Adland insiders on Advertising Week's Pitbull controversy

Pitbull's recent performance on ABC
Pitbull's recent performance on ABC

Having 'Mr. Worldwide' and his twerking dancers close the week has caused a flurry of backlash.

After starting on Monday with a female empowerment event and a performance from TLC, Advertising Week closed out its four-day festivities with a show from Pitbull, which included scantily clad back-up dancers twerking. Advertising Week organizers are now in hot water from the Pitbull concert. 

Advertising Week’s PR company has not yet responded to a request for comment.

As an industry insider, what do you think of Advertising Week’s controversial decision to end the week with Pitbull?


Nancy Hill, CEO and Founder, Media Sherpas

I recognize it is culturally acceptable in some environments, but not for a work/industry event or a professional setting. The optics feel off to me.


Rachel Lowenstein, Associate Director, Invention+, Mindshare

The context is important here. I wish the industry would be less offended at the suggestion of women dancing provocatively, and direct their anger towards men exploiting it. Pitbull’s music has always been problematic towards women because of the lyrics, but it’s only brought to light as offensive when women get onstage and start twerking?

If the industry is serious about advancing equality for all types of women, then that needs to factor into who you invite to perform on such major stages. There’s plenty of incredible artists like Lizzo who celebrate their bodies and personhood by dancing however they please. In our pursuit of moving intersectional feminism out of panels with high-powered executives and into the real world, it’s important that we don’t forget that nuance of choice and ownership over our bodies.


Claire Telling, Joint CEO, Grace Blue

With all of the amazing women performers out there right now, it would have been great to see them given a chance to take the main stage. Having said that, Pitbull is on my workout mix, so I can’t critique too much.


Erin Gallagher, Founding Partner, Have Her Back Consulting

Today’s consumer is demanding authenticity from companies, inside and out. That means that the people who work for you, the vendors you choose, the talent you associate yourself with are all a reflection of your brand. Culture is demanding it. And women are leading this seismic cultural shift. With this increased responsibility comes great opportunity. So now it's up to companies to decide which side of history (and her story) they want to be on.


Cindy Gallop, founder, MakeLoveNotPorn

Systemic, endemic sexual harassment in our industry is about abuse of power. 

In an industry that sells first and foremost to female consumers, but continues to be male-dominated, to keep women out of leadership, influence and power (especially in the creative department), and to talk gender equality, diversity and inclusion but spectacularly fail to deliver on it, it is wholly inappropriate to feature a closing Advertising Week musical act that objectifies women.

Especially when Advertising Week claims to reflect and represent our industry as a whole. And for anybody leaping to Advertising Week's defense on this front, for the women in our industry, it's not just 'this one thing,’ it's the cumulative effect of so many things like this.

Our industry prides itself on its creativity and innovation. When equality, diversity and inclusion are top of mind in the industry, how much creativity and innovation would it have taken to have thought of booking female artistes for Advertising Week? 

This is precisely why the 3PercentConference is calling for men to attend this year, to get male attendance to 29 percent -- the exact percentage of female creative directors in our industry: and precisely why every right-thinking man in our industry should be there, to help ensure that every manifestation of our industry reflects the values we want it to have.

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