Striptease performance at ad agency industry event causes an uproar

Jan 22, 2016 at 11:40 p.m. ET

Advertising agency M&C Saatchi has been criticised and called sexist for including a striptease performance at a work function celebrating their 21 years in the business.

The function, which was attended by more than 600 staff members and clients, was held at the Beresford Hotel in Sydney.

Following a performance by Deni Hines and a speech by CEO Jaimes Leggett, a woman emerged from the birthday cake, swishing and swaying seductively in a white feathery number.

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Mumbrella reports that Leggett finished his speech with: "It wouldn't be a 21st, however, without a cake. Ladies and gentlemen, happy birthday," before the woman was seen emerging from the cake.

There was also a burlesque performance and a bondage-themed striptease which saw women remove their business clothes to reveal strap bondage-inspired outfits before the women covered their heads with Louis Vuitton bags.

I love a burlesque performance as much as the next person, and it truly can be an art form, but watching women strip from their business clothes before traipsing about in almost nothing is a horribly sexist message to send out at an industry event.


Video: mUmBRELLA/YouTube

"It was a celebration of 21 years of creativity and incredible work, amazing clients and great people," a spokesperson for the advertising agency said. "Creativity is our stock in trade and at M&C Saatchi, creativity comes in many forms."

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Creativity does come in many forms, and perhaps in a different setting the performance would have been completely acceptable. But here, it's not. Not even close.

Just 15 percent of CEOs in Australia are women, and in the United States only 3 percent of executive creative directors at ad agencies are women, despite being in control of 80 percent of consumer spending.

Something has got to give in the industry, and parading women wearing next to nothing at industry events is not a step in the right direction.

Just a couple of months ago, another advertising agency, Leo Burnett, announced that five new team members had made the cut to senior roles within the company. All five of them were white men, not a woman in sight.

It's not terribly surprising that someone actually came up with the idea of having a woman jump out of a cake and then have a group of other women do a striptease for a faux 21st birthday party, but the fact that someone actually agreed to that idea and thought, yeah, that is a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment for an industry event — that is what boggles the mind.

The sexual exploitation of women has been perpetuated by the advertising industry for almost as long as advertising has existed, but the fact that women continue to be objectified in this industry, even at a work function, is a sign that it needs some diversity, a new female perspective and some common sense thrown in there, too.

What do you think about M&C Saatchi's event? Let us know.

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