Jason Gallucci: An agent of change

The MD of Lexis tells Nadirah Kaba why he is the right man to reinvent the agency to meet the digital challenge

Jason Gallucci: Not just sexy ideas
Jason Gallucci: Not just sexy ideas
Forty-one years old tomorrow (11 June) and still not afraid to wear hot pink to work, Jason Gallucci is clearly comfortable with taking risks.

Having already launched one start-up and significantly grown another, he now finds himself top dog at Lexis while CEO Margot Raggett enjoys a short sabbatical.

Gallucci, described as ‘Spock on acid’ by a former client, brands himself as ‘socially odd’, and is a far cry from the smooth-talking consumer PR cliché.

He is not a natural raconteur, but throughout the interview he is hugely
likable and above all resolutely focused on his new role and the future of the PR
industry.

‘I’ve always felt I was on a bit of a quest to prove that PR works,’ he explains. ‘To define what it is and to focus on the endgame – essentially trying to use the power of influence to drive sales.’

His enthusiasm is apparent when talking about the future of the industry, as his eyes widen and his hands begin to conduct the conversation. ‘There are too many people in PR who think their job is to make coverage, but coverage is only a means to an end,’ he says.

‘We use it to make recommendations, endorsements, opinions and to change behaviour.’

Despite the detailed manifesto of what he calls his ‘life’s mission’, Gallucci has not always worked in PR. Starting off in media sales and moving to customer
segmentation, he eventually found his way to Freud Communications in 1997.

‘My remit was to bring more of a process to the way it went about selling,’ he says. This also describes many of his subsequent roles, focusing on instigating change and putting structures in place.

Like a mafia Don from his favourite film The Godfather, Gallucci sees himself as leading rather than falling into line. ‘I’m a difficult person to manage. I don’t like stuff being imposed,’ he says. ‘I see myself as someone who can change a business. You hire me to take a business forward.’

Ex-colleague John Rivett, co-founder of Paratus, agrees: ‘He’s a good manager and creates a good team because his people are loyal to him.’

After Freuds Gallucci moved on to Hill & Knowlton but felt constrained by its systems and structures. It was not until he set up PiranhaKid, Hill & Knowlton’s ‘buzz marketing’ unit, in 2003 that he had the freedom to put together a working method that was both systematic and creative – a way to put chaos into order.

Gallucci harbours apparently conflicting thought processes. ‘I like ideas and creativity, but I have a brain that allows me to process things in a very logical way,’ he notes.

His way of thinking is summed up by ex-colleague Fiona Noble, vice-chairman at Weber Shandwick. ‘Jason combines the creative with the rigorous thinking of a planner,’ she says. ‘It’s not just about a sexy idea.’

This combination may owe something to his upbringing by a Sicilian father and an English mother. While his mother was conservative, his father had fewer boundaries – something that has not really changed. ‘I had a fence panel that needed repairing, and I came home the other day to find my dad had not only fixed the panel, but had turned it into a gate that led into my neighbour’s garden,’ he says.

After selling his portion of shares in consumer shop Slice he spent time as a freelance consultant in Asia and a couple of months at home, before accepting the offer of MD at Lexis.

‘It has a different culture and vibe from other groups I’ve worked at,’ he says. ‘The challenge is not just to come and run something, but to look at how we’re going to reinvent ourselves and seize
the opportunity of the changing digital landscape.’

Despite being at the peak of his career and taking care of a global agency, Gallucci has no plans to sit back and consolidate. Time at home with his wife, three children and a Staffordshire bull terrier called Rosie is more important than ever – as is, judging by the decor in his office, Chelsea Football Club.

And he remains resolutely focused on the future of the industry, adding: ‘The digital revolution is simultaneously the biggest opportunity that the industry has ever faced and its biggest threat. If we get it wrong we will be extinct, and there is no middle ground in my eyes.’

So is the hot-pink shirt a symptom of some kind of mid-life crisis?

He shakes his head, laughs and says: ‘We’ve just won Harley Davidson, but I’m not buying a Harley just yet.’

 

JASON GALLUCCI’S TURNING POINTS

 

What was your biggest career break?

Moving to Lexis, as I wasn’t looking for it. I had sold my shares in Slice and was freelancing when I was asked to help on a pitch. I came in, and two weeks later I was asked to be MD.

 

Have you had a notable mentor?

I have never had a professional mentor. My wife has been my sounding board over the past 15 years. When I come home bursting to tell her about our shiny new idea she gently asks: ‘Cut the crap, what’s the point?’ That has helped me focus on that fundamental question.

 

What advice would you give someone climbing the career ladder?

Get the big picture and don’t lose sight of it. I have met lots of people in PR who don’t get it, or who get so bogged down with their part of the process that they forget the end game. You need to understand how technology can help you prove it all works. That’s the exciting thing about the industry today.

 

What qualities do you prize in new recruits?

I want to see uncommon sense, fire, curiosity, confidence, sparkle.

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