See It & Be It: Q&A with Cindy Gallop

In our See It & Be It Series, the 4A’s asks industry leaders—who are female or from traditionally underrepresented groups in the ad industry—to provide their personal stories, advice and observations on how to succeed in an industry that is overwhelmingly led by white men. Here is what Cindy Gallop had to say:Cindy Gallop photograph by Kevin Abosch


In 2016, why do you think it’s still necessary to talk about opportunities for women in the industry, and how women are portrayed in advertising?

Because the white men at the top are sitting pretty and have zero interest in changing anything. They’ve made their millions, they’ve got their stock options, their bonuses, all expenses paid, the comfort of the advertising white bro network—why would they want to rock the boat? They talk diversity, but they have no real intention of making it happen, especially not on their own leadership teams and in their boardrooms.

Do you think women, people of color, LGBTQ and people with disabilities face similar issues in the ad industry? 

Women, POC, LGBTQ and people with disabilities face exactly the same issues in the ad industry that they do in every other industry: conscious and unconscious bias, discrimination, lack of opportunity, lack of empathy.

What advice would you give a 20-year-old woman on how to succeed in the advertising industry?

Don’t set out to ‘succeed in the advertising industry.’ Identify what YOU think the ad industry is missing, what ought to be there that isn’t, what would make it the kind of industry you’d love to work in, what the future should be, and then make it happen. Reinvent the industry to be what you think it should be. Then, you’ll succeed on behalf of all of us.

Would you want your daughter to pursue a career in advertising? If not, why not? 

This question is irrelevant because I don’t have a daughter, have never wanted children, and have therefore never thought about what I might or might not want my children to do, and have no interest in thinking about that. I make this point because both women and men don’t have enough role models representing the fact that it is possible to live a life very different from the one society thinks you should live, and still be extremely happy. I would like to see our industry reflecting and celebrating many more aspirational role models of the way people could be, to help people live happier and more productive lives, versus reflecting the hoary, old stereotyped clichés that say all women either have children or want them.

What did you do to survive and thrive in advertising? 

I spent 16 years working for one agency—Bartle Bogle Hegarty—because it had more integrity and principles than any other place I’d ever worked. That matters more to me than anything else. Find a place in advertising that shares your own principles, beliefs and values, and you’ll survive and thrive – whether that’s an agency, or the company you start yourself.

Cindy Gallop started up Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York in 1998 and in 2003 was named Advertising Woman of the Year. She is the founder of, co-action software (and Harvard Business School case study) that enables brands and consumers to implement the business model of the future: Shared Values + Shared Action = Shared Profit (financial and social). Follow her on Twitter @cindygallop.