Lab to return Digital Entrepreneur Awards trophy in protest against 'sexist' ceremony

Digital Entrepreneur Awards ceremony

The winning agency of this year’s Digital Entrepreneur Awards (DEAs), Lab, is to return its Agency of the Year award after itself and a number of other nominees complained about the "sexist" tone of the ceremony.

During the Manchester-hosted event, the male awards presenter was escorted on stage at the start of the evening by dancing girls wearing feathers and hot pants. This was followed by entertainment from the narrator of ITV’s hit reality series Love Island, Iain Sterling, who also proved unpopular with the room while describing his job as “watching people shagging,” according to Mando managing director, Ian Finch.

Finch also claimed while writing about the event in a Linkedin post, that it had predominantly awarded men but that women who did receive or hand out awards were subsequently faced with “tired, arguably sexist jokes,” in doing so.

“Over the course of the evening, the general unease mounted and as we left and journeyed home, the gravity of what had happened started to sink in, the flat feeling of a less-than great night out became anger and frustration at how something like this could happen,” he added.

Many attendees took to Twitter to complain about the events that unfolded during the night too. Jonny Tooze, co-founder and managing director of Lab, which took home the Agency of the Year award has since said that he will return their award in protest; a move he has since confirmed to The Drum.

Writing on Linkedin, Tooze said of the ceremony, and returning the trophy: “Their recent event in the North contained strong sexist themes. On top of that the events have been peppered with scantily dressed dancers. This is 2017. We're all pushing so hard to create equality in our industry and this makes us sad… As an agency we don't share these values, so we can't be associated with the DEAs until they totally reboot their attitude.”

Following the highly negative response to the event, the organisers issued a response that was then deleted. The initial response explained to those complaining that the claims of sexism were incorrect as the event was run by an all-female team.

This was subsequently followed up with a more contrite apology entitled: "We’re sorry", which read: “Our aim was to celebrate tech and never to undermine the incredible women in the industry or do anything to negate the work everyone in the industry is doing to promote equality and redress the balance.” The full remaining apology can be read in the tweet below:

The apology also questioned whether the awards would run again following the outcry from Wednesday night.

The event did not escape the watchful eye of industry lightening rod and champion of female professionals, Cindy Gallop who condemned what she was seeing over Twitter.

Search The Drum Jobs

Explore the best jobs in Marketing and Media industries
View all open jobs

Stephen Lepitak

Stephen Lepitak is editor of The Drum, with responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day running of the content produced for the various platforms run by the publication. Over the years he has interviewed agency network bosses such as Sir Martin Sorrell, Maurice Lévy and Arthur Sadoun, as well as Cindy Gallop, Kim Kardashian, film directors James Cameron, Spike Jonze, Richard Curtis and Lord David Puttnam. With a keen interest in media and breaking news, Lepitak has been with The Drum since 2005 and is based across its UK, US and Asia operations.

All by Stephen