‘Meet me/at 10pm/in my hotel/room/come alone’: Sexual harassment ads ask marketers where they draw the line

As part of a crackdown on sexual harassment in the advertising industry, timeTo has unveiled its first ad campaign featuring a series of videos and posters based on real-life scenarios.

TimeTo, the steering group looking to eradicate sexual harassment from the marketing and advertising industries, is asking people where they draw the line in its first ad campaign, following research earlier this year revealing one in four people have been sexually harassed at some point during their career.

Developed by creative agency Lucky Generals, the ads have been designed to make people think about where the line exists between normal conversation and interaction, and something more sinister – from inappropriate ‘banter’ to physical assault.

This includes three scenarios based on verbatim responses to timeTo’s survey, which have been turned into powerful and uncomfortable 60-second online films. These include a young male being encouraged to flirt with a client, a late night hotel proposition and a senior member of staff crossing the boundaries after winning a pitch.

The campaign will also run in targeted out-of-home locations, as well as across print, social media and cinema. Again, the creative has been based on real-life scenarios.

It marks the next stage of the timeTo steering group – a collaboration between the Advertising Association, NABS and WACL – which launched earlier this year to address the problem of sexual harassment in the UK advertising and marketing industry. It has already gained the industry-wide support of more than 100 businesses and organisations.

“The UK is a world leader in advertising and it is therefore right that we should also be at the forefront of efforts to make our industry a secure and safe industry for all our people,” says Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association.

“This is vital in ensuring our sector, which reflects and shapes the world around us, continues to be an economic and social force for good.”

Earlier this year, timeTo became the first organisation to put some numbers behind the scale and nature of sexual harassment in the advertising and marketing industries.

The results of the survey based on almost 3,600 responses found that 26% said they have been sexually harassed at some point during their career, 72% of those more than once and 25% six times or more.

Of those, 34% were women and 9% were men, with a further 30% saying they have witnessed sexual harassment happening to others.

The vast majority (82%) said it was by somebody senior to them. Some also described the involvement of senior management in covering up sexual harassment cases, while others highlighted their role in encouraging staff to flirt with their clients or customers or put up with unwelcome attention to win, or retain, business.

Yet only 17% have officially reported such behaviour, highlighting a lack of faith in HR and the reporting system, which is often skewed towards senior members of staff and perpetrators.

Another survey will be carried out in 2019 to track the impact and success of timeTo. Until then, brands, agencies and media owners are being called on to pledge their support.