IPG Issues a Memo Reminding Staff to ‘Act Responsibly’ at Cannes

Note urges employees to report misbehavior

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On Tuesday morning, IPG leadership sent out an email to all staff attending the 2018 Cannes Lions festival reminding them to conduct themselves properly while away and to avoid “misconduct,” especially in the presence of alcohol.

Senior vice president of talent at IPG Joe Kelly effectively used the note, which was acquired by Adweek, to tell staff that Cannes is a work event and not a party.

“When our work is conducted outside the confines of an office environment, there can be a sense that this isn’t quite work or that we can behave different, especially if alcohol is present,” Kelly wrote. “That is not the case. In any of those situations, our behavior must always adhere to our company’s values and policies. Anything less is never acceptable.”

He ended the note by alerting employees to report any inappropriate behavior “promptly” to a manager, human resources representative or the “IPG Alertline,” adding that such reports “will not result in any negative consequences to you.”

This is the first time IPG has sent out a memo regarding employee conduct specific to Cannes, according to parties familiar with the matter.

“As you can imagine, IPG has regular communications with all its employees about appropriate workplace behavior, including our annual code of conduct training,” said an IPG spokesperson, who declined to comment further.

The email comes amid ongoing discussions around the agency world’s response to the #MeToo movement. IPG had to reevaluate its own workplace procedures and policies late last year after The Martin Agency chief creative officer Joe Alexander was accused of sexual harassment and fired.

Adweek reached out to all of the other major holding companies, including WPP, Havas, Dentsu, Omnicom and Publicis Groupe (though most of its employees are not attending Cannes this year), to see if they, too, were planning to issue similar policy reminders to their staff attending Cannes.

A Dentsu spokeswoman provided the following statement: “We expect senior leaders to behave according to our values and standards at all times, to treat others with respect and ensure our people feel included. We monitor these issues closely through our formal ‘check-in’ employee survey and through line-management and HR channels. We also operate a confidential hotline, managed through a third party, and any complaint of this nature received would be escalated immediately to exec level.”

The other holding companies declined to comment.

The full memo from Kelly reads as follow:

We work in a great industry—the people, the work, the places our business takes us. We interact with smart, creative individuals, whether they’re our colleagues, partners or clients. We spend time with these people in our offices, at conferences and social gatherings, travel destinations, and via social media. No matter where we are engaging with each other, however, we must always act responsibly and with the utmost respect for one another.

Now is a good time to remind ourselves of these obligations, especially on those occasions, like the Cannes Festival, where you are traveling, and away from the office. Remember that you are representatives of IPG and your agency—and that you should conduct yourself with that idea in mind, knowing that the industry is watching you.

When our work is conducted outside the confines of an office environment, there can be a sense that this isn’t quite work or that we can behave differently, especially if alcohol is present. That is not the case. In any of those situations, our behavior must always adhere to our company’s values and policies. Anything less is never acceptable. If misconduct does occur at a function at which colleagues, clients, or vendors are present regardless of time or place—please understand that we will need to take action to ensure a respectful and safe environment for everyone. This action may involve discipline, up to and including termination.

All our people—and especially managers—must model appropriate behavior. Employees should exercise an abundance of caution when it comes to alcohol—remember, the Festival, like other industry events, is a work event, not a party. Everyone, especially managers, has an obligation to keep an eye out for each other. When someone is overindulging or engaging in inappropriate conduct towards one of our employees, you should intervene. That is true regardless of whether the person behaving inappropriately is an employee, client, vendor, or anyone else. We likewise expect you to intervene if one of our employees is engaging in inappropriate conduct towards anyone else.

If you are subject to or observe any inappropriate behavior, you are required to report it promptly to your manager, Human Resources, or the IPG Alertline (+1-800-828-0896). Your report will not result in any negative consequences to you. Just the opposite—your report benefits the company because it enables us to address the situation in a timely manner and to keep others out of harm’s way.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this very important effort.

Joe Kelly
SVP, Talent, IPG


@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.
@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
@kitten_mouse lindsay.rittenhouse@adweek.com Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.
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