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Gordon Young
Editor-in-chief at The Drum

Trade bodies unite to ask ad industry when sexual harassment crosses the line

Campaign stills from OOH and digital activation.

Following research that revealed more than a quarter of people in the media and marketing industries have been sexually harassed at some point in their careers, key players in the industry have united to launch an ad campaign asking people where the line between pleasantries and harassment is drawn.

The campaign has been spearheaded by a collaboration of industry organisations – including the Advertising Association, NABS and WACL, and backed by ISBA and the IPA – which was formed earlier this year in wake of the #MeToo movement. The aim of the group is to address the problem of sexual harassment specifically within the UK advertising and marketing industry.

It launched the 'TimeTo' Code of Conduct to establish acceptable standards of behaviour within the workplace and beyond, which has gained the support of more than 100 businesses and organisations.

This campaign is the latest piece of activity to support the initiative. Created by Lucky Generals, the ads show examples of increasingly uncomfortable situations based on real life experiences of people working in the industry.

It will appear across a range of media including print, out of home, social media, a range of advertising and marketing websites and cinema over the coming months. ITV, Sky Media and Pearl & Dean have all committed to offer ad space.

Three films, directed by Steve Reeves, show different moments that are common in the industry; from working late on a pitch to planning for an important client event. But as the scene progresses, the film pauses intermittently to highlight where normal conversation might move to something potentially more sinister.

For the digital out-of-home, the scene is written as one sentence split into ‘moments’, again encouraging people to think about where the line is crossed.

“Our survey confirmed that sexual harassment is a real and present danger in our industry," explained Helen Calcraft, founding partner at Lucky Generals of the approach to the campaign. "But it is not always a simple/binary issue of good and bad people. It can be nuanced, even unintended sometimes; but it is often an abuse of power.

“Our work is deliberately designed to be thought-provoking as opposed to judgmental. It asks the audience to consider and question where the line would be for them. We all have a responsibility to question our own behaviour and we have to work together to change the climate in our industry; now is the TimeTo draw the line.”

Stephen Woodford, chief executive at the Advertising Association, added: “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. 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.”

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