New Delhi: Dentsu Aegis Network, one of the biggest advertising agencies, on Thursday said that its creative marketing agency Happy Creative Services’ chief executive Kartik Iyer and managing director Praveen Das have stepped down from their respective positions after they have been called out by multiple women for sexual harassment.
Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, senior creative director at Happy Creative Services and Dinesh Swamy, national creative director, iProspect India, have also been asked to quit in the wake of multiple sexual harassment allegations under the ongoing #MeToo movement. The agency, in a week-long internal investigation, found the charges true and has decided to let go of the employees who have been called out on social media platforms. “Dentsu Aegis Network has always believed in providing a safe environment at our workplaces which is free from any kind of harassment. We have a zero tolerance policy towards any kind of harassment at our workplaces," the agency said. The company has an internal complaints committee (ICC), as well as Dentsu Aegis’s Women Council, in place.
The #MeToo wave hit the advertising industry in India about a week ago with many women calling out the top brass, as well as other employees, of multiple agencies, including Dentsu Aegis Network, Publicis India, DDB Mudra and Creativeland Asia. All the agencies have come out in support of the victims and ordered investigations against the perpetrators. DDB Mudra said it is looking into the allegations made against three employees, including chief creative technologist Brijesh Jacob and its digital agency 22feet Tribal Worldwide’s chief executive officer Deepak Nair and senior photographer Aniruddha Das.
“Since 2013 we have an Internal Complaints Committee, including a third party member, which investigates any complaints received by it and its recommendations are duly implemented. Also, the DDB Mudra Group periodically engages in awareness-building, gender sensitization and prevention of sexual harassment at workplace training for all its employees," said a spokesperson from DDB Mudra Group in an emailed response to a query.
Publicis India sprung into action when its executive creative director Ishrath Nawaz was called out on micro-blogging platform Twitter for harassing women. The agency has initiated an internal investigation in the case.
“We have taken note of the incidences reported in the tweets. We are deeply concerned by the seriousness of these allegations and are investigating them on priority. We will ascertain facts of the matter and see that the outcome is fair and just; and appropriate actions are taken as per the company’s policy. We reiterate that Publicis India has a zero-tolerance policy towards any type of workplace misconduct or abuse of power or harassment," said a Publicis Groupe spokesperson.
The agency reiterated that it has an ICC set up in the Publicis Groupe in line with The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013—PoSH Act 2013. The committee at Publicis Groupe was formed in 2014.
The #MeToo wave has also hit independent agencies such as Creativeland Asia whose founder Sajan Raj Kurup has also been called out for his inappropriate behaviour and sexual misconduct at the workplace. In an emailed response, the agency stated that it abides by all requirements of law when it comes to protecting the interests of all its employees.
“Gender sensitisation of employees and awareness measures are continuous and on-going processes at CLA. As a procedure any allegations on individuals are investigated thoroughly and relevant actions are taken," it said.
Ad agencies are in overdrive in issuing statements and conducting workshops to create awareness about sexual harassment. A group of senior women leaders from agencies including Ogilvy, JWT, Lowe Lintas and FCB Ulka are holding meetings to create an “easily accessible" agency agnostic platform backed by “women leaders" to focus on addressing harassment across Indian advertising, design and media industries.