NEWS29 June 2018

Ad industry launches sexual harassment code of conduct

Media News People Trends UK

UK – Over a quarter of people working in advertising and marketing have experienced sexual harassment, suggests the timeTo report published by the Advertising Association.

TimeTo Code_crop

Of the 3,580 people working in UK advertising and marketing communications who participated in the online survey, 26% said they had been sexually harassed while working in the industry. The figure represents a third ( 34%) of female respondents and 9% of male participants.

Sexual harassment in the workplace has been the subject of increased scrutiny in many industries following the #MeToo movement in which women globally shared their experiences. 

The timeTo initiative was launched by the Advertising Association, NABS and WACL earlier this year to tackle harassment – affecting both sexes – in the advertising and marketing industries, starting with the study by industry thinktank Credos to establish the scale of the issue.

The report found that one in five ( 20%) of female respondents aged 18 to 24 had been sexually harassed, while 69% of all respondents who had been harassed had experienced it within the past five years. Moreover, 72% of those who had been sexually harassed said they have been harassed more than once.

Meanwhile, almost a third of respondents ( 30%) had witnessed sexual harassment happening to other people, while the majority ( 83%) of those who had been harassed said they did not officially report their experiences.

The three organisations, backed by the IPA and ISBA, have launched a code of conduct off the back of the report’s findings. Available to download at, it offers guidance for agencies and employees on how to address sexual harassment in the workplace.

The AAR, BBH London, Havas London, ITV, Karmarama and Thinkbox have committed to support the code, according to a press release.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive, Advertising Association, 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.”

Kerry Glazer, president of NABS, 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.”   

Industry leaders, including chief executives and chief operating officers, were contacted via the organisations and asked their staff to complete the survey using an online software tool.

The survey sample was 66% female and skewed towards London-based individuals ( 81%). The largest proportion of respondents work for creative agencies ( 39%), followed by media agencies ( 34%), while media owners accounted for 8% of respondents, 4% were brand marketers, and 15% work for other types of marketing company, including PR, events and production.

Last month, the IPA launched a code of best practice on ‘dignity’ in the workplace, which offers its member agencies guidance on addressing harassment and inappropriate workplace culture. Additionally, in the US, Women in Research (WIRe) produced a resource guide, available globally, for those suffering harassment. 

No one should have to experience sexual harassment; anytime or anywhere. 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