IPG Chief Michael Roth on Firing Campbell Ewald’s CEO and Being a Leader in Diversity

After staffer's racist email incident, 'we are moving forward'

When it recently came to light that agency Campbell Ewald had for several months quietly tolerated a racist email sent by a creative director, the response from parent company IPG was a swift executive decapitation.

Not only was the San Antonio-based creative director behind the "Ghetto Day" note fired in January shortly after AgencySpy published the email, originally sent in October 2015, but CEO Jim Palmer was also terminated almost immediately. He was replaced by Campbell Ewald president Kevin Wertz.

The high-profile move, though quick, was not enough to stop major client USAA from dropping the agency, though it may have helped staunch the bleeding of any further client walkouts over the incident.

After IPG's quarterly earnings call today, Adweek spoke to Interpublic Group chairman and CEO Michael Roth about several issues, including Palmer's firing.

Here's what Roth had to say about the termination and the standing of Campbell Ewald:

"I made a change in their leadership, and I have faith in the current leadership. I think what happened was unfortunate, but I wouldn't view it as a systemic problem within the agency: We felt that individuals did not handle a situation appropriately, and we took immediate action in terms of removing those people from the agency because this was not consistent with our overall culture of diversity and inclusion. We are moving forward.

"We as a company have an extensive diversity/inclusion program. We tie our CEOs' performance to certain objectives and we hold them accountable. Just yesterday we were awarded the New York Urban League's Champions of Diversity award in New York, and we are well recognized as a leader in our industry.

"I believe we're on track to making progress, but I think we've got a ways to go.

"We've moved beyond quotas. Our industry has to move toward inclusion because the marketplace demands it. If we don't have people who represent the consumer, then how can we represent the client? We started this effort a number of years ago, and we continue to get awards and recognitions … while holding our people accountable."

Check out Adweek's Q&A with Michael Roth for more.