Angry women ad execs call out sexist male managers

Looks like back to the office is going to be back to a battleground, at least as far as many women in the ad business and their bosses/alleged persecutors are concerned.

Zoe Scaman (above) of strategy business Bodacious (bold and audacious as opposed to the Love Island version) has written a piece on Substack entitled ‘Mad men. Furious women.’ recounting her own experiences of sexism, especially sexual harassment, and it’s prompted a self-styled “battlecry” from various women (presumably) in ad business. They’re anonymous so we don’t actually know.

“We will have a zero tolerance approach,” the group says in its declaration, saying if this stuff goes on they will “escalate to the police.”

“From now on, there’s no price you can pay to keep our mouths shut. While we may not be able to hold you accountable for your actions of the past. We can hold you accountable for your actions today and tomorrow. Think of this as your point of reckoning.”

This is from a report in Campaign and there’s much more (subscription required.)

This, if memory serves, is how #MeToo started (it seems a long time ago now) in which time agencies, like the film industry establishment, have been running around hiring diversity this and equality that, promising to mend their ways and all the rest of it.

But, according to the complainants, this is akin to marketing your own homework – virtue signalling as they say these day while, in reality, not changing that much.

Some of Scaman’s reported experiences do sound horrific. Noteworthy, perhaps, that many of them seem to have happened at boozy nights out – the office party syndrome maybe. Will a return to the office be just a return to the bad old ways and days?

You do wonder sometimes why people even contemplate working in agencies if it’s really as bad as this. Bizarrely, however, they do. It’s worth pointing out that, according to Scaman, clients play their part in this too.

Agency managements (an increasing number of which are female), the IPA trade association (and other associations, here, the US and doubtless other places) have looked into this and, in some cases, taken action but clearly without satisfying everyone.

One hesitates to reach for that modern cure-all an official (or semi-official) inquiry but maybe a (gender-balanced) small team of legal eagles might get to the bottom of this, interviewing people under confidentiality. Perhaps the Advertising Association (which represents advertisers and media owners as well as agencies) could lend a hands-off hand. It’s become a reputation matter.

Physician heal thyself doesn’t seem too be working.

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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.