Posted on Oct 14, 2020 at 5:45 p.m.Updated Oct 14, 2020, 7:02 PM
This is a first for the advertising industry and undoubtedly a new chapter in its history. Following an extraordinary board of directors held on Tuesday evening, Laurent Habib, president of the Association of Communication Consulting Agencies (AACC) since 2017, re-elected in 2019, resigned against a background of accusations of sexual harassment, as revealed Wednesday the magazine “Strategies”.
Questioned since Saturday in several testimonies on the Instagram account #Balance Ton Agency, reporting testimonies of harassment, the leader explains his gesture : “I preferred to leave to preserve my dignity and preserve my freedom of speech. I’ve been criticized for things that are true, even though they are dated and heavy joke. I ask forgiveness of the women whom I could embarrass or hurt. But we are obviously in situations that do not relate to the legal but to morality and disapproval. “
In a statement, the board of directors of the AACC “Takes note and understands this personal decision guided by the concern that Laurent Habib has today to protect his relatives, his collaborators and the AACC. “
The departure of the president of the sector union is seen as a fracture, even appearing to open a new chapter in the history of advertising. Already, in 2018, the #Metoo of the advertisement had opened a first breach, without real concrete progress. This is the first time that a leader of this caliber has resigned for acts of harassment.
After starting his career at RSCG Public, Laurent Habib, close for a while to DSK like many politicians, spent twenty-two years in the Havas group. There, he managed the corporate communication agency Euro RSCG C & 0 (now Havas Paris), and took on the role of CEO of Havas France. In 2012, strategy differences with Vincent Bolloré, the group’s current president, prompted him to create his own Babel agency, focused on advertising creation, events and influence.
But the departure of Laurent Habib is -also- a fracture because it seems to give a kind of sesame to “A new form of anonymous activism carried out on social networks”, according to the terms of “Strategies”, against sexual harassment in an agency. And it is clear that this activism is effective. Created on September 25, the #Balancetonagency Instagram account wasted no time in overflowing with testimonies reporting both sexist jokes and inappropriate touching.
“Behind #Balancetonagency” hides a vigilante or an anonymous vigilante who names men who are sexually or morally violent ”, specifies Christelle Delarue, who led the #Metoo for advertising two years ago, with her movement “Les Lionnes”. “We support his fight but we are not behind the process. “
Laurent Habib is the second manager, after that of the Braaxe agency, to be singled out by the #Balancetonagency account and to choose to withdraw, while other names of agencies and leaders are starting to circulate.
Faced with this surge, Christelle Delarue regrets that “#Balancetonagency ”points out the problems but does not do all the work of transformation, explanation of the complainant’s journey and the necessary moral redress. On the other hand, the violence of #Balancetonagency constitutes an important step in the liberation of the industry. Since 2018, the testimonies have continued to add up and we have two hundred people from fifty agencies who could file a complaint today. “
It is now up to the AACC to appoint another leader, while the burning issues – ecology and the threat of more restrictive legislation on polluting products and industries, the financial impact of the second wave of Covid on agencies … – are piling up at the offices at 40 boulevard Malesherbes.