Idea might be king, but reputation is queen. And our industry will seemingly do anything to protect it.
If you need convincing, consider the agencies that write codes of conduct while moving alleged sexual predators within the wider agency group – reminiscent of parish transfers. We live in a culture of whispers, one where those who suggest something different are seen as "difficult". And we’re failing to deal with the consequences this secrecy enables.
It’s no coincidence that we’ve seen a rise in private forums such as Fishbowl, closed Facebook groups and the now-shut-down (as a result of a lawsuit) Diet Madison Avenue. Those who are talking online are probably the same people who were talking in hushed tones in the office. All that has changed is the medium.
But taking the conversation online is a Band-Aid on an axe wound – especially since these spaces can be antagonistic, which isn’t surprising when veiled by anonymity and missing a positive next step to tackling the problem. And as we learned from Cindy Gallop’s experience asking for stories and names, the issue wasn’t getting the stories – it’s getting people to go on record. While we continue to burn whistleblowers at the stake and threaten court action, this is unlikely to change.
The truth is, although names are necessary for change to occur at an individual level, as a collective we can learn from these stories without them. As a result, we’re launching a truly safe space that enables everyone to share their experiences for the better of the industry.
Meet Untold Stories – a platform that will appear in Campaign as a series of experiences.
It will surface the "we know it’s there, but we won’t talk about it" topics. Parents: please tell us if and how you negotiated parental leave that worked for you. If you’re a male creative who knows he’s treated differently to his female counterpart, getting the eye contact in meetings, the credit or the chat about football over lunch, tell us about it. If you’ve been harassed and want to share your story anonymously, please write in. To the planners out there, let’s discuss how you managed to break into the industry without a red-brick education or a signet ring.
This is a place where someone – anyone – can speak their truth, both for their own sanity and for another's benefit. And it’ll be heard by the people who need to hear it – the readership of Campaign, aka everyone in our industry. Through first-hand experiences, we can encourage empathy and raise awareness of issues that affect employees on a day-to-day basis. This is a platform – one that can provide its readers with solutions and positive practices to take to their agencies.
We need to make our industry a place where people feel comfortable enough to come forward. If an anonymous column is the necessary first step, so be it.
Have an experience you think should be shared? Help our industry take action by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.