?

Ironically, for someone with a career in media, I grew up without a TV. I was hungry for stories, films and music, spending most of my time and money in cinemas and record shops. They fuelled my passion for photography, stories and identity. Discovering 4AD and Factory Records made me fall in love with graphic design. While studying philosophy at university I won a bursary at an experimental design school in Milan — a Bauhaus-inspired environment mixing visual design, film-making and technology. We were blessed with teachers like Bruno Munari and Franco Grignani, as well as filmmakers and computer scientists who taught us to code and use computers as creative tools. As we were the first ones doing this in Italy, we had people from agencies and TV companies briefing us for computer animation sequences to put in their spots, without having to go to London or LA. That’s how I started.

What piece of advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Same as (4) above: Show up and get to work. Don’t overthink it. Try different things. Stay curious. Beware of your ego. You are as good as your effort. Enjoy the work. Read ’The War of Art’ (by Steven Pressfield) and become a master at beating resistance every day.

What would you say to those who want to take your job?

You're very welcome to! It’s a great job.Using creativity to solve complex problems is much needed in society, not only in business. Connecting insights with strategy, stories and experiences requires creative leadership, and the ability to foster collaborations between very diverse sets of people and organisations. One of the primary tasks of a creative leader is to build a culture that nurtures more creative leaders.

What was the greatest idea you’ve ever had?

I have no idea. My next idea is probably going to be the greatest.

Do you have a side hustle? If yes, how and why did you decide on it? If no, why?

No. I do various things, but everything I do is connected to my core ‘hustle’: to help harness people’s talent and creativity to create value in the world.

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