So a lot has gone on this month in ad world. We saw the treacle in of this year’s Christmas ads, with Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot returning with crash – literally – hijacking the Coca Cola Christmas truck. To which Coca Cola quickly came back with a cheeky response #Brandter.
And with the start of all of this Christmas cheer, you might have missed some pretty big movements in our industry including mass Google staff walk outs over employee’s treatment, as well as the launch of the time #timeTo movement’s new ad campaign. A campaign that isn't afraid to address sexual harassment happening in the UK advertising and marketing industry. A campaign that reinforces the fact that everyone working in our industry – regardless of age, gender, sexuality, background, or job – should be free to work within a safe environment without fear of abuse. There are behaviours we must not accept and the timeTo act is now.
So in honour of this month's Equal Pay Day, the day where, thanks to the gender pay gap, women effectively work for free for the rest of the year, let me bring you up to speed on my thinking…
#timeTo is a movement created this year by the Advertising Association and partners to tackle sexual harassment in the ad industry. This month saw the launch of their new campaign asking the question of where would you draw the line? The ads depict different ways in which woman in the advertising industry can be subjected to harassment in the working day, conjuring up images of the Mad Men days and offering some real food for thought.
And more than these attention-grabbing ads, the Advertising Association has put together a #timeTo code of conduct which, among other things, sets out a framework for complaints procedures without fear that their harasser will find out. It’s a move that will have prolific affect for those in the ad industry and even those who are not. In terms of the ads themselves, I enjoy how you’re taken through the motions of a boundary being pushed in each sentence with the simple use of the red dash.
Another move that garnered big attention this month were the Googlers (both male and female) who walked out of multiple Google offices in order to protest “sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone”. This came after top execs at the company have been fired and even paid off in an effort to minimise the issue, with one exec receiving $90million to leave. Movements like this always carry weight, but especially in a corporation as big as Google where employees can use the Google name as a platform to garner attention not only for the conditions they work in but also for people with less of a platform.
And what about the ads?
Well there have really been some gems over the decades, some that were quite clearly before the time of #metoo like Mini’s ad for ‘simple driving’, simple enough even for a woman to understand…
Or this ad for ease of menstrual cramps so that men don’t have to deal with women’s mood swings, because after all it’s the men that really suffer in that situation right?!
And even some as recent as Protein World’s campaign to get you beach body ready with their protein powders - cue the more than 370 complaints made to the ASA. Despite the fact that the ads were cleared by the ASA and Protein World became a household name after going viral, they took the hint and chose to follow up with a campaign focussed on how #everybodyworks. Whilst maybe not believable for today’s savvy consumers, it shows an effort from the company to be more socially responsible.
I got thinking about my experience in the industry and am happy to say this has never been an issue for me. And I then got wondering about the women of Bright Blue Day, and their experiences…
“Having worked in this industry and for BBD for over 26 years, I can honestly say I have never ever experienced anything like this. I mean back in the day I've been asked to pop the kettle on because I'm a woman but that is about as far as it goes. Luckily for me I am quite a strong character and if I were approached in any way shape or form…I would mock them and make sure they felt more uncomfortable about it than I did. Having said that, I know there are men and women out there that could be affected by this. I would urge them to speak out or tell someone what is happening, as no one should feel uneasy in a work place, as this is the place you spend literally most of your life!”
I was then told by a colleague of a story several years ago in previous employment where she found herself as technical team lead on a new project. The client was in the office for the day and as she made her way to the meeting she found herself being stopped and ask to make tea’s coffee’s and treats for the meeting. When she asked why it was her who needed to do this job, she was told that it looks better to have a pretty young girl bringing in the drinks! Seriously?! #womenintech don’t need to serve you your drinks.
And in a similar story, another BBD lady found herself attending a meeting with a male colleague and a male client. When introducing themselves, her male colleague got a firm handshake and she simply got a nod of the head. As the meeting proceeded, she found that the client would speak to and address only her male colleague, even when she was the one asking the questions. Thinking back on the experience she told me "I have come to realise that it is not only shame on men like that - but also a shame for them; they will never get the chance to know the relentless passion I have for my clients, they will never benefit from the skills i have as a strategic thinker and they will never be on the receiving end of my respect."
It’s stories like this, not only the headline makers, but #everydaysexism, that go to show we still have some ways to go with equality in the workplace. But movements like the ones seen this month from Google employees and #timeTo, show us that we are moving in the right direction.
And personally, I am thrilled to work in an agency that whilst there are only 11 women in the office they hold a wide variety of roles and include a seat on the board. And as women here we have a strong presence and a powerful voice; we stand equal amongst the men and we input and impact on everything the Bright Blue Day team does.