Cindy Gallop Tells 3% Conference Attendees: Start Your Own Agency

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Cindy Gallop told attendees at the 3% Conference, dedicated to supporting more female leadership in ad agencies, to go out and start their own agencies. She said Friday that she was frustrated by the lack of change after her past four annual keynote speeches at the five-year old conference, and now "I want you to be the future of advertising and I want you to start your own 'agency'."

Cindy Gallop at the 3% Conference in 2015.
Cindy Gallop at the 3% Conference in 2015. Credit: 3PercentConference via YouTube

The quote marks around "agency" suggests some flexibility in the actual quitting/launching process, but Ms. Gallop did give the homework assignment of figuring out over the weekend how to live on less for a while ("You can totally halve your cost of living") and then coming up with a company name and registering it, including the URL, Twitter handle, related blog and more.

"Start talking about it," said Ms. Gallop, a former agency exec turned coach and consultant, as well as founder of Make Love Not Porn. "This is something men are very good at: bullshitting."

She talked about asking yourself what you really want to do, designing your business to be the way you want to work and the way you want to make money.

"I've been campaigning for years for more female-founded agencies," she said. "The good news is that in the last few years, that's changing."

She cited three agencies recently started and owned by women: Lisa Clunie and Jaime Robinson's six-month-old Joan Creative; Heidi Hackener's New York-based brand strategy shop Wolf & Wilhemine; and a three-year-old Sao Paulo shop started by former journalist Barbara Soalheiro called Mesa e Cadeira (Portuguese for "Table and Chair") -- a reference to the company's process of gathering people for a maximum of six days around a table to develop prototypes for projects in areas like technology, branding, design and marketing.

"When white guys are talking to each other, what comes out is Batman versus Superman," Ms. Gallop said. When it's a diverse group by gender and ethnicity: "You get 'Hamilton.'"

She also suggested three possible sources of funding for a startup. You & Mr Jones, started by former Havas CEO David Jones, funds companies building brands through technology. (Annette Stover, a former Havas exec and search consultant, joined You & Mr Jones as a partner in January). Brava Investments, started this year by investor Nathalie Molina NiƱo, bankrolls startups that benefit women. And brand-new is a crowdfunding platform for female entrepreneurs that includes free crowdfunding advice, she said.

In an earlier research-oriented panel at the New York conference, 4A's President and CEO Nancy Hill said that 4A's research found that more than 50% of female ad agency execs surveyed said they had experienced sexual harassment at least once, but that the problem was significantly worse in the creative department, where 58% of female creatives said they had been sexually harassed often. In other 4A's findings, 42% of respondents said that they were not included in decision-making, 41% believed they were dismissed or disregarded in meetings, and 40% believed they were passed over for promotion.

Researcher Michele Madansky, head of Michele Madansky Consulting, replicated an earlier study called "The Elephant in the Valley" about gender bias in Silicon Valley in the ad industry. Her "Elephant on Madison Avenue" survey, with more than 600 respondents, found what she called a "Goldilocks effect," with 70% of respondents saying they had been told they were too aggressive, while 62% had been called too emotional. And 60% said they were paid less than male peers. In an open-ended question, 54% of women cited other issues like race, LGBT, ageism, sizeism and generally not looking "like the perfect girl," she said.

Ms. Hill said that the industry suffers from a lack of benchmarking, and that the 4A's will field a full benchmarketing study before the end of the year on gender and ethnicity in the ad industry, with results out early next year.

For the 3% Conference, panel moderator Erin Carpenter said the group plans to look more deeply into two under-researched areas in the ad industry, motherhood and women of color.

Separately, the 3% conference partnered with the One Club to choose the Next Creative Leaders, recognizing 10 young female creatives currently working at ad agencies as copywriters, art directors, associate creative directors and creative directors.

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