Diet Madison Avenue isn’t going anywhere.
The anonymous Instagram account, famed for shining a spotlight on sexual misconduct in adland by calling out alleged acts of harassment and discrimination, has launched a GoFundMe page and vowed to keep victims’ voices alive.
The group is raising money after Ralph Watson, former chief creative officer of CP+B’s Boulder office, filed a defamation lawsuit following allegations which were published by the account earlier this year. He’s asking for $10 million-plus in damages.
A description on Diet Madison Avenue's GoFundMe page reads: "We are raising funds to defend our team members and volunteers against false accusations. Any amount you can donate will help. Please feel free to help donate anonymously. 100 percent of the funds will be used only for legal assistance, any amount left over will be donated to the Times Up Legal Defense Fund."
Diet Madison Avenue claims it has legal representation and is asking for $100,000 in donations. Around $1,400 has been raised so far. Representatives from the movement were not immediately available for comment.
The account went dark in the wake of the lawsuit filing last week, but came back to life over the weekend with a promise that the stories which have been shared with the group are "safe, locked away offline and will remain secure."
"They will never be revealed no matter how much money," a spokesperson posted. "We made a promise to you to keep your identities safe, and we will NEVER break that promise."
Another post added: "Thanks all. We love ya. We are still around."
The documents, filed in the Superior Court of California of the County of Los Angeles, accuse Diet Madison Avenue, as well as Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and Does 3 through 100, of defamation, intentional interference with contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective economic relations and negligent interference with prospective economic relations.
On February 2, Watson was let go from his role at MDC Partners’ CP+B after working at the agency since 2014. Watson has filed a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with the intent to sue CP+B for wrongdoing.
In early January, Diet Madison Avenue published a list of men in the advertising industry that it alleged to be sexual harassers, the document states, adding that Watson was not on that list.
The lawsuit claims that on January 19, Diet Madison Avenue posted the following statement on Instagram: "Ralph Watson. The women that you targeted & groomed (like all predators do), because they were young & just starting out their careers...the women that you assumed would stay quiet are stronger than you ever gave them credit for. And their voices have created a timeline. Going back years. Corroborated stories. Spanning across multiple agencies. And even continents."
Watson was contacted by multiple colleagues and friends shortly after the comments were published, alerting him to the posts, the document adds.
Watson then contacted his employer’s HR director, and was told CP+B had received no credible complaints or evidence of sexual harassment against him, according to the lawsuit.
Watson was let go days later. He "has suffered loss of salary, benefits and additional amounts of money he would have received had he not been terminated," and "has largely been unable to secure any work in the advertising industry since," the lawsuit claims.
A spokesperson for Diet Madison Avenue told Campaign US last week: "We have legal representation. It will be fascinating to see how Instagram deals with this issue – and how they deal with users' privacy and freedom of speech on their platform. It will set a precedent for what is and is not permitted on this platform during the #MeToo era."
Diet Madison Avenue strongly urges the legal teams involved to contact the Electronic Frontier Front – a non-profit that defends digital privacy, free speech and innovation.
"Similar suits have always been dropped," the spokesperson added.
Representatives from MDC Partners and CP+B declined to comment.