JWT Refutes Claims It Fired Its Creatives Because They Were “White, Straight Males”

JWT Refutes Claims It Fired Its Creatives Because They Were “White, Straight Males”

The WPP-owned JWT London has denied reports that it made a number of senior creatives redundant because they were “white, male, straight, British”.

As reported on B&T yesterday, the undisclosed number of men were shown the door in May just days after the agency’s openly gay creative director, Jo Wallace, told a conference she wanted to “obliterate” the agency’s reputation as a “Knightsbridge boys’ club”, an apparent reference to London’s privileged elite.

Concerned by Wallace’s comments, the men took the issue up with JWT’s HR department only to be made redundant days later. The group has now sought legal action on the grounds of discrimination based on gender, race, nationality and sexuality.

Commenting on the case, a JWT spokesperson said: “Whilst it’s not appropriate for us to comment on individuals in an ongoing process, any redundancies at J Walter Thompson London are handled fairly, lawfully and without any form of discrimination.”

According to UK law, any firm that makes more than 20 redundancies is required by law to follow “collective consultation” rules.

The British media site Campaign, that initially broke the story, has quoted a JWT employee who said the agency had been laying off creative staff for the past 18 months and, as the creative teams were invariably white and male, it should come as no surprise that it was white men getting the bullet.

Other reports have suggested that there is a suspicion that agencies have been using things like the #MeTo movement and The 3% Conference as a smokescreen to get rid of expensive, senior managers who are often white males.

Adding to JWT’s woes, in May a report found it to have one of the worst gender pay discrepancies of any UK agency which led to its executive creative director Lucas Peon to declare: “In the World Cup of sucking at pay gap numbers, we made the final.”

Thus far newly appointed WPP CEO Mark Read has not commented on the circumstances surrounding the agency and the dismissed mens’ claims. Read has also said he will not micro-manage WPP’s agencies as his predecessor, Martin Sorrell, had done.

However, given the negative press surrounding the case, the interest outside the advertising industry in it and the possibility WPP will have to wage an expensive legal case and possibly payouts, Read would probably want this fire doused as quickly as possible.



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    1. This trend of agencies getting rid of their senior people may well not be gender, race, nationality and sexuality but really about ageism. The only reason there are no women mentioned in this is that there just aren’t women over 50 in the industry (3%). Surely this makes it all the more important that these big agencies re-evaluate their billing processes to get out of the hour by hour profitability and move towards outcome or efficiencies as their measure for reward. I think the agency world is no longer able to function effectively and deliver a quality product to their brands by running the old way of doing things. If I was a brand I’d be questioning why the time sheet model is still appropriate when agencies are benefitting from poor process and loading up the projects with excessive headcount and then crying poor and getting rid of some of their best talent because of it. JWT Australia got rid of 5 really senior, really great creatives earlier this year too, and in fact was the tipping point for me to say ‘enough!’ We have to stop this dysfunctional way of working. No one made a big fuss about that because age isn’t considered a real issue in our industry yet and only because of ignorance.

      As an industry we don’t even yet have the right language or acknowledgment about how badly the ageism issue is. Think about this – we say ‘Oh, it’s a fiscal thing. Agencies can’t afford senior people’. As professor @Sven Brodmerkel from Bond University said to me about his recent ageism study recently, imagine if we said ‘Oh, it’s a fiscal thing. Agencies can’t afford black people’ how wrong that would be. This is a problem that the industry doesn’t even know they have at this point and this article is exactly the same. I can pretty much guarantee that JWT’s argument will be that they can’t afford these people any more… Fix your billing problems and you’ll fix ageism through the industry.

      Ask @Trinity P3 about agency billing models and one good thing is that the time sheet model is in decline and other models increasing. Not to soon. We may start to see better talent staying in agencies.

      Having been client side not so long ago I bet you that many brands actually have no idea of the makeup of their agency teams. With an average age of 27 and being male it certainly isn’t aligned with most brand’s customers. Somethings up, right? This issue for JWT is the tip of the iceberg.

JWT London Mark Read WPP

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