Written by Tim Nudd for Adweek. Originally published on June 19th, 2016.
CANNES, France—It’s been a relatively sleepy Sunday here at the Cannes Lions festival, with most delegates just arriving or still on their way into town. But naturally there wasn’t an empty seat in the Forum auditorium in the Palais this afternoon—thanks to the topic, “Sex: The Final Frontier,” and its star panelist, Cindy Gallop.
And of course, the ex-advertising executive and pioneering founder of the social sex site Make Love Not Porn—where people upload their own videos of real sex, not pornorgraphy—had plenty to say about the state of intimacy: her own, the world’s and the (anemic and mostly dishonest) version peddled by brands in their advertising.
The talk, hosted by Flamingo and also featuring filmmaker Mobeen Azhar, began with a discussion of generational attitudes toward sex, and whether circumstances inform them—such as the effect the pill had on boomers, or AIDS had on Generation X, or how Tinder is affecting millennials.
Gallop, though, said one thing binds all generations.
“I’m 56, I’m a boomer, and I date twentysomething men—so I’m cross-generational,” the onetime BBH leader started out. “But based on eight years of working on Make Love Not Porn, and examining all this data—conversations, comments, emails—it doesn’t matter what age we are, we are all rampantly insecure about sex. We are not open and honest about it as a society. We don’t talk about it sufficiently. And so we all worry dreadfully. We all want to be good in bed, but we’ve got no idea what that even means.”
Thus, her mission with Make Love Not Porn is to normalize sex for a culture that in many ways is terrified of it. And her 30-year ad career has made her keenly aware of how brands can help that process along.
Her first critique of advertising’s view of sex? Almost all of it is through the male lens. “Our industry has not even begun to see the power of depicting sex through the female creative lens,” she said. Most brands pretend sex doesn’t even exist, and thus deny themselves a point of universal relatability with consumers, she added.
“Brands and products are spectacularly failing to acknowledge this universal area of human experience,” Gallop said. “People have sex in cars. The automobile industry spectacularly fails to ever acknowledge that, or to allow that to influence product design. The mattress industry is failing to acknowledge that people have sex in bed! They’re not allowing that to influence product design either. The kitchen industry is failing to acknowledge that people have sex on kitchen counters. Honestly, I could go on and on. Our universal experience of sex applies to many, many not obviously sexual products and brands.”
As Gallop sees it, advertisers are just reinforcing the taboo.
“We have a duty to consumers,” she said. “We help our consumers when we normalize and de-embarrass this area of massive insecurity. The advertising industry has a duty to actually understand, analyze, acknowledge—and design, and market to, and communicate around—sex for all consumers globally.”
Head over to Adweek to read the rest of the article!