Self-made success story

DESCRIBING his company as one which could be considered to be at the "peak of its power" at the moment, one could easily say the same of Luca Gallarelli.

This managing director of Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town recently spent a well-deserved break in St Francis Bay and The Herald caught up with this self-made success story.

Seven months ago Gallarelli took the reins of what is considered to be the top advertising agency in the country – and the one having achieved the most success on both the creative and digital development and social-media integration fronts.

On his last day of holiday on Friday, Gallarelli said he enjoyed the Eastern Cape seaside holiday with his wife, Carol, and introduced "the little man", the couple's seven-month-old Domenico, to the Gallarelli family and friends from St Francis Bay and Port Elizabeth.

The son of Bay-based artist Rica Gallarelli, Luca said he had always studied art at school but it was only in Grade 9 when his English teacher at Grey High School, Neil Thomson, played the class the Cannes advertising reel of the top commercials in the world that he realised that he was destined to be in advertising.

"What inspired me most was the fact that it seemed possible to build a career around something that looked like so much fun. Creating engaging brand stories which entertained and enticed people seemed like a bloody interesting way to spend one's day," Gallarelli said.

After matriculating from Grey in 1995, he studied an undergraduate degree in computer science at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and a post graduate higher diploma course at the AAA School of Advertising in Cape Town. Having worked on a diverse number of multinational brands at some of the top advertising companies in the country, Gallarelli was appointed to the Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town board of directors in 2009, and last year was appointed as managing director.

Asked about achieving this status at such a young age, Gallarelli said advertising is a young industry with many MDs in their mid-30s. "I suppose we all share a passion, determination, resilience and a commitment for what we do."

He said in advertising the office is almost like "home" for all the members of the team, since the boundaries are blurred between work and home time.

"It is important to create an environment where people are inspired, motivated, and happy to give their best.

"What we do is more than just a job and you're never really away from your work. Advertising is all around us.

"Yes it's about connecting brands to consumers, but one could argue that it's fundamentally about understanding human nature, which is always better witnessed outside of the office environment where people are in their most natural and comfortable states," he said.

The Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town office employs 300 people and generates more than R120-million revenue annually.

A big part of his job, Gallarelli said, is managing clients and agency teams with diplomacy. - Cindy Preller