Soc-Jus Joy Camp Alumni: Kevin Roberts

I failed exceptionally fast.

Name: Kevin Roberts

Profession: Ex Executive Director of Saatchi and Saatchi

Soc-Jus Charge: Sex-crime; Thought-crime

Soc-Jus Sentence: Public Shaming and Immediate Resignation

Joy Camp Designation:  August 2016


Brother Roberts: (b 1949) was the Chairman of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi  – one of the world’s leading creative organizations – and Head Coach of Publicis Groupe, the Paris-based global communications group, whose motto is Viva la difference!’ and are active in 108 countries, employing 80,000 professionals.

Formally the CEO of Pepsi Canada, Roberts was appointed the role of CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi in 1997. Saatchi was in “deep trouble, with morale at an all-time low” but against all odds, he was able to turn things around and make Saatchi & Saatchi into one of the best advertising agencies around the world.

In 2004, he wrote Lovemarks: the Future Beyond Brands, a ground-breaking business book published in 18 languages, showing how emotion can inspire businesses and brands to deliver sustainable value. In 2006, Saatchi & Saatchi won a US$430 million JC Penney on the basis of his concept. In 2009 Lovemarks was named one of the ten Ideas of the Decade by Advertising Age.

Edward de Bono once told me there is no point in being brilliant at the wrong thing — the fucking debate is all over. This is a diverse world, we are in a world where we need, like we’ve never needed before, integration, collaboration, connectivity, and creativity … this will be reflected in the way the Groupe is.  Brother Roberts

Oldspeak: Brother Roberts made ‘outrageous sexist remarks’ about his sister workers during an interview with Business Insider after he was asked what he thought about gender diversity in the advertising industry.

The veteran advertising executive responded by saying that he doesn’t spend “any time” on gender issues and that the debate is over when it comes to gender diversity in his industry.

His contention was that women are a bit less likely to want senior roles in business. They are not discriminated against as they do get the offers. But they are more likely to turn them down.

“Their ambition is not a vertical ambition.  It is this intrinsic circular ambition to be happy. So they say: ‘We are not judging ourselves by those standards that you idiotic dinosaur-like men judge yourself by’”. Brother Roberts

Thinkpol two minutes: Many loyal goodthinkers quickly took to prolefeed to call out Brother Roberts for his comments leading to the issue of a dayorder by the Ministry of Truth.

Minitruth spokespersons decreed that sexism is an industry-wide problem and that while 65 percent of all Saatchi & Saatchi’s employees are female, it is estimated that only 11 percent of creative directors in the industry are women.

Within 24 hours Publicis Groupe suspended Brother Roberts and referred the matter to the Ministry of Love.

A few days later Brother Roberts resigned.

The following Sunday Monday BBC One hosted a live debate about women and ambition asking members of the public to tweet in if they thought Brother Roberts was correct.

“It is for the gravity of these statements that Kevin  has been asked to take a leave of absence  effective immediately. Diversity & inclusion are business imperatives on which Publicis Groupe will not negotiate, we will not tolerate anyone speaking for our organization who does not value the importance of inclusion.” Maurice Lévy – Publicis Groupe Chief Executive.

Thoughts from the Chestnut Tree Cafe Collective:

Hoiking men from public life at a moment’s notice for being unable to give completely 100 per cent satisfactory answers on head-bangingly complex gender issues does not, I fear, help women’s road to equality. It makes us look like a sinister, peculiarly thin-skinned, laughably volatile Lidl-brand Stazi. Grace Dent.

Group think has spread out from academia and Quangoland to conquer large corporates. The irony is that on no other subject is there a more stringent demand for uniformity than the sensitive matter of “diversity”. Only identikit opinion can be tolerated. Truth as the basis for deviant views does not seem to amount to a defence. Personal experiences may prove inconveniently at odds with the prevailing orthodoxy. It is best to keep quiet about such complications. Harry Phibbs

For any industry – advertising more than most – robust free expression is crucial. There needs to be openness, rigour, and a clash of ideas for the creative process to flourish. How many bright young hopes – whether male or female – will look at the shabby treatment given to Roberts and resolve that Saatchis is not the firm for them? They will look elsewhere for a company with the confidence to allow a range of opinions to be fearlessly expressed.

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