Earlier this week, Interpublic Group’s Deutsch LA fired Chief Creative Officer Brett Craig for authoring an alleged racist email about the agency’s casting decisions.
In some ways, the incident serves as a textbook case of the kind of systemic racism that exists in the industry and groups like 600 & Rising are others are now trying to eradicate.
In one email, Craig wrote: “I think were [sic] now BET channel,” referring to Black Entertainment Television and referred to a casting candidate as “Not so urban/AA” meaning African American.
The email is bad enough, but the timing of it raises other issues. It was written in 2015 and only resurfaced after a former employee posted it on social media.
My guess is IPG CEO Michael Roth would have been pretty steamed if he had been made aware of Craig’s racist missive earlier. He has made it clear for years that there is no room for racism at IPG companies. Or sexism or harassment or any inappropriate behavior within the company’s workplaces.
The same year that Craig wrote the above-referenced slurs, a creative at another IPG shop — Campbell Ewald San Antonio — penned a memo declaring the office would be celebrating “Ghetto Day in the SA and we’re inviting our Big D homebitches to cycle in and pop a freak with us.”
It wasn’t until early 2016 the memo surfaced publicly. The creative was fired, and Interpublic made a CEO switch at Campbell Ewald, in part because the incumbent, Jim Palmer, failed to take prompt action.
That whole affair was messy and costly. USAA, the biggest client at Campbell Ewald’s San Antonio office, fired the agency and ended up moving to Publicis Groupe. At least two other clients followed suit in short order.
It remains to be seen whether there is further fallout at Deutsch. Other than confirming Craig’s firing, the agency hasn’t had much to say about the incident. But you can a bet a lot is being said within the agency and its parent company.