5 minutes with… Cindy Gallop, Founder and CEO of www.IfWeRanTheWorld.com
Interviewed by LBB editor, Gabrielle Lott
LBB > Cindy Gallop – your name has become a brand of its own. You are the founder and CEO of www.IfWeRanTheWorld.com, a web meets world platform that turns good intentions into action. For those of our readers who are unaware, could you describe and explain the set-up to us, and why it’s so unique?
CG > Well, IfWeRanTheWorld comes out of my observation, as an action-oriented person, that the single biggest pool of untapped natural resource in this world is human good intentions that never translate into action. But there’s another equally large and untapped pool – which is corporate good intentions. Companies and brands have good intentions too, but just like people, lack quick, simple ways to act on them – importantly in a corporate context, in ways that make sense for, and help drive, their business. So I designed IfWeRanTheWorld to activate human and corporate good intentions into collective action as a marketing platform of the future.
Today’s marketing is ‘co-creation’: brands invite consumers to create content and share it. I believe tomorrow’s marketing is ‘co-action’: brands and consumers microacting together, to create impacts in the real world, that benefit consumers, benefit society, and benefit the brand and its business – what I call Action Branding, where you identify as ‘You are what you do’. The Action Branding business model is very simple: shared values + shared action = profit.
LBB > You published ‘Make Love Not Porn: Technology’s Hardcore Impact on Human Behaviour’ as one of TED’s line of TEDBooks - launching www.makelovenotporn.com at TED 2009; a website that ‘posts the myths of porn and balances them with reality’. What results have you seen from the launch of the site and how have people reacted?
CG > The response over the past 3 years since I launched [the site] has been extraordinary – particularly for a website with zero promotion because I have had no time, resources, or money to spend on it during that period. If you check out the ‘About’ page on the site or read my TED e-book you will get a sense of that. I have consequently felt a huge personal responsibility to take MakeLoveNotPorn forwards in a way that will make it much more far-reaching, helpful and effective, and my team and I will launch http://makelovenotporn.tv later this spring.
LBB > ‘People inspire me… quite frankly, they’re amazing’ – can you give examples that support this quote from you? What is it about people that excite you and why?
CG > I just love people. One of the things I love about social media is that within the entire morass of oversharing, you get to see how wonderful people are in the many wonderful things they say and do. I am constantly admiring and marveling at other people, whether it’s how funny they are or how talented they are or how quirky they are or how movingly generous they are.
LBB > PromaxBDA Europe is being held in Barcelona next month (26 & 27 March) and you shall be speaking at the event. Can you let us know a little about what you plan to discuss and tell us why you believe the event is worth attending and supporting?
CG > I’ll be speaking on ‘The Business of Fun: Making Entertainment Make Money in the New World Order’.
You should attend PromaxBDA Europe if you believe that marketing monetizes media, want to know what the most cutting-edge ways of doing that are, and enjoy finding out while working and playing hard with a very fun bunch of people.
LBB > You’ve been in advertising since 1985, before that you worked in theatre. How did you come to join the industry?
CG > I fell in love with theatre at Oxford and became a marketing and publicity officer at various theatres around the UK. But after a few years I became completely fed up with working 24/7 and being paid chickenfeed. I was giving a talk about the theatre one day to a group of women on Merseyside, when I was working at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, and afterwards one of them came up to me and said, ‘Young lady, you could sell a fridge to an Eskimo!’ That’s when I realized the universe was telling me to go into advertising – so I did.
LBB > Born in Britain, you’ve lived in many different countries and cities, currently residing in NYC, your career takes you across the globe. Can you talk to us about some of your favourite places and why they inspire you?
CG > I love cities. I love New York, I love Shanghai, I love Tokyo, I love Paris, I love London. I’m inspired by the energy and the dynamism you feel in big cities, of everybody working to make their dreams come true.
LBB > You were quoted as saying that the advertising industry is ‘ashamed of selling’ and that ‘what we do has the power to transform the fortunes of brands and businesses’. Could you elaborate?
CG > I’m not sure I said that first quote quite like that, but one of the things that saddens me, and has done for a very long time, is how much our industry colludes in its own devaluation. People value you at the value you are seen to put on yourself. At its absolute best, what we do is magic, because it does have the power to transform the fortunes of brands and businesses. We should always be striving for magic – highly effective magic – and we should be enormously proud of what we are capable of doing, and project that sense of pride and confidence.
LBB > What do you perceive as the biggest challenges facing the advertising industry?
CG > Its inability to redesign itself and its business model.
LBB > What do you see in the future for large agency networks?
CG > Death.
LBB > A hot trend amongst agencies is to develop their own brands and businesses. What do you think of this and do you believe it works?
CG > I think a lot of the agencies doing this currently are finding it a lot more difficult than either they or their PR people let on. It’s yet another demonstration of the fact that the ad industry business model is broken, and most people are trying to Band-aid over the cracks and stick bits on to find a different way to make money – and to find another path to creative reward and fulfillment when so much of what agencies do today is unrewarding and unfulfilling. That’s not the answer. The answer is to fundamentally redesign the business of advertising at the core, and the business model, so that you are doing what you love, how you love doing it, and being paid well to do it.
LBB > Do you still enjoy working within advertising?
CG > I don’t work within advertising. I am doing what I can to help my industry reinvent itself for the future, as someone who now operates more in the tech/startup/entrepreneurial world. So I’m actually working outside of advertising - where I thoroughly enjoy working.
LBB > What has been your favourite project in the last 12 months?
CG > Both my startups. IfWeRanTheWorld is my professional side, MakeLoveNotPorn is my personal side. I am turning what I passionately believe in into businesses, so I am working what I live and living what I work, and doing it for myself – which in my view is the best way to be.
LBB > ‘In order to predict the future, you have to invent it’, Alan Kay, is reportedly your favourite quote. Why?
CG > Because I am all about inventing the future. Too many people feel that the future is something that happens without us, that we have no control over, that simply rolls us over in its wake. I believe in deciding what you want the future to be, and then inventing it.