Mindshare’s Nick Emery: when’s a prank a hanging offence?

According to Mail Online Mindshare global boss Nick Emery was fired after entering the loo for a wee and baring his bottom, visible during a Zoom call.

Pretty silly but enough to bring an abrupt end to a 20-year career at WPP’s Mindshare? There’ve probably been times on Zoom when most of us would welcome a diversion, however gross.

Emery (left) is just the latest in a whole string of adland bosses and high flyers to be fired – Richards Group’s 87-year old founder Stan Richards fired himself – most of the examples of “inappropriate behaviour” involving a member of the opposite sex, mostly in creative agencies.

Two thoughts occur. One, in cases like Emery’s, aren’t the people who feel so concerned they make formal complaints to their bosses, over-reacting somewhat? Once upon a time if you thought the boss was a prat you went off to work somewhere else.

Two: what happened to the process of written warnings for assorted misdemeanours?

Now the complainants are, in effect, judge and jury with the all the potential for mischief that implies.

Are managements terrified of lawyers getting involved? Or just terrified.

If the kind of things people are being fired for now had been the case at most times over the past few decades there probably would never have been an ad business. Some may wish this had been the case, of course.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

7 comments

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    So it has to be sexual to be ‘bad’ enough? Whose rules are those? How about the women on the call who have worked their tails off for their own 20 year careers so they can (against the odds) be on those calls with the top brass. They have to look at their boss’ arse? The act is symptomatic of a still living and breathing lads culture that doesn’t have any place in the boardrooms of the UK today, no matter how harmless the old white guys at the top think it is.

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    Yikes I’m sure as an old white man yourself, you are nostalgic for the olden days when casual sexism was accepted and you could sit around the meeting room making jokes bordering on sexual harassment. If people like you were in charge of the ad industry, you’re right, there wouldn’t be an industry anymore because you wouldn’t be able to change with the times.

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    How kind!

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    Instead of Stephen’s thinly-veiled “there but by the grace of God go I…” commentary (something of a theme, I’ve noticed), there’s a distinct absence of ‘punching up’ journalistic criticism of the powerful in his columns.

    This industry is in dire straits. Can’t attract the young talent away from tech. Can’t stop the outsourcers and consultants eating its lunch. Can’t persuade punters not to adblock – or prefer ad-free platforms. Can’t stop stereotyping and offending. Can’t get the ear of client leaders anymore. Can’t stop most ads being shit. Can’t convince creatives to make ads anymore (they prefer PR stunts).

    The industry is where it is due to the failures of the leaders Stephen Foster thinks are being treated too harshly.

    So I’m curious about Stephen’s sympathies with these wealthy, high-status individuals. Does he genuinely believe they are amazing talents? Or is he being kind to people of a similar age, ethnicity and sex?

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    No I think there should be due process when anyone is losing their job

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    I’d certainly take issue with Stephen’s first thought that a staffer’s main recourse when faced with a boorish and offensive boss should be to keep schtum, bar the odd discreet call to a headhunter or two.

    But I take stronger exception to the keyboard warriors who’ve piled on here to pillory him for what was otherwise a measured and thoughtful comment on the circumstances apparently surrounding Nick Emery’s undignified departure from WPP after nigh on 3 decades of unstintingly loyal service and unrelentingly hard work.

    Because in every single case, their ostensibly enlightened comments display the very illiberalism and prejudice they’re so eager to berate in others.

    Criticising Stephen for his failure to “punch up” isn’t very compelling when your own blows are landed under the shield of anonymity. If you’re that proud of your own integrity, why be so coy about who you actually are?

    And assuming that hard-working men might not be every bit as unimpressed as their female colleagues by an unsolicited view of their boss’s arse strikes me as a depressingly reactionary view of men. If you genuinely object to sex stereotyping, perhaps you could start by avoiding it yourself?

    I’m also troubled by how all 3 commenters’ aggressively ageist attitudes blithely co-exist with hostility to the industry’s perceived patriarchy. Because I’d suggest the alacrity with which agencies discard and overlook experienced staff (both male and female) is one significant contributor to the challenges the industry faces. That’s because successful communication demands an understanding of human nature and human emotions, good and bad. Age doesn’t guarantee that, but experience certainly doesn’t hurt.

    But it’s hard to practice that kind of empathy when you’re consumed with aggression and intolerance.

    And when mob aggression and intolerance over-reacts against the basic principle Stephen identified – that due process and a sense of proportion are key to justice and fairness in law and society alike – then I fear we’re on a very slippery slope indeed.

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    Jes – there was due process. WPP investigated and found he broke their code of conduct. A code Nick was well aware of when he chose such a childish stunt. Break the rules, face the consequences.

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