The #MeToo spotlight is shining on India’s advertising industry as allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of power by senior agency executives continue to emerge.

Official enquiries have been launched by Dentsu, DDB Mudra, Medulla Communications and Publicis, among others, according to a recent report from Campaign India.

More investigations appear likely as reports of inappropriate behaviour continue come to light. Three senior executives from Dentsu Aegis Network-affiliated agency Happy mcgarrybowen have now stepped down, the highest profile departures to date from within India’s advertising sector. Another senior iProspect staff member has also departed under the network’s “zero tolerance” policy.

“Dentsu Aegis Network has always believed in providing a safe environment at our workplaces, which is free from any kind of harassments. We have a zero tolerance policy towards any kind of harassment at our workplaces,” the holding company said in a statement at the end of last week.

“Mr Kartik Iyer (CEO) and Mr Praveen Das (MD) have stepped down from their respective positions and responsibilities at Happy Creative Services. Additionally, Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, senior creative director, Happy Creative Services and Dinesh Swamy, national creative director, iProspect India have also stepped down from their respective positions.”

Iyer and Das are the co-founders of Happy Creative Services, which was rebranded Happy mcgarrybowen after being acquired by Dentsu Aegis Network in 2016.

The movement has picked up support among many adland figures in India, with a number emphasising the need for better reporting processes, transparency around harassment policies, and a necessary move towards positive change as a result of #MeToo.

"Any harassment is not okay. Period. Nobody should be able to use their power of authority or gender to discriminate, harass or abuse anyone. As an industry we cannot move forward until the time we make it a safe place for everybody,” wrote a group of 12 senior agency executives in open letter printed in the Times of India.

The group co-signing the letter included female chief creative officers, executive creative directors, managing directors and founders from some of India’s biggest advertising agencies.

“We appreciate the courage of those of you who have come forward. We also call upon men in leadership positions to help us do this so that both women and men see a bright future here. We love this business as much as you do and we will continue working to make our industry better and responsible, where we can hold our work and standards high,” the letter continued. “We stand with you.”

Sourced from Campaign India, Mumbrella, Times of India; additional content by WARC staff