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Cindy Gallop on The Paper Planes, diversity, and why print is a medium where creativity has the most personal impact

Final entries are being called for Stuff’s annual creative competition, The Paper Planes – so StopPress chatted to New York-based Cindy Gallop, an ad industry legend and judge of this year’s competition. 

Gallop is a major advocate for diversity, inclusion and equal rights for women in the male-dominated ad industry. She has four decades experience, during which time she set up the US office of Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York, has been named Advertising Woman of the Year, Business Insider’s 15 Most important Marketing Strategy Thinkers Today, and has twice topped Campaign’s list of Top 10 Trailblazers. 

The entry deadline for The Paper Planes has been extended to midday this Wednesday, 21 April

Enter here

How did you get involved with The Paper Planes and why is it important for you to be involved in these types of competitions? 

When the team asked John Hegarty, who judged last year’s competition, he recommended me. I was thrilled because I am a total print junkie; I really like reading print as print. My apartment is full of books, I will only buy books as books, I don’t read them online. One of my little pleasures is coffee first thing in the morning with The New York Times. Print is a really unique medium because you have the reader at a level of personal engagement that you don’t have with other media. When you’re reading a magazine or a paper, you are engrossed in it, you are paying full attention to it – in a way that when you read things online you aren’t necessarily, because things are popping up and distracting you and so on – and it’s a moment of relaxation and focus. That actually, increasingly, with everyone tethered to their phones, we don’t have as much these days. So I love print generally, and for that reason I am a huge fan of brilliant print advertising because it’s a medium that requires a particular approach to creativity; making things pop out and grab the reader absolutely brings out the best in creatives. I’ve always loved the Cannes Lions, the best that screen offers, but especially in print ads, what we do is astonishing. So all of that meant that I was utterly thrilled when Stuff asked me to judge The Paper Planes competition. 

As someone who lives and breathes creativity, what do you believe makes a creative idea stand out above the rest?

My background in advertising is account management, and I am not one of those account people that ever thought that I could do the creative’s job – because I couldn’t. I am blown away by the brilliant creative minds in our industry who take that creative leap, who take that creative brief and come up with something in the most amazing way. So I’m not going to pretend to be able to dissect creativity as a creative, because I’m not, but I think it’s when a) those creative leaps just take you to a place that anybody else would not be able to envision, and b) is incredibly important for our industry, in a way that makes you go “oh my gosh, I’ve got to have that.” Because that’s the whole point. I loved the way we structured our creative at Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) when I was working there, because we used to say “we don’t sell, we make people want to buy”. And I think that’s absolutely what great creative does. It emotionally engages you, in a way that makes you go “oh my gosh, I’ve just got to have that.” And I am a total, utter sucker for advertising by the way. I wouldn’t be good at my job if I wasn’t. Great advertising totally works on me. In fact I remember when BBH’s famous Levis’ Laundrette ad launched in the UK, and this was years before I joined BBH. But I remember that ad bursting onto our TV screens at the time, and at the time I never wore jeans because I didn’t think they were very flattering. I went straight up the next day and bought a pair – and by the way, they still weren’t flattering. So I’m a total sucker for great advertising and that’s what it does; it doesn’t sell, it makes you want to buy. 

What will you be looking for in this year’s entries?

Firstly we’re looking for fantastic creative, innovative print-led concepts. I think that’s interesting because I’ve been a campaign review committee chair for the Ad Council in the US. The Ad Council is a non-profit made up of creative people in our industry, and we review the work, the strategy, the creative concepts, the rough cuts, and the finished ads as well. And one of the things I’ve regularly said is that agencies often go out and present campaigns that are TV or video-led, they begin with the script for the piece of film, whether it is a TV commercial or web video. So I’d love to see an idea start with radio or print, bring the idea to life in a different medium and then bring that back out because I think that way you get much more interesting work. So what I love and first of all am looking for, is ideas that are absolutely at their best in print. They’re print-led, but then obviously the criteria is you have to demonstrate how that idea can then be fully integrated across other marketing touchpoints. I think that’s especially interesting when you lead with print, then show how you can manifest that in really interesting ways everywhere else as well. So I’m looking for something that totally maximises the creative discipline of print, and then blossoms in every other way that you want it to. 

What are you most looking forward to throughout the whole judging process? 

Honestly I just love the idea of looking at tons of brilliant work. We all love awards shows, but what I love is when you walk around the exhibited print work at Cannes Lions, you are looking at the absolute best our industry has to offer. And I just love looking at great campaign after great campaign because we don’t often get to revel in the brilliance of what our industry does. And I’ve thought about this a lot in the past, because very unfairly I think often people don’t appreciate how great we have to be to produce the work that we do. Advertising as an industry is not held in the same regard as many others, and it should be. Because honestly when you work on the inside of it, the sheer talent and dedication and skills that go into producing the work that we do, first of all I’ve just always been blown away working in the industry myself. The creatives I’ve worked with have had extraordinary attention to detail, that is what makes something amazing. So I just love seeing great work that showcases the best of our industry, but also because at its best what our industry does is have the power to change people’s attitudes and behaviour in extraordinary ways. I’m all about turning good intentions into action. I would say I had the best possible background for that, because I spent 30 years working in the business of getting people to do things they originally had no intention of doing – which is advertising, and as a sucker for advertising, I love seeing brilliant work, whatever it is.

Why do you believe that print is a medium where creativity has the most personal impact? 

When you encounter a print ad, first of all you are encountering it in a much more attentive context than in any other medium. As we all know, people sit around the TV on their phones, you’re often multitasking with TV, and you’re often doing the same thing with digital. When you are engaging with print, you are uniquely focused and attentive in a way that you aren’t with any other medium. You also have a personal relationship with whatever print you are engaged with. If it’s a magazine you’ve chosen to read, or if it is a newspaper, it is one that you want to get your news from. And that’s very powerful. So I just think that print has some very unique, very powerful, very emotional dynamics working for it that are not seen with other media. And I love the fact that Paper Planes is focusing on print because I think sometimes when you’re creating campaigns in our industry, you’re often encouraged to respect the individual medium. You know “we need a big idea, and it’s got to go here, it’s got to go there,” and I just think this is a great opportunity to really focus on what we do in this medium, in a very engaged, very meaningful way. So I love that it’s a really uniquely engaging medium. 

You’re a major advocate for diversity, inclusion and equal rights for women in the very male-dominated ad industry. Can you speak more to this?

It’s very simple. There are a couple of things that our industry really needs to take on board much more than it has been currently. The first is that diversity drives innovation. Diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, and age – great creativity and great innovation is born out of many, many different mindsets, perspectives, backgrounds, and world views, all coming together in constructive creative conflict, to get to a far better place than any of us would’ve got to on our own. And I use those words deliberately, constructive creative conflict, because great creative is not born out of homogeneity. You don’t get the best creative by everyone going “oh yes we all think that’s terrific”, you get the best creative when you have different mindsets and perspectives going “have you thought about this?” Or “what if we do that? And come at it from this angle.” And then you get to a place that you could not have got to on your own. So first of all, diversity and inclusion is just absolutely mandatory for the best creativity. And in that context, our industry thinks that its glory days are over. There’s harking back to Mad Men, and harking back to the 70s. But actually, our industry’s glory days have not even begun. Because we have not even begun to see how creative this industry can be, how creative our output can be when we leverage the skills and talent and creativity of women and people of colour. So our glory days are ahead of us, which is wonderful.

The second thing that’s very fundamental is we have a real male dominated industry selling to women. Which is ridiculous, because the primary target of marketing and advertising worldwide is women, because we are the primary purchasers of everything and yet we are constantly being sold to ourselves through the male lens, and that’s ridiculous. If anything, our industry should be massively female dominated because it sells to women. And so we get more empathetic, more relevant, and more innovative creative when we have a more female than male industry. I’m very semantic and precise about all of this, because I say that we need women, and we need diverse talent creating, approving, directing, producing, shooting and running the ads. And that’s because we need gender equality, diversion and inclusion at every single point of our supply chain and distribution. Because it doesn’t matter if you are that one black female creative that the agency hired because of ‘diversity’, and you come up with a brilliant ad selling to women, if the white male ECD goes “oh I don’t get that. Oh I don’t like that, change it altogether.” And so we really need diversity at every single point of how we do what we do, to make sure that what comes out the other end is brilliant and reflective of the world we’re living in.

I’m not actually a fan of the word diversity, I use it because it’s a common word, but it’s not about diversity, it’s about humanity. What we’re talking about is reflecting the world as it really is. And to reflect the world as it really is in our advertising, we have to reflect the world as it really is in our teams. Because at the moment, what I see is there is far too much worry in our industry about “oh I’ve got to cast diversity.” We don’t need young white male creatives anxiously and earnestly working to make sure we’ve cast diversity in our ads when we have diverse talent creating the ads, approving the ads, producing the ads, and shooting the ads. And it’s so simple, once you have diverse talent at every point in the process, you don’t have to worry about whether what you’ve seen on your screen or in your magazine is going to be diverse in the way that connects to the world as it really is. It just will – naturally. 

I’m very much hoping that The Paper Planes will be jam packed full of the best of diverse talent. Obviously we want entries from every single brand and every single creative agency. I want to see male creatives, female creatives, indigenous creatives, LGBTQ creatives and disabled creatives – I just want to see everybody entering this competition because I would love to see The Paper Planes showcasing the absolute best of what the diverse talent in our industry can produce. 

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