Sexual harassment endemic in the marketing industry

harassA damning report into sexual harassment in the advertising and marketing sector reveals that over a quarter (26%) of all staff have been sexually harassed at work, with 34% of women and 9% of men claiming to have been victims.
The report, which has been published by the Advertising Association, NABS and WACL and backed by the IPA and ISBA, follows the launch of the “timeTo” initiative in March to address the problem in the sector.
timeTo builds on the global #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, but with a recognition that all parts of the advertising industry are affected – all sexualities, ages and genders, agencies, marketers and media-owners – and that, by taking action together, the industry will be better placed to make positive change to stamp out sexual harassment.
Based on a comprehensive survey of over 3,500 industry insiders, the report shows that the vast majority (72%) of those who have been sexually harassed have been harassed more than once, and of them, 25% have been harassed six times or more.
A further 30% have witnessed sexual harassment happening to others so, in total, 41% have either experienced it and/or witnessed it (some people have both experienced it and witnessed it).
The report also debunks claims that sexual harassment only occurred in the “good old, bad old days”; some 20% of female respondents aged 18-24 have already been sexually harassed in the few years they have spent working in the industry. Some 5% of men in the same age group have also experienced sexual harassment.
Of those respondents who have been sexually harassed, 69% have experienced it within the last five years, while 28% have experienced it within the last 12 months.
The results also reveal a significant lack of clarity in both the definition of sexual harassment and in reporting systems, with many respondents also expressing distrust in reporting systems, and fears of career damage. Consequently 83% of those harassed said they did not officially report their experiences.
Looking forwards, 97% of people surveyed agreed that “sexual harassment should not be tolerated in our industry”, showing the almost universal desire for action.
In response, the cross-industry advisory group has developed the timeTo Code to accelerate change. This includes advice for senior management and HR professionals, for people who have been sexually harassed, for people who have witnessed sexual harassment, for people who fear they have behaved inappropriately and for people who may have been wrongfully accused. A copy of the timeTo Code is available for anyone in the industry to download at
Businesses including the AAR, BBH London, Havas London, ITV and Karmarama alongside industry bodies such as Thinkbox have already committed to supporting the Code from launch and making it an integral part of their company culture, and that of the wider industry. A communications campaign will follow to build industry-wide awareness and support of the timeTo Code.
Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford said: “It is clear that sexual harassment is a continuing blight with significant emotional and professional impact on the people in advertising. We should all strive for rapid and permanent change to make our industry a place where everyone can thrive without fear of sexual harassment.”
NABS boss Diana Tickell added: “Our survey shows not only a lack of understanding about what constitutes sexual harassment, but also a lack of confidence that offences will be dealt with. No one should ever have to put up with sexual harassment. It is crucial that people can identify harassment when it occurs and that everyone can be clear where the lines are. There can be no excuses and it must not be tolerated.
“For those who have been affected by sexual harassment – whether directly or indirectly – they can always turn to NABS, who offer free, impartial advice, support and guidance. No one should have to suffer in silence.”
NABS president Kerry Glazer, who is outgoing president of WACL and CEO of the AAR, said: “The survey findings reveal that all sectors of the marketing communications industry are affected: sexual harassment occurs across all genders, sexualities, roles, and company types.
“The negative impact of this on achievement, productivity, happiness, safety, and people’s basic right to equality and respect in the workplace, cannot be underestimated. By adopting the timeTo Code and increasing awareness that NABS is here for you if you need help, our industry can take huge and positive steps forward in making things better: safe, respectful, and equal for all.”
If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, contact NABS who can offer free, confidential advice, guidance and support on 0800 707 6607 or

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