5 Minutes with… Anthony Bellacicco
Adobe XD is a proud supporter of LBB. Over the upcoming months, as part of the sponsorship of the ‘5 Minutes with…’ channel, we will be spending time with some of the most innovative and creative minds in the industry.
Today, we're sitting down with Anthony Bellacicco, Studio Rx’s vice president for studio operations, who came back to the company at the end of 2019 after first working for parent company FCB Health in the early noughties - he considers himself a “boomerang,” and says it’s a good thing.
Anthony got his start as an apprentice when he was 17, and experienced first hand how technology was disrupting the advertising world. Early on, he found a Mac computer in the corner of a room he was working in, and started learning how to use it from there. The combination of technology and creativity has always been important to Anthony, and as he tells LBB, at Studio Rx he is able to combine his interest with developing and implement processes for big brands with his team.
LBB> How did you first get into the industry? Has where you are now always been your plan?
Anthony Bellacicco> When I was 17 I was accepted onto an apprenticeship that focused on developing the skills necessary to master the artistry and craft of composing film separations to be used in offset lithography. The company I worked for was in midtown Manhattan and serviced publications such as Time, Sport Illustrated, Newsweek and W magazine.
I didn’t have a detailed plan, but more of a direction to chase after. I have experienced how technology can be disruptive and alter the way a business or an industry operates, and how it can change the way people work and how businesses interact. When this occurs, it essentially sweeps away the habits or system it replaces because it has attributes that are superior to what was previously being performed.
The plan I had for my career has not always been how it looks now, but over time it evolved. Luckily, I have been part of teams that have always focused on chasing down technology innovations and improving how we can work, fortunately the direction in my career was forward moving, however it did not always go as planned.
LBB> You also spoke about how critical thinking is creative - can you tell me more about how you came to this school of thought?
Anthony> This was said to provoke thought about how we approach creative problem solving. I am aware that critical thinking and creative thinking are different, however, I tend to believe they nicely complement each other.
Critical thinking is focused on determining the probability of an outcome and requires judgments that are logical and well-thought out. While creative thinking is more focused on what may be possible. It allows for creating something new that serves a new purpose or performs even better than something that already exists in its place.
LBB> You previously mentioned how earlier in your career there was a Mac in the corner of a room, and you started playing with it. What is your approach to new technology?
Anthony> I think in this example, I was fuelled by the curiosity of how a Mac worked and the desire to learn what it can potentially do. I was enthusiastic to have a hands-on experience with something new that was being positioned to change how the entire publishing industry operates.
It was being promised to replace the art creation process and the need for art directors, publishers, and printers to physically design their artwork and documents. It was like having a solution in the search of the next problem to solve. I suppose, I address new technology the same way. What does it do? What is its purpose? What needs does it satisfy?
I think how we approach technology is different today. Earlier on, a user needed to approach technology with a greater understanding about the specific craft and media, but in today’s world, technology is more robust and intuitive.
It is designed to perform the thinking for us, and allows us time back to be creative.
LBB> You’ve been in your current role at IPG since late 2019, but your relationship with the company goes further back. Can you walk me through your journey there?
Anthony> I started working at FCB in 2001 as part of a team that was led by Ken Lantz. The goal of the team was clear: Create a first-class in-house production operation that can offer the ad agencies we serve and our clients a competitive advantage.
We worked within the industry to help re-specify how colour reproduction was produced and measured and were early adopters in how digital content was being formatted and shared for reproduction and communicated back to our clients.
Fast forward some years and FCB Healthcare doubled in size.
FCB Healthcare has branded its production offering to be named Studio Rx, and in 2019 Studio Rx was planning to open another location in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. This sparked my interest.
At this time, I became what is known as a 'Boomerang', an employee who worked for the company, journeyed outwards, and returned to work for the company again. Big thumbs up for their leadership! They are the reason people return and become 'Boomerangs'.
LBB> I’d love to hear more about your time at The New Yorker, where you were an imaging specialist in the late 90s. What did you learn there, and what changes did you witness?
Anthony>I was fortunate to work with Francios Mouly who was and remains the Art Editor for The New Yorker magazine. Francios’ approach to art creation and design was truly a pleasure to observe and support. She is highly creative and has the keenest eye for all the little details.
Thanks to this experience, I’ve really learnt how to admire and appreciate the creative process. I think one of the biggest things I learned from working with Francios was how to successfully work and support someone who has an abundance of creativity.
When I started my job at New Yorker, it was one of around 17 magazines Condé Nast produced at the time. In my role there, I was part of a team developing in-house production services. Within a short period of time 100% of the production services were being performed in-house, and the magazine did not require any outside vendor support, with the exception of the physical printing and distribution of the magazine.
The New Yorker was considered a leader in adopting new technologies and was noted for successfully implementing an in-house production model. A trend that would continue to be followed by other magazines and publishers.
As digital media continued to grow market share, it applied pressure on traditional magazine publishing. The New Yorker and other magazines were forced to remain competitive and lower production costs. Due to this, I witnessed the in-house production service model end and change to an outsourced centralised production model that specialises in graphic production services for a variety of different publishers.
LBB> You lead an award winning production team, and have led teams before - what’s the most important thing for you when leading a team? Does leading your current team feel different to work you’ve done before?
Anthony> Having a space that promotes growth. I think the most important thing when leading a team is having a working environment that nurtures healthy relationships and professional growth amongst each other. It is important to recognise we all are separate individuals and do not think the same, however, to share a sense of accountability for each other's success as a group. It has always been helpful for our team to be mindful that we work in a “no judgement zone” and a “no ego” work environment. When teams work well together, special things happen.
Leading my current team feels different, largely due to the remote working. Although there are numerous benefits of working remotely, it does present challenges that we are steadily working on overcoming. Onboarding new team members that work remotely requires a well thought approach for training and developing a team that can strive in a virtual world.
Call me old fashioned, but I happen to believe nothing beats physically being in the same room with your team and sharing a few laughs.
LBB> What kind of work excites you the most?
Anthony> I think working in a company and amongst people that practice a growth mindset. The kind of work that excites me the most is when I know my effort is making a positive difference, big or small. Either way, I seem to equate any measurable accomplishment as a cause toward the greater good or larger picture. This kind of excitement especially rings true when our team is working in unison on building something together and when we all recognise our efforts are contributing to the value of what we do and where we work.
LBB> And outside of work, what motivates you and keeps you going?
Anthony> For me, it’s being a Dad. This is by far the most important of all jobs, and at times the most challenging - but without doubt, the most rewarding.