For 33 years, Cindy Gallop has worked as a brand and business innovator alongside her MakeLoveNotPorn startup and IfWeRanTheWorld platform. Following her talk at the Adobe Symposium – a showcase of strategies for bringing together creativity and data to transform and deliver incredible experiences – we sat down with her to get her take on the technology in the hands of marketers, the industry’s diversity issue, the opportunity to take control off the tech giants and how we should be inventing the future.
On foreseeing the technology in the hands of creatives and marketing teams
I’ve been interested in the cutting edge of digital for years and one of my frustrations working in the ad industry is that we had phenomenal cutting-edge ideas but our ability to be able to execute them was entirely dependent on our client’s appetite for risk, our client’s budgets, our client’s willingness to do something different.
So in many ways, various things about the advertising industry mean the industry has held itself back in this capacity.
On the coming together of creative and digital
I would say I am blown away by the scale, scope and breadth and depth of this event. It’s absolutely huge, there’s so much going on, it’s quite overwhelming and impressive Adobe do this every year in a number of places.
I love that what they have done with the Symposium is integrate two separate things in the business – creative and digital.
That is precisely the issue in our industry – those two things are still siloed and I would say that actually, everyone should come to the Adobe Symposium to see a tech company integrating the two things our industry is enormously bad at integrating.
That being said, I also look at this event and I go: “It would be wonderful to see more collaboration between our industry and huge tech giants like Adobe because they are doing enormously interesting things on the tech front and we could bring a lot to the table in terms of the creative front.”
For example, I’ve been following the ‘#adobesyp’ twitter feed and I’ve seen somebody say: “Why are tech demonstrations always so boring they put the audience to sleep, where is the engagement and the role play?” They are absolutely right.
While there is tremendous creativity being expressed here, there could be more and I think inviting in more collaboration from our industry could bring that to the table.
On why the industry is “fucked”
Fundamentally, it’s fucked because at the top is a closed loop of white guys talking to other white guys. Women challenge the status quo because we are never it.
You have already seen in the keynote session this morning only two women versus a ton of men and that is replicated around this event and in the case of the advertising, that’s a huge problem.
It’s not about diversity, it’s about humanity.
Especially in our creative output, we need to reflect the world as it really is and we can’t do that unless our teams reflect the world as it really is and right now they don’t. And by the way, it’s utterly ridiculous in an industry whose primary target is females.
We are the primary purchasers so our industry should be predominantly female. There should be virtually no men to be seen anywhere because that’s what, in theory, an industry whose focus is selling shit to women would demand. It’s ludicrous that it’s the other way around.
On bringing down internal silos
If you had women in everything, we are all about collaboration so there will be no silos.
But the bigger point is creativity and making money. The analogy I draw is when you have at the top of any industry, as you do at the top of every industry, the closed loop of white guys talking to white guys talking to other white guys and the creative product you get out is Batman versus Superman.
When you invite women and people of colour into – and I use this term advisedly – ‘the room where it happens’ what you get is Hamilton, which coincidentally is not only exploding the musical scene but is also making billions of dollars. That is not coincidental.
On the hype over new technology
I don’t see it as overhype, I just see it as making the mistake of focusing on the technology for the technology-sake and not focusing on what the technology can do.
It is a huge mistake in that scenario not only to focus on technology for technology-sake but also to focus on it through the white male lens.
You would have a much broader and fascinating and riveting idea of what all the technology could do if you were looking at it through the female lens. That’s not happening because pretty much everything is being processed through the white male lens and presented through the white male lens.
You will find it more interesting through the female lens because it will be different to hear.
I champion women in tech, women in advertising and women in business. I champion women in all areas.
On the underhyped things
What is underhyped is the need for more women and people of colour. That’s underhyped.
On tech giants’ relationships with advertising
I am amazed at the fact that all of the big tech giants who rely on advertising as their business model have advertising properties that are display forms of advertising. Our industry is spectacularly failing to see it as being a huge area of opportunity.
Why all those tech giants struggle with their advertising propositions is because the white male founders of every single one of those tech platforms absolutely hate advertising.
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google, they pronounced very early on that Google will never carry advertising. Surprise surprise, today 95 percent of Google’s revenue comes from advertising.
When Jan Koum sold WhatsApp to Facebook for US$19 billion a few years ago, he was quoted as saying that WhatsApp will never carry advertising.
All founders of those big tech platforms hate advertising, they see it as a necessary evil – because we are the reason for their gigantic valuations, the huge rounds of funding and humongous IPOs. But they hate us.
Now you will never ever ever create compelling, riveting and engaging advertising properties if you hate advertising. That’s the opportunity.
In our industry, the sad fact is we do what we do because we bloody love it
People often lose sight of the fact the reason I do the work I do – championing diversity and equality and inclusion – is because I bloody love advertising and I bloody love our industry and I want to see a different future for it.
When you absolutely love advertising and you believe in advertising, you can create phenomenal advertising products that none of the big tech platforms have thought of, that could be the future of ad tech but no one is doing that and it is massively underhyped.
Facebook – with the top engineering talent in the entire world, massive resources and huge cash flow reserves to tap into – still produces display advertising. It will not dedicate its talent, cash and resources to coming up with extraordinary blue sky, cutting edge advertising products because it hates advertising.
We have the creativity to design those advertising products of the future and say to the tech giants: ‘You need us because we are the reason for your huge valuations.’
‘Here’s what we want to do with your platforms and we can build this and when we do, we will licence it to you.’
That’s the opportunity and no one is taking it.
On her approach to moving into the future
It’s not a 'watch this space' industry, its ‘fucking invent the future’ industry. I don’t wait for things to change I make the change
My favourite quote of all time Alan Kay’s ‘ in order to predict the future you have to invent it’. I’m all about inventing the future.
Decide what you want the future to be and make it happen, don’t watch this space. Go 'I’m going to fucking own this space' and do it.
On her key takeaway from the Adobe Symposium
Go away and before you do anything with any of these amazing tools laid out for you, identify your values as a brand and as a business. Identify what you stand for or what you want to stand for, and what you are all about because that is the most fundamental way you will connect with your customers or consumers. And that needs to infuse anything.
When you identify your own values, you become your own filter. When you know what you stand for and what you believe in, you can go: ‘We will do this, we won’t do that’ and ‘we will create this experience but we won’t create that experience.’
Everything in life and business starts with you and your values, so it’s the thing I’d like them to do before they put anything of what they see around them into practice.