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A rape alarm: For working late, client dinners and Cannes

Why a group of senior creatives have come together to create a campaign to challenge and confront sexual harassment

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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A rape alarm: For working late, client dinners and Cannes 

How to get a pay rise book: To claw your way past the gender pay gap

A non-sexist joke book: To make your banter less sexist

Tea bags: To offer a supportive ear to female colleagues 

These are the items included in the ‘welcome to advertising’ bags as part of a new campaign to challenge sexual harassment in advertising. 

On first look, the bags look like a fun, harmless welcome package. However, on a closer inspection, instead of the usual range of branded freebies such as sweets, pens and a book one strategist or other, the alarming reality of the items is revealed.

The bag for women features items such as: An evidence bag for collecting DNA after a sexual assault. A dictaphone: to record abuse, threats and gaslighting incidents. Antidepressants: to help you through burnout and mental illness.

While the bag targeted at men includes a megaphone: to call out misogyny when you see it. A copy of the Sexual Offences Act 2003: to know the law so the lines are clear.  And a TImer: ‘To stop you from dominating airtime in meeting’s. Each ad also features contact numbers and direct helpline information for NABS, Equality Advisory Support Service and Rape Crisis. 

Too many times have we remained silent, turned a blind eye or made excuses. We want to let every person know if they ever experience any sexual harassment that we stand with them and there is support available and they dont have to feel like we felt when it happened to us.

Member of The Change Collective

Sexual harassment is not a historic issue

The campaign comes as the recent timeto survey underlines that sexual harassment is not a historic issue in adland. “Working from home during lockdown has meant I can work freely, without fear or even the possibility of sexual harassment.” In an ecosystem in which respite from sexual harassment is viewed as a legitimate upside to remote working, it is clear the industry has a long way to go when it comes to taking action to stop sexual harassment. 

To contribute to tackling the issue and the veil of silence that still surrounds sexual harassment in advertising this group of senior creatives hope these hard-hitting ads will help challenge and confront the sexual harassment and misogyny young adlanders face in the industry every day. And show them where and how they can get support.

According to the collective, the work was inspired by a litany of harrowing and horrendous personal experiences from a lifetime career in advertising. It features two photographs viciously twisting the trope of welcome gift bags that new recruits to the industry often receive from HR.

The group, which is called The Change Collective, is made up of senior creatives, photographers and PR experts. The collective says they are ‘frustrated at the lack of support for women, sexual harassment victims and the NDA culture within the industry that allows perpetrators of this behaviour to remain in positions of power, despite their wrongdoing.” The collective says it aims to open the industry's eyes to the bleak fact that some people who are in positions of influence can remain impartial to the abuse.

From awareness to accountability

While concerns abound in the industry for the need to move from awareness-raising to action this collective endeavour underlines the importance of keeping harassment at the very top of the industry. For particularly amongst women who have signed NDA’s or unable to talk about their experiences contributing to and driving campaigns for change brings with it the oxygen of truth into the rooms in which they are still unable to speak. Such a collective endeavour allows women to share support, insights and lived experiences and a reminder that victims are not alone. 

As a senior creative and member of The Change Collective, explains: “The sexual harassment and misogyny people face daily within the industry is frustratingly and depressingly all too common. The work comes from a place of sad truth and bitter experience and we collectively as experts in our field who love what we do, wanted to find a way to try and protect our community.

While another member added: “Too many times have we remained silent, turned a blind eye or made excuses. We want to let every person know if they ever experience any sexual harassment that we stand with them and there is support available and they don't have to feel like we felt when it happened to us.”

If you’ve been affected by sexual harassment contact the NABS Advice Line on 0800 707 6607 during working hours or for more resources visit the NABS website.

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