One of the UK's top advertising bosses has been told to take a "leave of absence" after making some dodgy claims about gender diversity in advertising that incurred the derision of some of the most powerful women in the industry.
The chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi Worldwide Kevin Roberts, who also has the title "head coach" for its parent company Publicis Groupe, said that the issue of gender diversity was over at the agency, where clients include HSBC, Visa, Mondelez and Procter and Gamble.
Roberts said the creative agency doesn't spend "any time" on the matter and industries such as finance were "way worse" while saying women simply did not want to become senior leaders in the industry, in a tone-deaf interview with Business Insider.
The boss of the world's third largest advertising group Maurice Levy sought to distance Publicis from the comments in a letter to staff, assuring them that they were not the views of the company.
Now, Roberts has been "asked to take a leave of absence" the French ad group said in a statement, with immediate effect.
"Diversity and inclusion are business imperatives on which Publicis Groupe will not negotiate. While fostering a work environment that is inclusive of all talent is a collective responsibility, it is leadership’s job to nurture the career aspirations and goals of all our talent," it said.
"Promoting gender equality starts at the top and the Groupe will not tolerate anyone speaking for our organisation who does not value the importance of inclusion. Publicis Groupe works very hard to champion diversity and will continue to insist that each agency’s leadership be champions of both diversity and inclusion."
Roberts also claimed that one of the most well known women in advertising, Cindy Gallop, a vocal champion for diversity in the industry had "problems that are of her own making".
"I think she's making up a lot of the stuff to create a profile, and to take applause, and to get on a soap," Roberts said.
Gallop responded to the comment by asking the industry to respond to Roberts directly on Twitter. Here's what they said...
Mel Exon, former managing director of BBH, founder of BBH Labs, incoming chief executive of Sunshine.
Claire Beale, global editor-in-chief of ad bible Campaign.
Wendy Clark, chief executive at DDB Worldwide, former president of strategic marketing Coca-Cola.
25 yrs ago I was an ad agency receptionist. Today I'm the CEO. I'm much happier in the c-suite, thanks all the same. https://t.co/Mf9OWKEAuS— wendy clark (@wnd) July 29, 2016
Brad Jakeman, president of global beverage group, PepsiCo.
Nick Childs, global creative officer at Initiative Worldwide.
Fran Diamond, vice president of global social strategy at Leo Burnett.
Natalie Graeme, managing director at Grey London.
Lawrence Weber, managing partner Karmarama.
@larakiara old school dinosaur :(— lawrenceweber (@lawrenceweber) July 30, 2016
Lindsay Pattison, chief executive of Maxus Worldwide.