We Hear: Agencies Held Meetings on Campbell Ewald’s ‘Ghetto Day’ This Week

By Patrick Coffee 

Instead of just taking joy in the suffering of a competitor, several agencies appear to be using the firing of Campbell Ewald’s CEO over a racially-charged email as a cautionary tale.

We hear that multiple shops around the country held staff meetings this week to specifically address the events that led to the firing of a creative director, the loss of a major piece of business and the departure of CEO Jim Palmer. The lesson may be that management shouldn’t quietly tolerate something as nonsensical and obviously offensive as a “Ghetto Day” invite and wait until after it goes public to take action.

In case you missed it, the timeline:

  • We received the email and asked the agency to respond
  • Campbell Ewald issued a statement claiming that management had “addressed this matter” when it first happened in October and apologized to all offended parties
  • The following day, a source informed us that the email’s sender had been fired
  • At some point both IPG and USAA learned about the story
  • On Friday, the holding company terminated Palmer
  • We later learned that USAA had moved to end its contract with C-E
  • IPG then told us that it would launch a new account unit in an attempt to retain the business

It will not come as a complete surprise to learn that multiple agencies held staff meetings this week in order to specifically address that series of events.

One of our sources called it “a humbling moment” and told us management used the meeting to point out that the “joke” in this case was hardly worth the subsequent loss.

The media’s postmortem response to date has been very reserved save for a MediaPost story which summarized its thesis with “Think before you speak.

We obviously didn’t attend any of these meetings, but if the subject came up at your agency we would be very interested to learn more about what was discussed and what sorts of conclusions, if any, were drawn.