the Martin Agency Advertising Sexual Harassment

The Martin Agency disputes chief creative Alexander's version of resignation over sexual harassment claims


By Bennett Bennett, Staff writer

December 8, 2017 | 6 min read

An internal memo from the Martin Agency has claimed that it forced chief creative officer Joe Alexander to exit the company amid sexual misconduct allegations, counter to Alexander’s own version of events.

The Martin Agency disputed claims that CCO Joe Alexander left on his own, saying they forced him to leave

The Martin Agency disputed claims that CCO Joe Alexander left on his own, saying "they forced him to leave"

Alexander, who had been in the top creative role at the agency from 2012, had parted ways with the agency last week. It was later discovered, according to Adweek, that he left after an investigation into his alleged impropriety with fellow employees.

The Martin Agency’s president Beth Rilee-Kelley and chief executive officer Matt Williams have released a joint statement regarding the terms of Alexander's departure. The statement came after Alexander had said that he "chose to leave," while Williams and Riley-Kelley called his behavior "inexcusable" and said the "only alternative" to the allegations against him "was for him to leave The Martin Agency." They stated, "The decision was ours."

To Melissa Hipolit of Richmond news station CBS6, Alexander confirmed the statements made in the Adweek article, but gave her the same response regarding whether the accusations were valid: "The Martin Agency is my family. Rather than a drawn-out, hurtful investigation, resigning was the proper thing to do to protect my family and all the people I've worked so closely together with in my 26 wonderful years. I will always love that place and the people who make it so special. Please respect my privacy during this very, very sad time."

Williams and Riley-Kelley said in their statement to their employees that aside from "doing the basics"—workplace conduct trainings, unconscious bias training and code of conduct reviews, but starting in January, the Martin Agency will be utilizing an anonymous feedback platform called Tiny Pulse. The platform, they said, will track the agency's progress on categories like "safe place to work, inclusive workplace, diversity and morale, in real time."

"Where we’re falling short, we’ll work to get better," they said.

They also reiterated the availability of Interpublic Group's hotline, and expressed that if employees aren't comfortable, they will "be providing other ways for you to share how you’re feeling."

One of the eleven sources in the Adweek story, former vice president and associate creative director Sissy Estes said about IPG's hotline, “Had we known about the 800 number [when we worked there], none of this would have happened. This has been happening for decades.”

The statement from the Martin Agency executives in full:

Hi, everyone.

The past year has revealed some painful but important truths about workplaces all over America. It’s clear that the environment women have too often silently endured is one nobody should have to tolerate.

Now it’s happened here. We’re deeply sorry that any of you ever felt unsafe or unheard.

The behavior that Martin’s former CCO, Joe Alexander, is accused of is inexcusable. That’s why the only alternative was for him to leave The Martin Agency. That decision was ours.

There’s been some frustration about the language we used to talk about Joe’s exit. We get it. Let us be clear: we chose our words to protect the anonymity of the person who came forward. She deserves that.

The recent articles have been jarring and hurtful. We felt it too. And there may be more articles and details to come. But as disturbing as they are, the details aren’t the heart of the matter here. The heart of the matter is that people in our company felt unsafe and unheard.

We’ve had a painful wake up call. And we’ve heard it.

Of course, we’re doing the basics.

Tomorrow we begin department meetings to review the sexual harassment policy.

On December 18th, the EC and Department Heads will go through workplace conduct training.

In January, we’ll be rolling out Unconscious Bias training and Workplace Conduct Training for the entire agency.

And in March we’ll have our annual Code of Conduct review.

But this time calls for more than the basics. We’re committed to building an accountable and transparent workplace. So we’ll use Tiny Pulse, an anonymous feedback platform rolling out in January, to track our progress on categories like safe place to work, inclusive workplace, diversity and morale, in real time. And we’ll share that feedback at every step, so you can hold us accountable. Where we’re falling short, we’ll work to get better.

We know it can be hard to come forward when you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. The IPG hotline is always available. And if you’re not comfortable with the hotline, in the next month we’ll be providing other ways for you to share how you’re feeling.

We’re also going to reach out to our peers in the industry to start a new conversation about how we can all get better. One that goes beyond talk to create tangible things we can do to make create positive change.

One or both of us will be in the gallery all day tomorrow to talk about anything that’s on your mind. We want to hear from you.

This has been a sobering, sad, frustrating moment of reflection for us. It’s a moment that will last far beyond the painful events of the last few days. And one we promise not to waste.

–Matt and Beth

the Martin Agency Advertising Sexual Harassment

More from the Martin Agency

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +