Duncan Milner, the longtime TBWA creative executive who led numerous award-winning Apple ad campaigns, has sued the agency for wrongful termination in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Milner, 61, worked at the agency for 31 years and was terminated in June. The agency said it could no longer “carry” his salary.
Milner is basically contending age discrimination, which is awfully tough to prove from a legal standpoint.
After reading the complaint, I get the sense Milner’s days were numbered after he shot off a memo in 2015 to his boss (or one of his bosses at the time) Troy Ruhanen, then head of TBWA New York, and now president-CEO of TBWA Worldwide.
Milner told Ruhanen that he found his yearly performance bonus “an insult” at worst and at best a “criticism of my performance.”
Dude, are you serious??
That’s the kind of comment we all fantasize about making after we get a crap bonus. And then we take a breath, reassess and if we actually decide to say something, put it in super suck-up and ass-kissing terms like: “What could I have done differently to earn the bonus that I felt was more commensurate with my performance? And by the way, have I told you lately that I worship the ground you walk on?”
Mere mortals, no matter how creative they are, don’t tell their bosses the bonus they received was insulting.
In the same memo, Milner griped about his base salary being “stagnant” for three years with no new stock grants since 2012.
So Milner is getting a base salary, some kind of bonus and stock grants through most of his time at the agency. Yet he didn’t feel that the agency or parent company, Omnicom, also named in the suit, held “my contribution or value in very high regard.”
The moment he felt that way, he should have started shopping around instead of whining to his boss. Lots of agencies are looking for great talent.
More power to you Duncan, but my bet: This case will settle pretty quickly at terms you were discussing before filing suit.