In a parallel universe Rob Galluzzo, Founder of production company FINCH, might be sorting your medical prescription rather than heading up 2023’s shots Awards Asia Pacific Production Company of the Year. 

The son of a pharmacist from the south Sydney suburbs, Galluzzo was destined to follow in Dad’s footsteps, but a twist or two of fate intervened. “I dropped out of uni,” he says. “And talked my way into a job at Australian lingerie retailer Bras & Things.” He had a good job title there – National Visual Merchandising Manager. Then he set up a chain of music stores called Sanity, and started making good money. Then he made one of the most important swerves of his career, and got a job as dispatch boy at Young & Rubicam.

“I wanted to start at the very bottom,” he says. “That was my first job in advertising, in the mail room. I learnt everything there.” He’d deliver mail, newspapers and beer to creatives like Jonathan Kneebone. “You learn a lot when you’re delivering papers, pay slips and all that,” he says. “And no one stops talking in front of the despatch boy– you really learn what’s going on.” 

Think of yourself as a brand. All the decisions you make will impact your brand. So think really carefully.

Dispatch boy he may have been but ECD Shaun Branagan kept an eye on him, and Branagan’s creative partner Peter Buckley gave him some enduring advice. “‘Think of yourself as a brand,’ he told me. He said, ‘All the decisions you make will impact your brand. So think really carefully. Don’t be reactive, but think about what your brand is and what do you want it to be.’ It was the most important advice that anyone could have given me. I don’t think about it a lot, but it probably changed my whole trajectory.”

He tested the waters of the creative pool before turning to production. “I didn’t have the constitution to be a creative, and I wasn’t that good at it,” he says now. Over eight years at Y&R, he became a producer, then Head of TV, before being headhunted by as an EP, then MD, spending nine years there before founding FINCH in 2011. Thirteen years later, and now home to 55 full time staff, plus directors and hundreds of freelancers, FINCH produces around 120 TV campaigns a year, with the likes of Vodafone Smart Network and Toyota Visitor helping to win FINCH’s Production Company of the Year award.

Above: Some of the work that won Finch Production Company of the Year in 2023.

For Galluzzo, production extends far beyond the bounds of the screen. He and FINCH are behind some dynamic real-world initiatives such as Creatable, delivering a STEM-based professional development course, rolled out across 1,000 students in 10 schools and in 10 provinces in East Africa’s Burundi, the poorest country on Earth. “At scale, it has the best chance, out of anything we’ve done to date, of changing the face of the planet, by helping youth find their power,” he says.  

“We won Production Company of the Year based on our ads, our short-form ideas, which we love – but what we are as a company is way beyond that.” Production companies, he adds, can go on to produce interesting things beyond realising ideas and scripts for ad agencies. 

Other real-world initiatives include investing in a popular Australian cat and dog festival, to forge new relationships with new audiences. Because audiences, rather than industry awards, are the real prize. “We love premium film and storytelling, but like everyone else we have plausible deniability around the question, ‘does what we do work?’” says Galluzzo. “It’s easier for us to say, ‘we realised this script in a beautiful way and it’s stunning’ – but we don’t have the connection to an audience, and that’s the truth.” 

By investing in a target audience of animal lovers, FINCH aims to build lasting connections. “That’s a way into community and familiarity,” says Galluzzo. “We’re giving ourselves the chance to be familiar with animal lovers – a very interesting audience to be connected to.” 

We won Production Company of the Year based on our ads, our short-form ideas, which we love – but what we are as a company is way beyond that.

Then there’s FINCH’s tech lab, Nakatomi – by itself a winner of a D&AD Black Pencil and a Grand Prix at Cannes. “We saw that tech and marketing were going to play an important role early on,” says Galluzzo. Nakatomi has been transformed over the past 18 months, from tech lab to savvy investor in start-ups, and a creative partner with corporates. “It’s a wonderful pointed chisel – we’re good at accelerating ambitious organisations, and we can solve business problems with bold ideas,” says Galluzzo. “Nakatomi is solving business problems with creativity, and teaching creatives and makers the art of business. There are some incredible companies, and some beautiful outputs will soon be realised.”

It’s been handy to have an in-house tech resource to turn to when it comes to the threat and potential of AI, that brave new world of generative intelligence. “When it comes to content, AI offers more for less. But we’re already experiencing content fatigue now, so ‘content at scale’ isn’t the way to cut through as a brand,” says Galluzzo.

Above: Founder and CEO of Finch, Rob Galluzzo.

Current headlines suggest AI will lay waste to entire industries – creative ones included. Galluzzo is unconvinced. “Humans generally love stories they can see and feel themselves in. Can AI storytelling become indistinguishable from human storytelling? Maybe. But I suspect authenticity is the most important factor in building genuine connection with an audience. And most people have a pretty strong aversion to the inauthentic – that is, something formulaic dressed up as a real.”

AI’s derivative, amalgamating nature touches a nerve for Galluzzo as he casts an eye over the current production, agency and creative landscape. “The whole industry’s in turmoil,” he says. “It’s about the business of the business of creativity. We all believe ‘creativity’ is valuable, but pretty much every advertising agency is setting up their own production company, and to me that says, how can we hold on to more revenue?” 

Aren’t we brave enough to make something bad anymore? Where’s the risk?

If AI is a derivative intelligence, Galluzzo sees the same hand-me-down creativity being passed along the production chain. “Most things I’ve seen feel quite derivative,” he says, “and I’m sick of seeing it! Aren’t we brave enough to make something bad anymore? Where’s the risk? There’s seldom a lot of risk. Because, if you’re not brave enough to make something bad, you can’t make anything great. That’s the truth, and that’s where derivative work comes from. We know what works, we’ve seen it, it’s popular, and everyone will like it.”

Risk and authenticity of voice is where Galluzzo and FINCH direct their energies. “We don’t have a house style, but there’s giant encouragement for our directors to find their authentic voice. We’re happier to lose a job and present an authentic voice, because if those things hit it, you progress, directors progress, we are happier as a company, and it works better for a client. This is what we are – these are our foundational principles,” he continues. 

“To explore possibility, to enjoy the adventure and to do it with imagination and compassion. That’s what separates us from everyone else.”

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