Over 100 Agencies Are Rallying Behind This Bold Campaign to End Sexual Harassment in Advertising

Early supporters include WPP, OMD, MullenLowe and McCann

timeTo is a U.K. movement committed to ending workplace sexual harassment. - Credit by timeTo
Headshot of Lindsay Rittenhouse

More than 100 agencies in the U.K. are supporting a new campaign that aims to finally put an end to sexual harassment in advertising by placing executives right in the middle of some very uncomfortable situations the industry’s female professionals have endured.

Coming from timeTo—a British movement founded in March that is similar to the Time’s Up Advertising group in the U.S.—the campaign has drummed up support for the larger organization from agencies including WPP, VMLY&R, Ogilvy, Grey, OMD, TBWA\London, MullenLowe, AKQA, Blue 449, Carat, McCann, Wieden + Kennedy, GroupM, Starcom, Isobar and Kantar, plus certain media outlets including the Guardian and Campaign. (A full list of timeTo’s signatories can be found on its website.)

Developed by U.K. agency Lucky Generals (which TBWA Worldwide holds a majority stake in), the multiplatform campaign that will target the advertising industry through print, social, digital and out-of-home placements over the next few months asks one crucial (but possibly not-as-easy-to-answer-as-one-might-think) question: “Where do you draw the line?”

Based on research timeTo conducted earlier this year, the campaign includes three 60-second videos directed by Steve Reeves of Another Film Co. that depict cringe-worthy examples of sexual harassment based on real-life situations.

The above video, titled “Hotel,” shows a female agency employee working late on a business trip to put the final touches on a project, when she’s approached by someone who appears to be a male executive on the client side. He’s been drinking and suggests, in an increasingly forceful manner when she tries casually to object, that she come back to his hotel room to drown out the chaos and noise of wherever she is currently posted.

Throughout the video, a red line is drawn to show where this male executive became inappropriate.

In another spot, called “Pitch,” an agency team has just received the glorious news that they’ve won new business. The jubilance of one female executive who took the call is quickly washed away by the inappropriateness of a male colleague.

Again, the question is posed: Where do you draw the line?

These videos are based off of troubling findings from timeTo’s recent research.

A total of 34 percent of women and 9 percent of men in advertising in the U.K. have been sexually harassed at work (72 percent of whom experienced it more than once and 83 percent of whom didn’t report it). Another 30 percent of industry folks said they have witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a survey of 3,500 people in the U.K.’s advertising industry conducted by think tank Credos, timeTo, Lucky Generals and timeTo’s founding partners, the Advertising Association, NABS, women’s networking organization WACL and supporters ISBA and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

“Our survey confirmed that sexual harassment is a real and present danger in our industry,” Lucky Generals founding partner Helen Calcraft said in a statement, “but it is not always a simple/binary issue of good and bad people. It can be nuanced, even unintended sometimes; but it is often an abuse of power.”

Calcraft said due to these findings, the creative for the campaign focused on being “thought-provoking” rather than “judgmental.”

“I hope this new campaign will enable people to reflect on where the line is drawn on sexual harassment,” noted Kerry Glazer, NABS president and CEO of agency search firm AAR. “Our campaign is about making sure that everyone in the industry is aware that any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that makes a person feel uncomfortable, offended, intimidated or degraded is not acceptable. It’s timeTo end sexual harassment in our industry once and for all.”

Going forward, timeTo will release an annual survey with its partners to gauge the progress of culture at U.K. agencies.

@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.