Dr Pepper Snapple Group has been served with a lawsuit by IPG's Initiative former associate director at Initiative Nancy Mucciarone, claiming she was sexually assaulted by one of Dr Pepper's employees, media manager Justin Whitehead.
Mucciarone claimed Whitehead made sexual advances towards her, and that she was forcibly kissed and groped when she turned down his advances, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). She added that her superiors attempted redeploy her to another account after learning about her sexual assault claims, as Dr Pepper was an important account, and her work environment became hostile.
"Dr Pepper's spokesperson said that immediate action was taken and that it has terminated Whitehead after it was notified of the sexual allegations," WSJ reported.
Quoting US chief of Initiative Amy Armstrong, WSJ reported that the agency stands by its actions and is dedicated to maintaining a safe workplace environment. Armstrong said that the agency immediately took action by alerting Dr Pepper, which swiftly terminated Whitehead for his inappropriate behaviour.
This comes after IPG chairman and CEO Michael Roth came out against workplace harassment last October, by issuing an internal memo titled “A Workplace Free from Harassment”. Roth, in the memo, re-emphasised that one of IPG’s core values is to ensure that all employees can enjoy workplaces that are respectful and supportive. He also encouraged employees who have been victims of sexual harassment to make a report “without fear of reprisal”.
Allegations such as these are not new to the ad industry. Most recently, VICE Media placed president Andrew Creighton and chief digital officer Mike Germano on leave, following a New York Times report last year on sexual misconduct within the company. The report stated that there were four settlements involving allegations of sexual harassment or defamation against VICE employees, with Creighton being one of them. More than two dozen women said they experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct, including forced kisses and groping.
Meanwhile, news recently emerged that WPP has ended its support for the men-only Presidents Club Charity Dinner, after allegations of groping and harassment towards hostesses surfaced.
According to the Financial Times (FT), WPP had sponsored a table at the fundraising dinner. Sir Martin Sorrell described the news as "highly regrettable" "if true". In a separate statement to Marketing, Sorrell said that the behaviour reported "has no place in our society, and never did", adding that it was a mistake to not have ended its association with the Club previously. He made clear that the Club's charitable activities are not an excuse for the kind of behaviour described, and called it "totally unacceptable".
"We know that our sponsorship of a table at the event has caused concern and offence both inside and outside WPP, and we apologise that we did not act sooner. In future we will support the charities involved directly and not through any such third party," Sorrell said.
In a study done in the USA last year, 4A’s found that majority of women who participated in the study had experienced sexual harassment at some point during their careers. From overly sexualised depiction of women in ads to sexual harassment in the workplace, women have been voicing out their experiences from across the ad industry globally.
Ad industry veteran Cindy Gallop also called for an “end the Harvey Weinsteins of our industry once and for all” in a Facebook post. According to an article on CNBC, she says she has received emails from all over the world regarding the matter.