IPA to introduce a code of conduct in wake of Top Five email

The IPA is introducing a Code of Conduct for agencies to use in their employment policies on bullying and harassment issues, including objectification.

IPA president Sarah Golding: 'Agency cultures are very different... but how you respect each other as colleagues should be the same'
IPA president Sarah Golding: 'Agency cultures are very different... but how you respect each other as colleagues should be the same'

The move follows the leak of an email sent to the whole of The & Partnership's London office listing the ‘Top Five’ and ‘Bottom Five’ female employees by their looks. The email, which garnered national media attention, was sent by a departing planner. 

According to the IPA, the industry template will "outline what objectification means and give advice on what acceptable work behaviours look like in order to stop any activities that objectify men or women".

The move was led by IPA President Sarah Golding, chief executive and partner of The&Partnership and revealed last week.

Golding said: "Council members came together at the IPA, as part of Advertising Week, to discuss a number of issues. One of these issues was what we could do as industry leaders to collectively put an end to any agency practice that seek to objectify men or women.

"What we agreed was that the IPA would pull together a template for agencies to adapt for their employment guidelines if there is no advice already. Agency cultures are very different, and it is important they are different, but how you respect each other as colleagues should be the same.

"We are now gathering best practice examples and will be issuing this template in the next couple of weeks. This initiative is one of many that the IPA has undertaken as part of its Diversity agenda which we are very proud of.

Following the publication of the original story Campaign received another "Top Five" email from a departing account planner at The & Partnership in which his "Top Five" women appear in a Top of the Pops-style countdown because, according to his email, "it's tradition".

A subsequent open-source Google document was created to shine a light on the "Top Five" practice across London advertising agencies. The document accuses Wieden & Kennedy, VCCP and Iris of being places where these lists have been circulated.

A spokesman for Wieden & Kennedy London said: "Wieden & Kennedy London is committed to providing an environment for creative people of all kinds to do the best work of their lives; we’re pushing ourselves on what that looks like in 2018 and stopping anything that gets in the way of it."

A VCCP spokeswoman said the "Top Five" favourite individuals and teams were occasionally a feature in informal leaving emails from both men and women, but the practice died out some time ago. VCCP emphasised that the leaving email which has sparked this controversy is not in any way comparable, adding: "It is unacceptable and offensive and has rightly been condemned across the industry."

A spokeswoman for Iris said: "'Top Five' emails from male or female leavers have never been a formal or encouraged tradition, they have been largely non-sexual in nature, and there have been none of a sexual nature in recent months. Top Five emails instead tend to refer leavers' favourite jokers, inspiring people, agency playlists and local lunch-spots, for example.

"Nonetheless, the company has made it clear on several occasions, and again recently, that regardless of content 'Top Fives' are against company policy and is not acceptable behaviour from any member of staff."

Commenting on the email, the campaigner and founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, Cindy Gallop, said that it is "absolutely astounding" that in March of 2018 anybody could possibly have thought that this email was remotely acceptable as a public missive.

She continued: "The entire email stands as a huge indictment of the white male-dominated UK ad industry that has cultivated and allowed to flourish this truly disgusting industry culture of sexism, racism, misogyny, sexual harassment and objectification of women (replicated in our industry around the world), that continues to keep women out of leadership and power."