Cindy Gallop On Bars In Shanghai And Women In Advertising

Founder and CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn, 2003 Advertising Woman of the Year and big-time supporter of ADC and its programs, Cindy Gallop has been a long-time advocate of gender equality in advertising. She is also a big advocate of shaking things, or as her Twitter bio says, blowing s**t up. Whether in the adult entertainment business, the advertising business or the business model of the future, Cindy never holds back. She welcomed the ADC content team into the Black Apartment and among two-headed baby chicks, mind-bending artwork and phallic accoutrements, Cindy Gallop broke it down for us.


ADC: What makes a great client relationship?

Cindy: I think that anybody in our industry would say that their favorite clients are the ones who believe in their expertise and their skills and go, “We trust you and we trust your recommendation.”

Interestingly, when it came to my apartment, I am the designer’s favorite client.

It was designed by a small creative agency, called The Apartment. The two founders, Stefan Boublil and Gina Alvarez (who are married), bought into the building back in 2003 when I did. They will tell you that I was their favorite client because whatever they brought to me, I always responded, “I’m a wee bit nervous, but I trust your vision. Execute it.”

Photo credit: Michael Weber, the apartment‘s Behance page

For example, when you build an apartment from the ground up—I bought the space completely raw—you can actually create anything you want with it. I thought, “Now’s my chance!” A couple of years earlier, I’d been in my favorite city in the world – Shanghai – in one of my favorite bars in the world – The Glamour Bar – and I was drinking my favorite cocktail in the world – a martini. I remember sitting there on my second martini, three sheets to the wind, looking around me in a drunken haze thinking, “I wish I lived somewhere like this.”

So when I was briefing The Apartment, I said to them, “Okay guys, here’s the overall brief for this apartment: when night falls, I want to feel like I’m in a bar in Shanghai.”

They said, “We can do that.”

They went away and they researched bars and lounges in Shanghai. They came back to me and said, “Here’s our vision: floor, ceiling, walls… all black.”

At the time I was thinking, “Uhhh, an all black apartment?” but I trusted them and they were right. What I like to say about my home is that The Apartment gave me exactly what I wanted in ways I could never have imagined.

That’s how many more clients should work in our business. Trust the agency you’ve hired for their expertise and go, “I’m going to give you free rein to execute in the way that I believe you can, because I trust you.”

Photo credit: Michael Weber, the apartment‘s Behance page


ADC: Why is trust so key to our industry?

Cindy: Trust is incredibly important to our industry because there is so little of it – both between clients and agencies, and within agencies themselves. It also applies to every other industry sector, as well. Owning the future requires a high-trust environment.

Today’s communication is about real-time responsiveness. To be effective in social media, you can’t sign off on every tweet. You have to go, “We commit to making sure that every single person on the team has a clear sense of what the brand stands for; what the brand voice is and what the brand values are that act as a filter for you to react in real time to anything anybody says. Now, we’re going to empower you to do that.” When you do that, phenomenal things happen.

ADC: Speaking of empowerment, why #changetheratio? What is the benefit of the efforts ADC is making in launching the Let’s Make the Industry 50/50 Initiative?

Cindy: We live in a world where the default setting is always male. Men, you have no idea how much happier you would be living and working in a world that was 50/50: equally designed, informed, influenced, managed, led and driven by women as well as men – because you haven’t yet experienced that world, and neither have we.

Men – it’s very comfortable hiring people like you, co-founding agencies with people like you, working with people like you, hanging out with people like you. But if you want to own the future, you need to get uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable working with women, because we are ‘other.’ We have different mindsets, insights, perspectives. But out of discomfort comes greatness.

Women ask the tough questions in business and in life. ‘What are you thinking?’ ‘Where is this relationship going?’ In business: ‘Why are we spending money on THAT?’ ‘Why does everybody in the meeting suddenly fall silent when this person starts talking?’ Women challenge the status quo because we are never it. Men who run agencies and holding companies, open yourself up to diversity in every possible respect – because everything I’m saying about gender applies to race and ethnicity in our industry as well – and you will have the most innovative, disruptive business in town, and therefore a huge competitive edge on the rest of the industry.

ADC: Do you have any advice for the young female creatives coming up in this business?

Cindy: We desperately need you to want to be the executive creative director. Set your sights on being the ECD and go for it.


ADC: How about for the men?

Cindy: I want to know the first 20 male chairmen, CEOs, presidents of leading ad agencies and holding companies who come out visibly in support of 50/50. I haven’t seen them yet, but I want to know who they are.


ADC: We’ll let you know.

Who are you, gentlemen? And where are you, ladies? To learn more about the Let’s Make the Industry 50/50 Initiative, its participating organizations and database of qualified women, visit To connect with Cindy on the interwebs, tweet your hello here.

Photo credit: Michael Weber, the apartment‘s Behance page

Photo credit: Michael Weber, the apartment‘s Behance page