Stop being a bystander: timeTo steps up its action against sexual harassment

The timeTo team urged the industry to increase its focus on ending sexual harassment in advertising at Bloomfest.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


"How is it supposed to make women feel when a man can get in trouble for bad behaviour and yet keep a senior role in the industry?”

“A senior leader asked me as an intern to come back to his hotel room.”

The human cost of sexual harassment in advertising is evident in these two highly personal takes on sexual harassment, which were shared anonymously in the ‘Booth of Truth’ at Bloomfest, held at Channel 4 yesterday.

These real voices have been a driving force in the creation of timeTo, the advertising industry’s initiative to end sexual harassment in advertising. The timeTo movement is a joint initiative between the Advertising Association, NABS and WACL. It was apt therefore that timeTo chose Bloomfest as the platform to launch the latest wave of its research and an action plan to end sexual harassment in advertising.

In the 18 months since the launch, 232 companies across the industry have signed up to endorse the code. Yet research published by Credos, the UK advertising industry think tank, shows that one in ten respondents from companies that have endorsed the timeTo code have experienced sexual harassment during the past 12 months.

This research underlines the fact that sexual harassment is not a historical issue and despite the growth of the #MeToo movement, 79% of respondents who have been sexually harassed never reported the incident. A fact that was reflected in the human stories shared at Bloom; where women who have experienced sexual harassment spoke movingly of the double-burden; turning their experience in on themselves because they did not feel able to speak up. Shouldering the weight of both blame and judgement, through no fault of their own.

Breaking the silence

The timeTo campaign is stepping up its action to ensure such experiences are consigned to the industry’s history. To this end a new timeTo toolkit has been launched for all endorsing companies. In addition, a training programme developed by NABS to raise awareness, educate employees and drive cultural change will launch early next year.

Karen Fraser MBE, the director of Credos, says that the industry needs a new set of tools and resources to put an end to sexual harassment. She explained: “While awareness levels of timeTo and the ‘Where Do You Draw The Line?’ campaign are good, it’s clear that sexual harassment is still happening in our industry, as recently as in the past 12 months. Most victims are not officially reporting sexual harassment and this has to change.”


Never officially report being sexually harrassed
Of female respondents aged 18 -24 have been sexually harrassed
Have witnessed sexual harrassment happening to others

Don’t be a bystander to change: Taking action on how we can all play a role in eradicating sexual harassment

  1. Ensure your company has signed up to support the code; a full list of companies endorsing timeTo is here: http://timeto.org.uk
  2. If your company has already endorsed the code, download the toolkit over the next three months and implement it over the business during this period
  3. Regardless of your role in an organisation, make a personal commitment to speak up. As NABS explains in the timeTo toolkit: “As an observer of this type of behaviour, it can be much easier to just pretend it’s not happening and ignore it. After all, it may bring you unwanted attention or bring you into a situation you don’t want to be a part of. And, as uncomfortable as it may feel to become involved, in the longer term, it will make you feel much more uncomfortable to know that something was happening to a fellow colleague and you failed to act.”


Anyone experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment and seeking confidential advice and support should contact the team at NABS on 0800 707 6607

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