An email sent by a staffer at London agency The&Partnership, ranking women at the agency as "Top 5" in terms of attractiveness, is causing a storm in the U.K. advertising world.
Although the email was apparently sent as a "joke," it has made public the fact that such "Top 5" emails were, at least until recently, common practice in U.K. agency culture.
Paul Martin, a departing planner at The&Partnership, sent the email Friday, including wording that ranked women at the agency as "Top 5" and "Bottom 5" in terms of looks.
By Saturday, the email was being referred to on the Diet Madison Avenue Instagram account, with people commenting anonymously that the "Top 5" email custom had been common in U.K. agencies and also in Australia.
According to one London advertising source, the "Top 5" email was standard practice in many of the major U.K. ad agencies until a few years ago, before it was banned by legal departments. An exit email and "the last email you ever sent," it was used to rank not just female (or male) employees in terms of attractiveness, but "expenses claims, ridiculous client demands" and more, says the source.
In his apology, Martin says: "Sending these emails has become common practice at many ad agencies and in sending that email yesterday, I have contributed to that culture of toxic masculinity."
"All the women mentioned in it are friends and people I very genuinely love and respect. After checking with them that they were happy to be mentioned in the email (as part of what I erroneously considered at the time a 'joke') I thought that was enough to validate me pressing send. It wasn't and should never have been."
"The email was meant to be a stupid, ironic attempt to subvert and mock the sexist "Top 5" emails that have been sent around agencies for many years, but I have totally missed the mark and take full responsibility."
Martin, who has worked for The&Partnership for two years and previously worked at Fallon London, added that he had contributed to the TimesUp legal defense fund as part of his apology.
The&Partnership London meanwhile tweeted: "We do not condone sexism of any kind at The&Partnership LDN. We've apologised to our staff and others for any offence this email has caused, and have taken action to make it clear to all employees that we will not tolerate emails of this kind being sent in future, by men or women."