Adland’s anger at ‘unacceptable’ tabloid reporting of JWT discrimination case

Several adland organisations are set to complain to IPSO about MailOnline's coverage.

JWT: parent company WPP used its Twitter feed to criticise the media coverage
JWT: parent company WPP used its Twitter feed to criticise the media coverage

Creative Equals and Bloom are among the ad industry organisations that have condemned some of the media coverage surrounding the recent JWT sex discrimination case as “unacceptable”.

WPP, the parent company of JWT, also took the unusual step of using its Twitter feed to criticise the media coverage.

The organisations were particularly angry with MailOnline, which published personal photographs and information about Jo Wallace, a female creative director at JWT, following a London employment tribunal ruling that two male creatives were made redundant unfairly “because of their sex”.

Wallace was not involved in JWT's decision to make her then colleagues, Chas Bayfield and Dave Jenner, redundant in 2018 but MailOnline’s coverage focused heavily on her.

Wallace had previously spoken at a Creative Equals conference, alongside JWT executive creative director Lucas Peon, where she introduced herself as a gay woman and said she wanted to “obliterate” the reputation that the agency was full of white, privileged, straight men after the company had disclosed a gender pay gap of 44.7%.

Bayfield and Jenner, who are in their 50s, claimed they were made redundant soon afterwards as part of a diversity drive at JWT, and the tribunal found this month that they had been discriminated against on the grounds of sex – but not race, age or sexual orientation.

Wunderman Thompson, the successor agency to JWT, is appealing the ruling.

MailOnline’s coverage used social media images of Wallace on holiday, wearing swimwear and in an intimate embrace with her named partner, as well as details of her home and where she lives in London, in a news story published on Friday (23 July).

Some prominent social media users went on to post highly critical messages about Wallace. Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of The Sun, said her agency “should fire” her.

Creative Equals, a consultancy that works to improve inclusivity in the creative industries, said on Saturday it had made a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), describing the coverage as “sensationalist”.

It also pointed out that Wallace spoke at the conference together with Peon in a joint presentation and that James Whitehead, the chief executive of JWT, was in the audience.

— CreativeEquals (@CreativeEquals) July 24, 2021

It added: “Compare and contrast the treatment and almost complete absence of these senior men in the coverage. Certainly no pictures of them in swimming trunks.

“In this narrative, let's be clear there is no place for sexism and homophobia. Her sexual orientation should never have been part of any press or her partner mentioned in any of these articles.”

Bloom, a networking organisation for women in advertising, said: “Bloom fully stands with Jo Wallace. She is an inspirational leader, an award-winning creative director and a champion of driving equality within our industry.”

Bloom accused the MailOnline of encouraging “sexism and homophobia” and urged followers to complain to IPSO.

Outvertising, an advocacy group for LGBTQ+ people in the advertising and marketing industry, said: “We are angered by the Daily Mail's divisive reporting of the JWT sex discrimination case that unnecessarily brings Jo Wallace's sexual orientation into a nuanced and complex narrative.”

Campaign has requested comment from MailOnline.

Wallace continues to work at Wunderman Thompson, which said:  “We are shocked and appalled by the personal attacks aimed at Jo and condemn this behaviour. We ask that people treat Jo with respect and kindness.”

The agency previously said: “We would like to make clear that no claim was brought against Jo Wallace. She did not dismiss the claimants, and was not involved in the redundancy decision-making process.”

WPP added on Twitter: “We are appalled by the reporting of this case by some media and the personal attacks on Jo Wallace are totally unacceptable. We continue to make clear to the press that Jo had nothing to do with the redundancy decisions.”

The Editor's Code of Practice states that "everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications".

It adds: "Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so."

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