Following the exit of Martin Sorrell “under a cloud”, there seems to have been something of a purge in adland (did I really use that expression? Sorry).
This week Ogilvy fired its longstanding global creative chief Tham Kai Meng after a misconduct investigation.
The company-wide memo from CEO John Seifert read: “After carefully reviewing the investigation’s findings with several of my partners, we concluded that Khai’s behavior was a clear breach of our company values and code of conduct,” “I have decided to terminate Khai’s employment with the company with immediate effect.” Splat.
Now McCann Health has shown the door to its creative lead Jeremy Perrott. “We received a complaint about a violation of our Code of Conduct by McCann Health’s Jeremy Perrott,” read a company statement. “As a result, following an investigation, he is no longer with the company.” Wham.
Further investigation suggests the root of the Perrott complaint was “offensive and inappropriate” language.
Really? Is that it? Inappropriate language provokes a big network to fire its top creative talent? Has the agency world become so politically correct, all of a sudden?
Or have we been working with evil tyrants or monsters all this time, without realising it?
An industry populated by total bastards. That seems to be the implication.
WPP creative veteran Neil French certainly doesn’t think so. He paints the ousted individuals as the victims: “The ‘me-too’ get-out is a boon to moribund organizations, is it not? Find a turbulent priest, throw up your Trumplike little hands in mock horror, and the pc mob will do the rest.”
Is it because big networks have become terrified of law suits (remember JWT and L’affaire Martinez?) and will go to inordinate lengths to cover their arses, even at the expense of jettisoning their top people? It’s often said an agency’s greatest assets are its people. Yet we’re increasingly quick to drop them. Is that wise?
Or are we barking up the wrong tree? Maybe these were just people whose time had come or whose faces no longer fitted? The “internal investigation” simply saves face, where the reality was a night of the long knives?