Ally Financial is stepping back from Vice Media, the Brooklyn-based media outlet that was recently the subject of sexual misconduct allegations. While the digital bank is the first to say it is freezing the company out of potential new assignments, other brands say they are closely monitoring the situation.
"We believe it's in Ally's best interest to pause the relationship," says Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing officer for the Detroit-based bank, which had used Vice on a project basis for over a year on Gen Z-and millennial-focused marketing content series. "We could pick it back up in the future if it makes sense, but right now we're not comfortable proceeding."
Brimmer met with Vice last month to discuss concerns over the recent allegations "and make a decision based upon what we learn," she said ahead of that meeting.
Vice has been trying to address the matter as best it can, she says now. But that doesn't appear to be enough. At this time Ally "has no imminent plans for additional content development," Brimmer says.
A Vice spokesman offered a more ambiguous statement. "As Ally stated, our relationship with them has not changed since previously reported," he said. "We continue to work with them on a project by project basis, and remain in close contact with them."
Vice late last month fired Mike Germano, its chief digital officer and the head of its Carrot Creative digital studio, after an internal investigation. Germano had been named in a December New York Times report detailing multiple complaints of sexual misconduct by executives, along with a "boys club" culture promoting sexism at the 24-year-old company. Vice's president, Andrew Creighton, was also named in the New York Times story and has been under investigation at the company since the beginning of the year. That investigation continues, a spokesman said on Monday.
Marketers beyond Ally are also concerned. A representative of a brand that works with Vice says the company has not been proactively communicating with clients and that the brand had to reach out to Vice for information about the situation.
"Why as a client do I have to go to you?" asked the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying that the lack of transparency has not been reassuring.
A spokesman for Lululemon, which tapped Vice's agency Virtue for several campaigns last year, declined to comment about the status of its relationship with the agency. (Last week, the Canadian sportswear brand announced the abrupt exit of its own CEO, Laurent Potdevin, after he "fell short of… standards of conduct," according to a press release.)
For its part, Vice has said that it is engaged and forthcoming with clients. Recently, the company has begun a host of initiatives to improve its work culture, including mandatory anti-harassment training and expanding its human resources department.
Late last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Vice Media missed its 2017 revenue target of $805 million by some $100 million, citing sources familiar with the situation.