Why a new sexual harassment reporting app could work for the ad industry

The creator of a landmark bullying and harassment app has called for the ad industry to adopt its own version.

Earlier this week the TV and film industry launched the Call It! app in a bid to tackle bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Kate Wilson, co-founder of the anonymous reporting platform, told The Drum the application needs to be integrated within the ad sector as it has many of the same systemic problems that make harassment rife.

“TV and advertising are both high-pressured jobs that are very expensive by the day with demanding clients,” Wilson said. “And like TV, advertising is also an industry with after-work socializing and alcohol.”

Call It! is in the pilot stage and goes live at the end of the year. Wilson said there is a blueprint for the app being adapted for the ad, gaming and arts industries as early as January.

How Call It! works

  • Once a company registers for an account it generates a unique QR code, which is shared with staff and freelancers.

  • When an incident is logged, the user is signposted to the company’s policies and reporting procedures along with external mental health and advisory services.

  • Employers can monitor the anonymous reports and put in place interventions. “By alerting it gives management the opportunity to go and talk to teams and remind them that there is a zero-tolerance approach, and make sure that training is being provided, if reports keep coming through,” Wilson said.

  • Data is analyzed for trends and patterns of behavior by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity at Birmingham City University.

The architecture of the app will remain the same, but can be tweaked to make it relevant to the advertising workforce. To make those tweaks Wilson is seeking an advertising body to consult with and endorse the app’s use.

“We are really open to having conversations with the relevant people in the ad sector, so please reach out,” Wilson said.

Call It! are also seeking an academic partner to analyze the data and make recommendations back to the industry.

“This is a very nuanced platform,” she said. “We also really want to have conversations about why this won’t work for your industry and let us fix those.”

Similar pan-industry apps exist and are in use in the industry, with the likes of M&C Saatchi using Vault Platform as its company misconduct reporting service.

Kerry Glazer, co-founder of the ad industry's sexual harassment advocacy group TimeTo, called the app “brilliant and well needed in the TV industry with a high percentage of freelancers”.

She stressed people’s fears around traditional forms of reporting. “Reporting sexual misconduct [is] a horrible thing,” she said. “People are afraid they won’t be taken seriously, or it won’t be investigated properly, or there will be repercussions on them.”

It couldn’t be a timelier issue after a recent TimeTo survey of 1,250 respondents revealed 49% were concerned about sexual harassment becoming an issue as offices reopened, with some respondents commenting that working from home meant they didn’t have to live in fear of bullying and harassment.

“It’s so sad that lockdown has provided a respite from harassment,” Glazer said.

The same research found that 88% thought sexual harassment was still a top priority that employers need to tackle.

TimeTo’s efforts are primarily focused on stamping out harassment from the root and preventing it happening in the first place.

“You’ve got to go a step further than reporting – we have to change the culture and eradicate the behavior,” she said.

TimeTo is advocating for companies to make clear to their teams that they have a zero-tolerance attitude to sexual harassment and encourage employers to undergo TimeTo’s training programming.

“That culture needs to exist for people to feel truly comfortable,” Glazer said.