Ad industry comes together to tackle sexual harassment

Ad land is looking to get its “house in order” with the launch of the ‘timeTo’ initiative, which aims to combat sexual harassment in the sector.

The advertising sector is hoping to have its own #TimesUp and #MeToo moment, with industry bodies coming together to issue a rallying cry and help eradicate sexual harassment from the industry entirely.

Aimed at all sexualities, genders, agencies, marketers and media owners, the ‘timeTo’ initiative is looking to instigate long-term, cultural change at a time when issues around gender discrimination and sexual harassment are dominating headlines and conversations across the globe.

The Advertising Association, NABS and WACL are the driving forces behind the all-inclusive initiative, which was born following a WACL Gather event last year that shed light on some of the harassment both men and women had experienced in the workplace.

WACL’s president and CEO of AAR, Kerry Glazer, says that was the moment they began to talk seriously about what could be done to put adland’s “house in order” and “actively begin to effect change”.

“Without naming and shaming, because we think the way to really succeed in this is to draw a line in the sand now and from this day forward say that it’s time to make a change,” Glazer tells Marketing Week.

“It’s about equality for everyone in our industry because if we improve the circumstances for everyone, it’s going to be a better place to work.”

To get the ball rolling, timeTo is launching an industry-wide, anonymous survey, led by Karen Fraser at advertising thinktank Credos, which will act as a benchmark to establish the current level of sexual harassment across the industry and provide data for future tracking of change.

On the back of that, a best-practice code of behaviour will be rolled out to all participating companies within the next six months – including members of ISBA and the IPA, which have already pledged their support.

Follow-up surveys are expected to run on an annual basis, with online training programmes – and possibly events – also on the agenda.


While global movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have been seminal in encouraging people to speak out – and call out – sexism and sexual harassment, the road ahead is still a long and challenging one.

One such challenge, Glazer says, is that there is scepticism about the role HR plays in sexual harassment cases, with many concerned that they would not be taken seriously.

“For example, if the harassment had been perpetrated by a senior person and the other person was a junior person, there is scepticism that if they took that complaint to HR, whether anything would actually be done about the perpetrator,” Glazer explains.

“Because there are incidences of complainants either having to sign NDAs and some form of payment and then leaving.”

This is where the likes of NABS – the employee support organisation for the advertising and media industry – play an important role. Glazer says while she would encourage people to speak to HR, it is imperative that the industry raise awareness of NABS and similar organisations in order to help victims come forward.