The Elephant in the Industry

The Story Behind Our March 21 Cover

By Published on .

D Dipasupil/Getty Images
D Dipasupil/Getty Images

The following Editor's Letter appears in the March 21 print edition of Advertising Age.

What you're holding in your hands is Advertising Age's Talent Issue, featuring our impressive 40 Under 40 honorees. You'll find the 40 Under 40 package on p. 9, where I hope you like the design and layout as much as I do. We even had a beautiful cover drawn up.

Events, however, have a way of overtaking us: The cover is now dedicated to coverage of the ongoing lawsuit against WPP and JWT.

More than a few people will probably grouse that Ad Age is focusing on the negative rather than celebrating or uplifting the industry, especially as agency executives gather this week in Miami for the 4A's Transformation conference.

The fact is the JWT lawsuit, whatever direction it takes, is simply the public face of an ongoing issue that the ad world has been grappling with for years, one that affects the talent that is the backbone of the industry. We've been hearing stories -- on the record, on background and off the record -- that are as depressing as they are unsurprising.

And that might be the saddest testament in all of this. People seemed less shocked by the contents of the lawsuit than by someone actually filing one.

One has to wonder whether Erin Johnson's actions will encourage others to speak up.

"This sort of thing is just something we live with" seems to be a prevailing attitude in an industry where women and minorities who want to make it to the top have to put up with bad behavior or else be seen as some sort of troublemaker.

Just remember this: You don't have to live with it.

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