Cindy Gallop on her six principles for new world business success

Ad industry legend Cindy Gallop discusses her six principles of success and the huge opportunity the industry is missing.

At August’s Adobe Symposium event, consultant, innovator, industry expert and founder of IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn Cindy Gallop delivered her six principles of new world order business success.

The principles should be applied both on an organisational and personal level. Summarised, they are:

  1. Communication through demonstration: don’t say it – be it and do it.
  2. ‘Blue sky’ it: ask ‘what would our customer love to have happen?’ Or ‘What would we love to have happen?’
  3. Trust: nurturing higher talent requires high trust.
  4. Shared values: shared values + shared action = shared profit (both financial and social).
  5. Humanise data: data is not stats and numbers – data is people. Want people to share with you? Open yourself up.
  6. Humanise: It’s not about diversity, it’s about humanity. Empathy. You and your team reflecting the world as it is.

Following her keynote, Gallop spoke with Marketing about implementing her principles, why new world order business can’t be conducted in most firms, how the future is ad products not ad units, and the major opportunity advertisers are missing by handing power over to the tech platforms.

 

Marketing: How can businesses better build trust into their organisation?

Cindy Gallop: Well, it’s very simple. You just have to do it. You have to trust, essentially. Obviously, you can facilitate it in several ways.

You cannot do new world order business in an old world order place. What I mean by that is, all businesses currently are old world order places because their systems and processes and structures are borne of a time when the process used to be linear.

So in our industry, for example, years ago the way it worked was: first of all you shot the big TV commercial, then you shot the matching print ads, then you did everything else. You know, collateral and that fun little thing called a website. Today, everything’s changed, but the systems and process and structures still haven’t.

It doesn’t actually matter how brilliant you think I am, it doesn’t actually matter whether anything I say to you today sparks inspirational things in your brains, it doesn’t actually matter how many innovative, disruptive ideas that you have as a result of anything I say to you.

If you go back to the office tomorrow morning and you plug all that brilliance, all that intelligence, all that inspiration, disruption, back in to the same old world order systems and processes, you’ll get the same old world order crap out the other end.

That applies to both tangibles – which is the actual product – and it also applies to intangibles like trust. As I said, the entire corporate structure militates against trusting people. Because it’s been designed around the fact that you don’t trust people.

One thing I recommend to everybody is to redesign the way you work. New world order business demands a new world order structure. Completely rethink your systems and processes and redesign them around trust.

I recommend rethinking your attitude towards your employees and your talent. There is a very depressing symptom in our industry these days which is ‘Oh my god, it’s the new digital future, so we need lots of new additional talent, so let’s hire game designers, let’s hire architects, let’s hire developers!’ 

And so people bring in these new sexy people from outside – and by the way, they usually have no idea what to do with them once they come in – and that’s set up to fail. Don’t do that, because within your organisation right now you have a vast amount of talent and a vast pool of creativity that’s not being tapped into. The people you already have, have more creativity than you can possibly imagine and you are not making use of it.

That’s a key factor. If you want to build trust within an organisation, really open up your eyes to how much creativity and potential there is that you could just let rip. And it would do everything you want it to by itself. It’s precisely because that talent is not being trusted at the moment, that you’re not getting the best out of it. 

I consult with companies, I do workshops. Whenever I do a workshop, I always ask to familiarise myself with the company beforehand.

I ideally interview everybody who’s going to be in the workshop. If it’s very large, then I can’t do that so I ask to interview a cross section. And I do that, by the way, ostensibly for me to familiarise myself, but in actual fact just talking to people enables me to tease out all sorts of dynamics within the company that may be getting in the way of what they want me to come help them solve. 

What I’m having, therefore, is very candid conversations. They’re utterly confidential. When I pre-interview, in order to design a workshop, or away day or whatever, I do not pass on to management the exact things people say to me, although I will pass on themes. 

What I say to people is ‘you can talk to me in complete confidence.’ I ask them to tell me what they do and their views on the company. I am gobsmacked frequently by the amount of brilliant ideas and thinking that these people are a repository of, that are not getting tapped into by the organisation.

For example, a couple of years back, I did a very large workshop for a very well known media brand. Because it was so large, I just interviewed a cross-section of people there. I interviewed a young woman who was kind of relatively junior within this company.

I was told about what she did, and her observation of how the business was doing. She said, ‘You know, I just feel we could be making so much more money. I see these opportunities generating revenue here.’ 

She had these amazing ideas on how to make more money, which by the way, this company badly needed to do. I said to her, ‘Have you shared these ideas with anybody?’

‘Oh, no, no, no…’

‘Why not?’

‘Well you know, I don’t feel they really want to hear them… I’m too far away from the…’ 

Oh my god! Who wouldn’t want ideas on how to make more money? 

When you open up and trust, you unlock vast reserves of ideas and creativity and contribution. 

Then, my point about the guaranteed business formula for success about freeing up those talents, stepping right back. That applies in several different ways. Not just trusting and empowering.

Also, an agency a couple years ago said to me, ‘Cindy, how can we be more creative? We want to raise the game in our creative world…how can we be more creative?’ I said ‘It’s really simple. Have less meetings.’ 

A back to back schedule is the enemy of creativity. Nobody can be creative when everybody, including the ECD and the creative teams, walk into the office and you have this from 9:00-10:00, this from 10:00-11:00 and so on. You can’t.

It really is about rethinking the way you do everything. Rethinking your attitude towards the way you do everything, and freeing everything up and trusting people to then do what they think is the most effective thing to do under those circumstances. Obviously, this is a very big and complex area but that’s my top line on how to build a culture based around trust.

 

You talk about the importance of humanising the approach to data. We live in a world where we can harvest, analyse and act upon data pretty much instantly. As a whole, are we getting closer to, or further away from humanising data?

It’s actually not about closer to or further away. It’s just about completely switching your lens on that situation because the old world order business is: ‘we are in transmit mode and you are in receive mode’.

Historically, that’s pretty much universal, whatever your business is. Even the term ‘consumer’ – which, there’s a lot of debate about it in our industry, and I’m not wild about it myself – is patronising as fuck, okay? ‘You’re consumers. We provide, you consume.’

The point I was making on stage was… businesses say, ‘We’re gonna hug everything to us and you, consumer, are just gonna open up and give us all your information.’

What I’m saying is, it’s a very fundamental human truth: if you want someone to open up to you, you have to open up to them. That’s a whole different lens on how you do business, but it is absolutely what works. It is the complete opposite of what Facebook is doing.

It’s that simple. Just completely flip the lens through which you’re looking at business, and go, ‘of course!’

If we want people to open up to us, we have to open up to them. We have to be complete transparent. We have to say, ‘this is what we do that will benefit you and we’re gonna share with you information about ourselves in order to make you feel entirely comfortable, so you get it, so you feel comfortable, so you see the benefit and want to share something about yourself; so that together, we can make the benefits happen that then I will be able to take away and use to my advantage.’

 

Opening up to consumers, humanising our approach. In a practical sense, are you talking about things like brand storytelling, content marketing?

Do not use those terms!

Honestly, I can’t stand the term brand storytelling. My least favourite word of all time is ‘content’.

I am actually not talking about that. I’m talking about a couple of fundamental philosophies of mine.

I’m a huge believer in radical simplicity. We are very good at over-complicating everything. I like to make things very simple and a part of making things simple is, many things that apply in business apply in life.

There are fundamental human truths about life that are also fundamental human truths about business. One of the things that I really try to do is have people understand that brands and businesses need to operate on the same level as people, because we are all people.

There’s no such thing as a company as an abstract entity. It’s made up of people. It’s people talking to people. So at a very fundamental level, if you just think about it, if you think about everything you’re doing as a business as human, and you should be operating in a very human way, I think that makes it all a lot simpler. It’s a lot easier then to see what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t be doing.

 

Of your six points. Which is the easiest one to switch on straight away?

I actually try and make them all easy to switch on straight away. I craft every talk I do specifically to the business skills of the event. So, I did a call with the Adobe team and said, “What are your business goals for Adobe Symposium and what do you want the people leaving my talk to think, feel, and do as a result of it?”

In that context, I try to make everything I say extremely actionable and very easy. I would say that, all six of those are very easy to do if you want to do them.

In terms of the most fundamental and – in a way – the easiest to do because all it requires is you and your values. For me, this is the starting point for everything. So my point about shared values, that really is a starting point for everything. Again, whether in business or in life.

Whether you are a brand, a company or a person, your absolute starting point should be to look into yourself and go, ‘Who am I? What do I stand for? What do I believe in?’

The reason I said that ‘that is not your mission statement’ is because it really isn’t. As a company, why were you founded in the first place? However many years ago it was, what is your reason for being? What are the fundamentals that the people who originally started this company believed in so strongly that they felt compelled to start it? What do you want to be all about in order to deserve a place in the modern world?

Just as a person, I encourage everyone to do the same thing. Look into yourself and go, ‘Who am I? What do I stand for? What do I believe in?’

And then, live your life and do your business according to those values.

Your point about ease. When you know exactly who you are and what you stand for – again, as a person or a business – it makes life so much easier. Now, life still throws you all the shit it always will, but you know exactly how to respond to it, any given situation in the way that it’s true to you.

By the way, that is the secret both of happiness and effectiveness. When you know that you are living life according to your values, you feel extremely good about that, and you also do the right things. The same thing applies to a business.

If you’d like the most fundamental starting point of those six points, I would say absolutely start with values. Identify what they are, and then walk the talk.

Absolutely build your customer experiences based on those values, because you will attract, to you, the consumers and the customers that share those values. At the same time, that is your moral compass, that is your North Star. That is your roadmap. That tells you what you should be doing. What you should be doing in any given situation.

 

Which is the hardest of the six?

That one’s very easy to answer, unfortunately. It really is my final point, ‘humanise’. Which is the way in which I articulate ‘be diverse’, basically.

By the way, that shouldn’t be the hardest. If you want to do it, it’s incredibly easy to do. The reason I say it’s the hardest at the moment is because it is incredibly easy to talk the talk and not walk the walk, and we can see that all around us in our industry currently.

Everyone’s doing it.

There’s way too much talking and not doing. The trouble is if you talk diversity, if you appoint a chief diversity officer, if you have diversity initiatives, if you say the word diversity a lot in your reports, you think you’ve done it. Done. Box ticked. We’re diverse, when in fact we’re not.

That’s the hardest because it’s actually very easy to do, but you have to break through that. Because honestly, as any woman in this audience can tell you – I’ve had this conversation with several women here today already – white male leaders are going, ‘Oh yeah, we’re diverse.’ And they’re not, but they think they are. So, they’re not gonna do any more than that. That’s the toughest one to break through.

 

Can you please talk us through your ‘ad units versus ad products’ idea?

I’ve been talking about this point for a number of years, and yet nobody has taken it on board, so I just want to seize this opportunity to share.

This is the huge opportunity that our industry is missing.

It astounds me that all of the giant tech platforms that are the future of our industry have advertising properties that are essentially new world order versions of display advertising.

The future is not ad units, it’s ad products.

Okay, there’s a reason for that. The reason is that all the white male founders – because they all are – of the giant tech platforms, and therefore, their management and their entire company and their culture (because it comes from the top) they absolutely bloody hate advertising.

So, Larry and Sergey, when they started Google, said very early on, ‘We will never ever carry advertising because it’s evil and horrible’ and blah, blah, blah. Now, of course, deeply ironically, 95% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising.

We are directly responsible for all of those gigantic evaluations, huge rounds of funding, enormous IPOs. Because all of those are predicated on the belief that those giant tech platforms make a shit-ton of money off of advertising, but when you fundamentally therefore see us as a necessary evil, when you absolutely hate advertising, you will never ever, ever craft compelling new world order advertising products.

It is gobsmacking that Facebook, with the best engineering talent in the entire world, with enormous resources, with huge reserves of cash flow, again, still, what they sell to brands and agencies, is display ads on Facebook.

Think what they could build if they absolutely bloody loved advertising, like we do in our industry. That’s the huge opportunity. It’s an opportunity also, to therefore rebalance the power equation. Because, what I observe in our industry is brands and clients and agencies going, ‘Oh, please, please, please, Snapchat take our money. Please, please, please, let us advertise on you, and take our money, and you tell us what you want us to do on your platform and we’ll do it.’

Please, please, please WhatsApp. Please, please, please, Facebook. Our industry has completely given away its power to the big tech platforms.

I can tell you, sitting in the audience today have been a ton of agencies that are going, ‘Ooh, Adobe… ooh, tech, it’s the future. We are feeling wildly inadequate.’

And they’re so wrong to do that, because when you actually love advertising, you have the power to go, ‘So this is an interesting platform, here’s how we’d like to use it.’

I encourage agencies to do that, because when you go, ‘Okay, here’s Snapchat and if we could do anything we want to with Snapchat, here’s what we’d do.’ Go and tell Snapchat that’s what we’re going to pay you to do, because you have the power because they need the income and the brands and whatever. When you craft the advertising for the future, you are the answer to their dreams, okay?

You can then license that ad product of the future to Snapchat, and Facebook, and Twitter, as the answer. Because they have not come up with it and they never will, because they bloody hate advertising.

 

Do you think it’s because they may be approaching it from a consumer-first standpoint?

No, no, they’re approaching it as: they despise us. They think advertising is a necessary evil. That they have to have it because Wall Street or their businesses is demanding they bloody show revenue. They despise us, they don’t want advertising.

Jan Koum sold WhatsApp to Facebook for $19 billion several years ago. The one thing he was really keen to stress in all the press conferences was, ‘There will never be advertising on WhatsApp!’ And again, as we know, he left because of clashing with Facebook about the fact that they wanted to get an income stream out of WhatsApp.

It’s no concern for the consumer whatsoever, it’s because [the tech platforms] fundamentally hate advertising, therefore they cannot see how there could be any form of advertising that people might actually welcome.

The sorts of things I mean when I talk about advertising products are…

Notifications used to be a bloody nuisance. Being pinged every time something happened. Actually, today – and I mean this is not necessarily a good thing because of the whole addiction scenario – but essentially, notifications are enormously desirable and welcome.

When you get a notification that somebody liked your Facebook post, or that somebody retweeted your tweet – and I can’t take credit for this next soundbite, I read it years ago in somebody’s blog and I’ve been trying to find out who it was ever since because I want to credit them as I use it a lot – ‘What you are actually getting is little pellets of love.’

Little pellets of love. Affirmation. Somebody likes me. Somebody tweeted me. Somebody liked what I said.

Now, imagine if a brand owned notifications. Imagine if a brand owned little pellets of love. Imagine if you had an advertising product, when something notified you but was delivered in a way that was enormously welcome, that was branded.

That was doing a job for the brand at the same time. That’s what I mean when I talk about not advertising, but advertising products. Things of utility and value delivered in a way that surprise and delight consumers. No one’s doing that.

 

Is it too difficult?

No, it’s not. It’s literally what I said earlier about resetting your lens. Nobody’s doing it because nobody’s thinking about it like this. That’s the future opportunity. This is the future.

 

Camilla Parry: Getting towards that point is Instagram allowing purchases through influencer shoppables. People who really follow them and are interested in what they’re interested in, if they can integrate that, that’s something that people may find useful.

Undoubtedly. That is fundamentally transactional. I think there’s a whole new world order of emotional engagement, but is not branded storytelling by the way.

The reason why shoppable content – I hate that fucking word but I’m going to use it anyway – is interesting is because that capability injects serendipity back into our transactional lives. [Serendipity] is being managed out of our lives by the approach of the rest of the tech platforms.

So, I remember watching Eric Schmidt of Google being interviewed on stage at an ad conference years ago, and somebody asked him what Google’s vision was and what it wanted to achieve. He said something like, ‘One perfect ad that sends you straight to the product.’ Obviously, what that approach is all about is – and again this will be endlessly debated because there are broader ramifications than just the commercial ones – ultimately, programmatic or whatever means that you are only ever served up what you’re directly interested in, and you don’t come across anything else.

Now, the reason I’m very good at my job in advertising is because I’m a complete and total sucker for advertising. Show me a great ad, and I will rush out and buy whatever on the basis of that, even if I’d never thought about it before.

I obviously came of age in an era where, you watched TV commercial breaks that were full of a whole bunch of different ads, including some bloody amazing ads, where you went, ‘Oh my god, I never knew I wanted that, but now I do!’ You have less and less opportunity to feel that in the world that the tech platforms’ current approach pushes us to live in.

The interesting thing about shoppable Instagram is that you can be scrolling through a whole bunch of scenes from somebody’s life, or whatever and you have serendipity. Because you come across something that you didn’t know you wanted ’til you saw it. This versus the highly targeted, ‘we’re only going serve you this based on your behaviour, and by the way, despite the fact that you just booked a vacation in Italy, we’re going to show you the same god damned Italian hotel.

I deplore the loss of serendipity in a lot of what is happening because that is also part of the fun of what we do. When you create enormously compelling advertising and somebody sees it and goes, ‘Wow, that just made me want something that I didn’t even know I wanted.’ That’s engaging and it’s entertaining and it’s fun. It actually introduces you to things that you didn’t know you wanted in a very engaging way versus only ever serving you up what you are thinking about at the time.

Our creative focus at BBH was we didn’t sell, we made people want to buy.

That’s absolutely how you should operate. In fact, we literally had a criteria back in my day at BBH, which was: is this ad so good that consumers would pay to see it?’ That was the true thought process.

That’s how good it has to be.

An example is, I moved to New York 20 ago to start up BBH New York. And so, there I was, starting up an ad agency in the world’s toughest advertising marketplace, pitching my heart out.

I must have watched, in those early years, our BBH credentials show-reeled – by the way this is 1998, we’re talking a reel of TV ads versus what has eventually come to be. I must have watched our reel thousands of time. Every pitch, every credentials meeting, every job interview, I’d play our reel. The glorious thing about working at BBH that I was so happy about is that I never got tired of watching that reel.

I saw it again and again and our ads were so brilliant, I never got tired of watching any of them. That’s great advertising for you. You never get tired of watching it, you love it when you come across it, it pulls you in, it makes you want things you didn’t know you wanted. Since the deal is ‘we’re going to enormously entertain you, and you’re gonna feel really good about us as a result’, you welcome it.

 

The author of this article attended Adobe Symposium as a guest of Adobe.

 

Further reading

Ben Ice
BY Ben Ice ON 5 October 2018