Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile we feature Mike Gallagher. Photography for the series is by Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.
Mike, please provide us a short bio.
As the son of a history teacher and a diplomat, I spent much of my childhood in Belgrade, Seoul and Bonn. Finally settled down in NoVA where my family and I still live. I was blessed to have had an internship in the creative department of DDB Needham back in the day where I learned from the likes of Dave Marinaccio, Shirley Fee, Jim Kingsley and Brett Robbs … it was the summer that I found my career. After a few years learning the creative ropes in smaller DC shops, I was fortunate enough to get hired as a copywriter at Arnold Worldwide during the dot-com era. I learned from Nick Gisonde, Francis Sullivan, Matt Smith and host of others the value of strategy, how to find insights, and how to leverage all that into the kind of creative that really works. Made the move to Porter Novelli and social marketing about 15 years ago where I had the pleasure of working with Jim Kingsley, Rob Gould and Barry Reicherter, to name a few. I was hired to build out the creative and digital capabilities at Hager Sharp 4+ years ago, and I’ve been enjoying the work we get to do ever since.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
Washington Area Bicycle Association and the DC chapter of the American Advertising Federation
What are the things you are most proud of?
Professionally, the growth and success of Hager Sharp as a full-service agency. Hager Sharp has been true to its roots in social marketing since it started in the ‘70s. “Ideas that make a difference” has been the mantra and we live it today. We’re proud of the quality of work we do for non-profits, associations and government clients. It’s a great blend of digital, design, strategy and ideas. And since we’re employee-owned and independent, clients appreciate knowing that that their investments can go further here, instead to a holding company up in New York someplace. It’s like if there was a Charity Navigator for mar/com firms, Hager Sharp would earn four stars. And we like to think the work benefits.
Personally, I’m most proud of convincing my wife to marry me.
Who are your personal role models?
Pre-career, my wrestling coach and my Scoutmaster: determination, self-reliance, ¾-nelson, teamwork
Dave Marinaccio: a mentor at DDB Needham and later my boss at Bozell. From him I learned how to be a copywriter. He taught me that idea for idea sake wasn’t enough—purpose was important, and that wordplays, puns and done-before-work should never cut it.
Jim Kingsley: my boss at Porter Novelli. He taught me how to be a creative director in DC. Foundations, non-profits, the government—in general all institutions trying to help others… to make a difference. And the creative process isn’t the same as the one you use to sell burritos for 99 cents. It takes patience and the ability to connect with multiple audiences, even when you’re working with smaller budgets.
Francis Sullivan: He taught me how to be a creative. He was the best copywriter I ever had the honor of learning from, and he was a true creative. From him I learned how to find the essence of an ad or any communications, then gently peel away anything that got in the way of an audience connecting with that essence… even if it was an art director with an affinity for Rat Fink fonts.
Did these role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
A few come to mind…
- The law of diminishing returns applies to our business – when’s the last time you came up with your best idea at 11 at night, after 14 hours in the office? Go home, get some rest. Your ideas will be better in the morning.
- A good idea can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time. And there’s talent in being able to recognize that good idea when it shows up.
- Believe that there can always be room for improvement. You’ll be a lot easier to get along with, and your work may just get better.
- You can learn something from everyone you work with. Even if it’s what not to do.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Be nice, work hard, have fun.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
I’m actually more of an Audible/podcast guy: Freakonomics, Play It Again, Thrilling Adventure Hour, Stuff You Missed in History Class. I also just finished listening to a biography of Genghis Khan. Someone told me it had great business management applications. I still can’t figure out how inventing stirrups so I can hold a bow & arrow with both hands is going to help run a creative department. Our building isn’t even pet-friendly.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Any place with a good session beer on draft.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Honestly, I’m grateful to have spent my entire career in this industry. I’ve met a ton of nice people. I’m in awe of so many of the brilliant creatives I’ve worked with—and continue to work with. I’ve been exposed to so many fascinating industries, institutions, and causes. And I’ve formed a lot of long-lasting friendships. All I can say is ‘thank you’ to everyone I’ve had the chance to work with.
As the “art director with an affinity for Rat Fink fonts,” I’ll say that 1) I’m honored to be the one AD partner Mike mentioned and 2) that Mike taught me lessons about The Creative Process that I still use to this day. A universal truth is that the difference between “had an idea for a commercial once” and making a career out of advertising is Mike Gallagher.
And by the damn way, Mike: those Rat Fink fonts are still cool!!