Despite the increased visibility of gender equality efforts in the ad industry, a brazenly sexist party invitation made the rounds at Cannes on Wednesday. An invitation email for a party thrown by VaynerMedia and Thrillist demanded "attractive females and models only" and directed potential attendees to send "recent untouched photos" or link to social media profiles.
Ad consultant Cindy Gallop brought the email to the attention of VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk, who responded with an apology video. Vaynerchuk insisted the email wasn’t representative of his company, but he took ultimate responsibility for it. "It’s a ludicrous thing to think that’s something I’d be excited about or want us to be associated with, but at the end of the day, when you’re the CEO of a company, it’s your fucking fault," he told Campaign US.
Vaynerchuk said the email was sent by a promoter hired through a chain of outsourcing. "We hired a production company on behalf of the party that then hired a French production company to build the stage and do the promoting, and then they outsourced it to a local promoter," he said. "That’s what I’ve got right now."
The phone number listed in the email goes directly to voicemail, but previous reports say it connected to event promoter iGetIn.
But Vaynerchuk said he doesn’t see the email as representative of sexism in the ad industry per se. Rather, it’s typical for the club scene. "I think club promoters roll like this — the end," he said. "I’ve gotten 500 emails like this in my life — it’s not advertising, it’s the world."
Vaynerchuk said he plans to be much more careful about outsourcing in the future. "I think the only thing I’ve learned from this is, you know, just got to be smarter about if you hire somebody," he said. "Have a lot more control over anybody having the ability to outsource anything."
That’s the only change likely in VaynerMedia’s policies in the aftermath of the email. " I think common sense individuals understand the difference — this did not come from my company or from any company associated with this event," Vaynerchuk said. "I don’t want to be full of shit and say, ‘Heads are going to roll!’ "