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‘We must blow it up and start again’ - BBH US founder Cindy Gallop urges ad industry to redesign business model and creativity or risk mediocrity

Advertisers must radically redesign their business models if they are to survive today’s marketing reality and gain competitive edge, according to BBH US founder Cindy Gallop. 

Speaking at The Drum Live in London today Gallop said the current model, built in a time when linear storytelling was dominant, has “broken irretrievably”, adding “we must blow it up and start again” to ensure survival. 

The ad industry must wrestle back control of how it is perceived by consumers, who regard advertising as a whole as negative, and must restructure their way of working to address this, according to Gallop. 

“In our business we have demonstrated through the millions of ad messages sent each day, which we are all responsible for, and go like this: ‘you can download this for free if you watch this ad’, or ‘Only 15 more seconds, now 14, now 13 [before you can view content] – we know it’s torture but hang on in there it’s nearly over’.

"What all these messages all communicate is that advertising is a very bad thing – that people need to be tricked, cajoled and deceived into watching it,” she said. 

This is contributing to consumers’ negative view of advertising in general, although they will often connect with specific ads they really love – what Gallop referred to as “advertising in particular”. 

One of the fundamental reasons the ad industry must restructure and redesign business models, is to safeguard against the existing "phenomenon of collaborative competition", according to Gallop. 

"As an agency, or a brand you must identify what it is that you're passionate about at your core - the reason you were founded in the first place. Companies lose sight of that over time.

"Instead they go: 'oh look, our competitors are doing that – we should too'. That’s what causes collaborative competition – over time you morph into something very like everyone else in your sector... that is a dangerous situation and one which lets outside competitors move in," she said. 

Gallop dismissed the ongoing debate of whether advertising should centre around 'art' or 'science' adding that a blend of the two is critical to the future of business. 

"It's not about science trumping creativity, it's about both. The new creativity is data-informed – not data-driven. We can now know more than ever before about what our audiences, want, dream, feel, purchase – and that opens huge opportunities to come up with completely new forms of what they want – we must humanise it first.

"Big data is actually big people. We must humanise what we measure – because you are what you measure – this is a fundamental truth in life as well as  business. 

Gallop also directly addressed the men in The Drum Live audience, calling for them to embrace the "discomfort" of having more women in their businesses. 

"Working with women is uncomfortable – we are different, we have different perspectives – but out of that discomfort comes greatness.

"We ask the tough questions that you don’t in life and in business - what are you thinking? What are you spending on that? Women challenge the status quo because we are never it. But the future of creativity is female informed... We share the shit out of everything that you men don’t, and women will influence men more than men will influence other men."

A more in-depth feature and video interview with Gallop will be published in the next issue of The Drum magazine on 23 July. 

Featured by The Drum