A sobering reminder of adland’s sexual harassment problem

For many adland employees, working from home during the pandemic provided a welcome respite from workplace sexual harassment.

But with a phased return to offices underway, new research from the U.K.’s TimeTo reveals that 49% of ad professionals fear sexual harassment is destined to become more of an issue now that people are going back to the office. In fact, the research suggests many professionals are dreading a return to offices.

TimeTo was launched in 2018 by the Advertising Association, NABS (UK) and Women in Advertising and Communications Leadership to tackle the problem of sexual harassment in the advertising and marketing industry.

The organization has partnered with Lucky Generals on a new short film called “It’s Time to Draw the Line,” which presents an evolution of its previous tag line “Where Do You Draw the Line.” TimeTo said that its previous communications had sought to engage everyone in advertising, but that “enough is enough” when it comes to sexual harassment.

“We cannot go back and we urgently need change,” it said in a release accompanying the new video. “It’s time to draw the line and there is really no excuse for industry leaders not to take a much tougher line and to commit to lasting change, starting with the training.”

The short film features a series of shots of empty office environments, with voiceovers relaying real-life accounts of sexual harassment: “My manager used to put his hands under the desk and squeeze my knees” says one. “He assured me that if I didn’t stay back with him, I wouldn’t get promoted.”

As the spot progresses, a red line progressively unfolds throughout the various offices, coming to a stop at a a super urging business leaders to sign up for sexual harassment training and providing a link to thebtimeto.org.uk/training.

TimeTo’s Kerry Glazer said it’s likely that workplace sexual harassment is going to return to pre-pandemic levels. “So much has been said about the desire not to return to the ‘old normal’ and the will to ‘build back better,'” she said. “One thing we cannot tolerate is the resumption of historic predatory behaviour.”

Chris Powell