Interview

26 September 2019

Cindy Gallop talks humanity, ageism in advertising, and social sex 

Industry veteran Cindy Gallop on how marketers can be more ethical, diverse and make a ton of money

Today, Cindy Gallop’s main business is sex. She’s the founder of Make Love Not Porn, a social sex-video sharing platform. But while advertising may no longer be her day job, the industry veteran still has plenty of advice for what brands must do to maintain a competitive edge.

The former chair of Bartle Bogle Hegarty and founder of its US branch has 35 years industry experience which, she says, has made her feel strongly that ‘the future of business is doing good and making money simultaneously’. She tells Contagious that it’s imperative that ‘we find a way to integrate social responsibility into the way that we do business on a day-to-day basis that makes it a key driver of future growth and profitability.’ This is a topic she’ll be discussing at the Fast Forward Forum in Venice next month, and is also the subject of a book she is co-authoring that coincides with the event. 

Contagious spoke to Gallop about the ethical responsibilities that clients and agencies have when it comes to areas like diversity and media placement. Plus, Gallop shares why strategists, marketers and product designers should pay more attention to people’s porn habits.

What kind of ethical responsibilities do you think marketers have when it comes to diversity? 
I'm not I’m not a fan of the word diversity because it’s not about diversity, it’s about humanity. When we talk about diversity, all we’re talking about is reflecting the world as it really is.
In order to reflect the world as it really is in our marketing and our advertising, we have to reflect the world as it really is in our teams and our companies. Don't talk about diversity. Don't do inspirational, compelling campaigns about diversity. Just fucking be diverse. I say that emphatically because our industry isn't.
What we do not need is young, white, male creatives – which is what dominates our creative departments at the moment – going, ‘Ooh, got to be really careful to put diversity into the ads.’
We want diverse creatives just creating the advertising they would normally create, which will be so completely different from what we currently see.
You cannot create the advertising of the future with a non-diverse team, a non-diverse leadership line-up, a non-diverse creative department, a non-diverse client team.
It's not about check boxes. It's about, ‘I want to see that your leadership team is at least 50% female, if not more female than male

Cindy Gallop, Make Love Not Porn

What’s your position on mandates around diversity?  General Mills, for example, will only work with agencies with creative departments made up of at least 50% women and 20% people of colour.
Tick boxes are not the way to go. I'm speaking as somebody who ran agencies for many years. I know exactly how you game the system. And trust me, agencies are gaming the system: ‘Ooh, if we pull in accounting, and if we count all our female receptionists, who we've hired to be extremely young and attractive, woah, look…56% women creatives.’ Fuck that shit. 
I call on clients to mandate diversity in a qualitative way all the time. Because this will only happen amongst agencies when the people who are going to pay you your fees demand that you do this and then demand to see the evidence of it.
It's not about check boxes. It's about, ‘I want to see that your leadership team is at least 50% female, if not more female than male.’
How ridiculous is it that in our industry the primary target audience is female, women are the primary purchasers of everything and the primary influencers of the purchase of everything, yet our industry is male-dominated? We are played back to ourselves all the time through the male gaze. Which is why 90% of women say advertising isn't relevant to them.
So, as a client, I want you to mandate that the leadership team must be 50/50 female/male. The leadership team must be diverse. It starts at the top and then drill into the creative department.
What else needs to change in the advertising process to encourage more diversity? 
It’s very simple: make every single point of your production and distribution pipeline diverse. 
I say this time and time again, especially if I'm calling out Unilever and the UN’s Unstereotype Alliance: it's not about getting young white male creatives to be more careful about how they don't show stereotypes. It's about having the people who are the stereotypes do the advertising. We need women, people of colour, LGBTQ, the disabled, creating, approving, producing, and directing the ads.
It doesn't matter if you are that one female team, that one team of colour, that one LGBTQ team, that one disabled creative, that the white male ECD brought in the creative department to go, ‘Look, we're diverse.’
You can come up with the most wonderful, insightful, innovative, thoughtful (from a diverse place) advertising. It doesn't matter if you are then presenting it for approval to a white male ECD who goes, ‘I don't get it, make all these changes to it.’
When you have diversity creating the ads but not approving it, you're fucked. It also doesn't matter what brilliant ad your diverse team has produced if said white male ECD goes, ‘Right, we now need to get a marquee name director.’
All the marquee name directors in our industry are white men. 
So, it doesn't matter what a wonderfully diverse place the ad came from, if a marquee name, white male director goes, ‘The way I see this is we need a ton of really attractive women because consumers only want to see attractive women."
Essentially, at every point along the creation and production distribution pipeline, we have to change. We have to have a diverse lens on every single part of that. Because otherwise, the right ad doesn't get approved.
You're working with the AARP [American Association of Retired Persons] an association that aims to ‘empower people to choose how they live as they age’, on altering how older people are portrayed in advertising. What do you think needs to change?
First and foremost, the answer is (and I'm making this gender specific because it's far worse for us) stop managing older women out in the industry and hire, value, promote, celebrate, champion, and retain older women.
Our industry's ageist as fuck. 
Have you heard of Fishbowl? It’s a US-based app where people in every industry share information and the inside track on issues. In the main advertising ‘bowl’, a senior art director started a thread asking, ‘Has anybody here been managed out of our industry because of your age? If so, what age were you when that happened?’ The responses were, ‘32, 34, 35, 37, 38’. You will see on Fishbowl, people saying, ‘I'm 34 and I'm really worried about my future in advertising.’ Un-fucking believable.

Lets move on to another type of responsibility, beyond diversity. What responsibility do you think marketers and brands have when it comes to media placement? I’m sure you’re familiar with Sleeping Giants, which has been campaigning brands to stop advertising on Breitbart News.
Yes, I’m a huge fan of Matt [Rivitz, creator of Sleeping Giants] and what he's doing. 
Where your brand shows up is as much a part of your social responsibility as anything else. You have to be looking to align with everybody you work with on the basis of values that you all share. If those media channels or platforms do not share your values, you don't want to be seen there.
That has me thinking about the struggles you faced with Make Love Not Porn and getting platforms to stream your content. Recently, Contagious covered a partnership between PornHub and a plastics recycling company called Ocean Polymers. The executive director of the company Heather Wigglesworth noted that she was ‘thrilled’ to work with PornHub because it’s ‘a brand with significant global reach spanning all demographics’. Do you think marketers are too squeamish about sexual content?

[At Make Love Not Porn] we knew if we were going to invite people to do something that they've never done before – socially share their real world sex – we had to create a completely safe and trustworthy space.

When you design safe spaces, then you enable people to have safe conversations about very healthy topics that should be a lot more open. When you did not do that to begin with, as a young white male founder of a tech platform, you are now trying to retrospectively deal with all the shit that happens when you did not design negativity out of your platform in the first place.

Your only recourse, you think, is knee-jerk and it's legislation and compliance. I and my fellow female sex tech founders are the victims of this knee-jerk compliance that just goes, ‘No adult content’ and then applies that to everything including mothers breastfeeding babies.

I've been telling our industry they should advertise on porn sites for years. I want them to advertise on MakeLoveNotPorn – which is not porn, it's social sex. But I've absolutely used my position in industry to try and change the way our industry feels about this.

Five years ago, I spoke at Cannes in a session called Porn, Youth, and Brands. I said to the audience, ‘Show of hands, how many of you in the audience are strategic planners?’

I originally wanted to help change our industry from within. I've realised that that's completely impossible. The top of our industry is a closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about other white guys.

Cindy Gallop, Make Love Not Porn

So a whole bunch of hands goes up. I go, ‘Right. Keep your hand up if you are the kind of strategic planner who, when developing a strategy for the client, briefing the creative department, says, ‘Our target audience is a young man aged 24. This is where he lives. This is the kind of work he does. This is where he likes to hang out. This is how many hours of porn he watches a week. And this is how it impacts his relationship with his girlfriend.’ No hands [stayed up].

We do consumers a huge disservice when we do not treat this universal aspect of human experience with the same insights, psychological analysis, empathy, and understanding as we treat every other aspect of consumer attitudes and behaviour. 

There is this huge area of what is true to all consumers and our industry's spectacularly failing to look at in our ads.

People have sex in cars, especially in markets where, for social and cultural reasons, premarital sex is frowned upon, young people live at home with their parents until they get married or markets where whole households live together commonly.

So a huge number of people are having a huge amount of sex in a huge number of cars. Yet the automotive industry is spectacularly failing to factor this into product design and marketing.

Even more fundamentally, people have sex in bed, but the mattress industry focuses all its R&D on sleep. There is a far broader business application of all of this than simply as it applies to directly sex-related products. Our industry again, is failing to acknowledge that, embrace it, and make a ton more money for brands operating in the areas I'm talking about.

You're known for being an outspoken critic. Is there anything that you're optimistic about when it comes to the industry? 

I originally wanted to help change our industry from within. I've realised that that's completely impossible. The top of our industry is a closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about other white guys.

Those white guys are sitting very pretty. They have their huge salaries, gigantic bonuses, big pools of stock options, lavish expense accounts. Why on earth would they ever want to rock the boat?

It's like the old joke about the light bulb. How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one. But the light bulb has to really want to change. In our industry, the light bulb does not really want to change.

So, for the past several years, I have been exhorting everybody who is fundamentally ‘other’ in our industry to ‘Start your own industry.’ By that I mean start your own business. Every single business that women, people of colour, LGBTQ, the disabled are starting in our industry is literally starting a new industry.

What makes me enormously optimistic is that, every year, more and more people write to me to tell me that they are absolutely doing that.

(header image: EvaBlue)

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