WPP dismissed Nick Emery as global chief executive of Mindshare after he carried out what sources described as a “prank” that backfired on an internal video call, Campaign understands.
The sudden timing of Emery’s exit with immediate effect on Wednesday (14 October) stunned colleagues at WPP and the wider ad industry.
Sources used words such as a “juvenile”, "idiotic", “schoolboy” and “lavatorial” to describe the “prank”.
The incident happened last week. One industry observer, who was not involved but knows what happened, said: “It was a stupid remark and stupid action in front of the wrong people.”
It is thought at least one employee, and perhaps several, who were on the video call with Emery made complaints to the company through an internal process, which prompted Group M, Mindshare’s immediate parent company, and WPP to investigate.
Top executives at WPP and Group M felt they could not “sweep it under the carpet” and carried out a rapid investigation that concluded with Emery’s exit.
The industry observer said Emery, who had worked at Mindshare since its launch in 1997 and became CEO in 2012, had been “juvenile and stupid”, rather than doing anything “really awful” that involved race, fraud, an inappropriate relationship or malice.
Mindshare and Emery declined to comment.
When Group M announced Emery's exit, it said he was leaving "following a clear breach of the company's code of conduct".
Christian Juhl, the global chief executive of Group M, said at the time: “At Group M and our agencies, we believe everyone should experience an inclusive and respectful workplace culture. Inappropriate and offensive behaviour is not tolerated in our company, and when we see any employee breach of our code of conduct, we take swift action."
Juhl is acting as Mindshare interim CEO until a permanent successor is appointed.