Two middle-aged male creatives at a top advertising agency have won a sex discrimination claim after a female director vowed to ‘obliterate’ its Mad Men reputation of being full of straight, white men.
Chas Bayfield and Dave Jenner, both in their fifties and renowned creative directors at J. Walter Thompson (JWT), were among five men axed from the leading ad agency because bosses ‘urgently’ wanted to address its poor gender pay gap.
A damning gender pay gap report had sent ‘shock waves’ through the firm as it highlighted there was a serious lack of female representation, a tribunal heard.
Female creative director Jo Wallace was appointed to help lose the company’s ‘Knightsbridge Boys Club’ reputation and jointly held a diversity conference called ‘Crisis: The Mother of All Change’.
Ms Wallace, 44, who introduced herself as a gay woman, told the conference: ‘One thing we all agree on is that the reputation JWT once earnt – as being full of white, British, privileged [men] – has to be obliterated.’
When Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner expressed ‘valid’ concerns over the safety of their jobs, bosses reacted ‘furiously’ and took it as a ‘challenge’ to their new diversity drive, then made them redundant.
Mr Bayfield, who made the famous Blackcurrant Tango ‘St George’ ad, and Mr Jenner worked at the firm from January 2016 to their dismissal in November 2018.
A spokesman for Mr Jenner today told MailOnline he hoped the judgment would ‘encourage more people to stand up to the ‘Cancel Club’.’
Wunderman Thompson, which merged with JWT, told MailOnline it would be appealing today’s ruling.
Chas Bayfield (above) and Dave Jenner won a sex discrimination claim against JWT London after being fired in November 2018 for addressing concerns about job security
Mr Bayfield made the famous Blackcurrant Tango ‘St George’ advert, pictured
Jo Wallace, who introduced herself as a gay woman at the conference, was appointed to help JWT lose its ‘Knightsbridge Boys Club’ reputation
Jo Wallace: The ‘kick-ass Superwoman’ ex-Saatchi & Saatchi director behind ads for Nestle, L’Oreal and Nivea – who boasts she hosts ‘the best dinner party you’ll ever go to’
Jo Wallace is the company’s global creative director, who has won a series of awards across more than 20 years in the industry.
After graduating from Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College in 1999 with a First in graphic design and advertising, she worked as a creative writer for companies such as The AA, Tango, Pot Noodle and Guinness.
She then moved on to directing commercials and short films before landing a job at Draftfcb, where she boasts she ‘played a major role in winning the US$1.4 billion NIVEA Global pitch’.
While working at Saatchi & Saatchi, Ms Wallace created and co-curated the exhibition ‘There’s a Good Girl’, which aimed to showcase and celebrate female creative talent to a wider audience.
‘I didn’t want to preach to the converted, I wanted to reach a wider audience with a celebration and showcase of epic female creativity,’ she writes on her website.
She also founded a ‘Good Girls Eat Dinner’ exhibition every other month, where inspirational speakers including Hollywood star Amanda Foster and C4 News presenter Cathy Newman have been invited to share their stories and advice.
On her online resume, she describes the exhibition as having one simple mission: ‘To provide visible, kick-ass, female role-models across the creative industries and beyond’.
Ms Wallace then began her role at JWT, being brought in as global creative director in 2017, where she oversees the entire creative portfolio for Nestle.
Records show the 44-year-old lives with her fiancée Sophie Blowfield in a £1.2 million house in a trendy part of east London.
They were let go after a meeting with the company and were told to leave.
Companies can hire from under-represented communities, but cannot fire employees for race or discrimination.
Now the pair, who were behind some hugely successful TV adverts, have successfully sued Wunderman Thompson for sex discrimination.
Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner are in line to receive compensation from Wunderman Thompson after winning claims of sex discrimination, victimisation, harassment and unfair dismissal.
They lost claims of age discrimination, race discrimination, and sexual orientation discrimination after the judge ruled they had no impact on their dismissal.
Mr Bayfield today said since his dismissal he has struggled to find work and Mr Jenner has left advertising, adding that they have been perceived as ‘whistle-blowers’ in the industry.
The married father, now 54, of Cricklewood in London, said: ‘We were concerned about diversity and female and minority representation but we were also worried about our job safety – the word ‘obliterated’ is a powerful word.
‘The gender pay gap was mortifying for the company – because it was an awful gap – and their approach was to go gung-ho on who they perceived to be the enemy. They rigged up a kangaroo court and fired us.’
Mr Jenner’s lawyer told MailOnline: ‘There is nothing inclusive or productive about vilifying one group of people to lift up another.
‘As this decision demonstrates, there is nothing lawful about it either.
‘Hopefully the judgment will encourage more people to stand up to the ‘Cancel Club’ and rediscover their value as individuals in promoting a tolerant and all-inclusive society.’
Three other male creatives who were sacked settled out of court, Mr Bayfield said.
The complainant said said today that his redundancy was a ‘tragic’ example of how the battle against discrimination was victimising ‘people who aren’t particularly vulnerable, like British men.’
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, he said: ‘I feel very pleased at the result. I think the agency was believing it was doing the right thing and wanted to be seen to be diverse, and on the side of all the people who have been historically overlooked.
‘They had their shocking pay gap figures which were the worst in the whole industry. They wanted to so do something really quickly and there was this knee jerk reaction at a conference they spoke at.
‘But I felt very much that they were taking discrimination from one place and putting it in another place which was completely the wrong way to do it. There were so many other ways they could fix that problem.
‘I was fully on board with the notion that it was a problem which needed fixing and we do need to get more people from different cultures and different countries and more women in high positions.
‘I ended up speaking out, saying that the tone used in that talk actually makes it sound that you are going to fix the problem by getting rid of us – British straight men of a certain age.
‘That is really where it all kicked off and their response to that was really quite explosive, and two days later we were on a list to be made redundant.
‘I am very glad that the tribunal looked into all the background and detail, and saw what was going on. The agency was very, very angry because they thought we were opposed to their agenda which we weren’t. We were just getting clarity on, ‘Where does this put us?’
‘It’s tragic that the legislation which was put there to protect vulnerable people is now used against people who aren’t particularly vulnerable, like British men.’
He said that his former employers had six weeks to lodge an appeal if they felt the law was interpreted wrongly. But if there is no appeal, he expects the tribunal to rule on awarding payouts to him and Mr Jenner.
Mr Bayfield said he had ‘not worked a huge amount’ in the last three years and had ‘certainly never achieved the level he was at with JWT’.
He added: ‘Work has been quite scant, particularly through the pandemic.’
But he said he and his Australian-born wife Claire and their 12-year-old daughter were now preparing to emigrate in six weeks time to Hobart, Tasmania.
‘I know there are some very good job opportunities out there, so I am very excited about making a new start, away from all this.’
Mr Bayfeld said his decision to emigrate was partly due to him being made redundant, but he added: ‘When your wife is from Australia, it is always at the back of your mind that you might end up there. But it’s been massively accelerated by the absence of work over here.
‘My wife is an occupational therapist and is very employable anywhere, so she found a job very quickly.’
Jo Wallace, pictured left, is the company’s global creative director, who has won a series of awards across more than 20 years in the industry
After graduating from Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College in 1999 with a First in graphic design and advertising, she worked as a creative writer for companies such as The AA, Tango, Pot Noodle and Guinness
She then moved on to directing commercials and short films before landing a job at Draftfcb, where she boasts she ‘played a major role in winning the US$1.4 billion NIVEA Global pitch’
A judge ruled that JWT bosses unfairly got ‘rid’ of Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner, 52 and 50 at the time, because it ‘immediately assisted the gender pay gap issue’.
The London Central tribunal heard both men are straight, white and British. Their work regularly received praise from colleagues and industry peers.
In April 2018, a gender pay gap report revealed there was a pay gap of 44.7 per cent.
Ms Wallace had been brought in five months earlier ‘on the need to shake up the creative team to ensure they were seen as experts in non-traditional advertising, and to lose the reputation as the ‘Knightsbridge boys club’.’
Ms Wallace, who has been described as a ‘fearless champion of female success’, held the ‘hard-hitting’ diversity presentation with executive creative director Lucas Peon in May 2018.
It caused ‘controversy’ when Ms Wallace said JWT’s reputation – ‘white, British, privileged, straight men creating traditional, above the line advertising’ – needed to be abolished.
Later, Mr Bayfield sent an email to a boss saying: ‘I found out recently JWT did a talk off site where it vowed to obliterate white, middle-class straight people from its creative department. There are a lot of very worried people down here.’
Mr Peon and Emma Hoyle, the company’s HR director, called a meeting with Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner to discuss their concerns about job safety.
Though Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner said they believe women and minorities should have a fair chance, they were angrily accused of challenging the diversity pledge.
Employment Judge Mark Emery said they were treated in such a hostile manner it amounted to ‘victimisation’.
Judge Emery said: ‘Both Ms Hoyle and Mr Peon were angry from the outset of the meeting, and it continued in this vein. Voices were raised by Mr Peon and Ms Hoyle, and Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner were forced to defend their position.
While working at Saatchi & Saatchi, Ms Wallace created and co-curated the exhibition ‘There’s a Good Girl’, which aimed to showcase and celebrate female creative talent to a wider audience
She also founded a ‘Good Girls Eat Dinner’ exhibition every other month, where inspirational speakers including Hollywood star Amanda Foster and C4 News presenter Cathy Newman have been invited to share their stories and advice
‘Their explanations were not at the time accepted and their points of view were angrily dismissed. [There was a] failure to accept that they had any valid concerns about the presentation… their views were regarded as unacceptable.’
Within two days it had been decided that Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner would lose their jobs to redundancies.
Mr Peon had unfairly made his mind up before even carrying out an assessment of other senior creatives to see who would be axed.
He claimed their performance was at fault, but the judge ruled the work never had concerns.
Judge Emery said: ‘We concluded there was a consensus amongst [the company’s] senior management team that Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner had overstepped the mark with their comments in their emails and at the meeting, that there was anger at what [the company] considered a challenge to their plans on the gender pay gap issue.’
The judge added: ‘We considered that a significant factor in [the company’s bosses] minds at this time was the gender pay gap issue, and that a reason for dismissing Mr Bayfield and Mr Jenner was there would be an impact, both in terms of the figures, and by the prospect of having senior positions opening which could be filled by women.
‘We considered that this factor, their sex, was on the mind of [the company] when determining to dismiss them, an equal factor with that of the anger at their complaints.
‘This would immediately assist the gender pay gap issue within the creative team, it would rid the team of two creative directors who were because of their sex seen as resistant to change; also female creative directors were exactly what [the company] were seeking.’
A woman in a similar position would not have faced the same backlash, the judge added.
Adrian Scotland, partner at Judge Sykes Frixou, which represented them in the case, said: ‘We were always confident the Tribunal would find in our favour, but you take nothing for granted.
‘ I am delighted for my clients. They are courageous human beings, having risked their careers to take on a global corporation with the reach and influence of WPP.’
‘The experiences outlined in this case are sadly commonplace. It is a growing part of the work we do day-to-day.
‘Every good thing is vulnerable to corruption and with the billions poured into the diversity economy it should be no surprise that there are more and more bad actors appearing.
‘It is important that people feel able to question and challenge bad ideas, especially when they hide behind a benevolent cause.
‘There is nothing inclusive or productive about vilifying one group of people to lift up another. As this decision demonstrates, there is nothing lawful about it either.
Hopefully the judgment will encourage more people to stand up to the ‘Cancel Club’ and rediscover their value as individuals in promoting a tolerant and all-inclusive society.’
A spokesperson for Wunderman Thompson, which merged with JWT, said: ‘We will be appealing the tribunal’s ruling on events that took place within the J. Walter Thompson business in 2018.
‘We do not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment and are committed to providing an inclusive workplace in which everyone is treated fairly.’