Less than two weeks after Joe Alexander’s abrupt departure from The Martin Agency — with (at the time) no explanation as to why — a new era begins at the Interpublic Group shop.
In the ensuing 12 days after Alexander’s departure press reports — kudos to Adweek for advancing the story first — revealed a pattern of sexual harassment on the part of the former head creative, going back to the 1990s. Harassment that was dismissed, overlooked and generally not taken seriously by upper management at the agency.
Alleged victims were reportedly told to go work it out with the harasser. Others who spoke up were laid off.
So clearly there were enablers among the upper ranks at The Martin Agency who didn’t want to mess with success — Alexander helped steer creative strategy for major clients like GEICO and Wal-Mart.
Both he and outgoing CEO Matt Williams started at the agency in the early '90s. They were named Chief Creative Officer and CEO, respectively, in 2012.
IPG definitely made the right call today, replacing Williams with Kristen Cavallo, the agency’s first female CEO.
Cavallo should be able to hit the ground running — this is her second tour at the agency. But she has her work cut out for her. Clients don’t like scandals, as IPG’s Campbell Ewald found out last year when it lost USAA after a racist incident at the agency. It should be noted that IPG’s Michael Roth was quick to make top level management changes then, as well.
And Cavallo has to take internal action to ensure that abuses like those attributed to Alexander simply aren’t permitted to take place going forward.
That's easier said than done. Let’s hope she succeeds.