“I deeply apologize to everyone that this situation has caused distress. I believe all women have the right to feel safe and be heard. I am focusing on healing with my family.” – Dan Fietsam
It’s never easy to report bad news, especially in the era of #metoo. What we say and how we say it as journalists affects many lives both personal and professional. But we do have to report these events in a respectful manner that gets the news across.
This previous Sunday, Milwaukee-based ad agency Laughlin Constable terminated Chief Creative Officer Dan Fietsam due to sexual harassment allegations. This was confirmed by an agency spokesperson.
Fietsam, who earned his stripes at FCB Chicago and Energy BBDO while working on eight Super Bowl spots for Bud Light and T-Mobile, held the top creative post at the agency since 2016.
Laughlin President and CEO, Mat Ligel, issued the following internal email to the agency:
“Based on information brought to our attention late last week, we terminated our chief creative officer’s employment as of May 27.
As this is a personnel matter, we are limited in what can be shared, but new information came to light the evening of May 25 about Fietsam’s previous employment. That, coupled with a 2016 issue involving him that was addressed according to our policies, and his lack of candor, resulted in the immediate termination. Hindsight is always most clear, and we wish we had known of all the information earlier. I am sorry that we did not, as we would never have hired him in the first place.”
“We will move on and work hard to turn this into a positive influence on our agency and, frankly, in the industry. One person does not define our culture, and we have a team of great people who do the right thing day in and day out, and that is what we want and need to continue.”
Fietsam’s downfall began on Friday, 25 May, during a United Adworkers event held at the 88Nine Radio Milwaukee (WYMS-FM 88.9) facilities in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point area.
A female attendee then publicly accused Fietsam of sexual misconduct. Fietsam, who resigned on Saturday, issued this statement to the United Adworkers. He then issued an internal email to the Laughlin employees.
“Last night, there was a panel event for Milwaukee Adworkers celebrating creative women leaders in advertising,” Fietsam, President of the club at that time, said in an internal email to Laughlin employees. “You may have heard at the very end of the event, a member of the audience stood up and publicly made an accusation that I had sexually harassed someone with no reference to time or event specifics.”
Fietsam then resigned as President from the United Adworkers. Here is his resignation letter in full:
“In thirty years of advertising, writing this note truly saddens me more than anything I’ve had to confront.
At the beginning of 2018, I was asked to serve as the President of United Adworkers.
I eagerly accepted this role with excitement and enthusiasm. Getting to work with Gary and Laura and the rest of the UA board to push United Adworkers to the next level was a formable and thrilling brief. I was psyched. While the social aspect of the club was firing on all cylinders, we discussed expanding the creative scope of the club to help Milwaukee creatives hone their craft, develop their network skills and rub elbows with luminaries outside of the community including developing meaningful relationships with the One Show and Art Directors Club and up the caliber of 99 Judges. We couldn’t be more energized.
Unfortunately, at this time, I am tendering my resignation as President and as a member of the club, effective immediately.
I am a tenacious man who is used to adversity and overcoming insurmountable obstacles, but the relentless unsubstantiated innuendo, chatter and frankly public shaming I and the Club has had to endure not only demoralizes me to lead, but frankly, and more importantly, distracts the club from reaching its potential. I don’t like folding to a small group of inordinate social pressure, especially when people who aren’t privy to the whole truth. My singular motive is help elevate UA to next level of excellence but if every event and initiative is constantly and aggressively undermined its counter-productive.
I must commend Laura Gainor for her relentless dedication to making this club as strong as it can be. Frankly, having people attack me and put her into the middle of it is unacceptable and incredibly disrespectful to her. I encourage you to directly reach out to me if I am the source of your frustration and I will meet with you anytime anywhere to discuss any issue you may have. I own everything I do and have no fear to have direct and meaningful conversations versus anonymous, snippy and trolling in social media.
I wish only the best for UA. Gary and Laura are two of the most dedicated people I know and look forward to how the club evolves from here.
All my best,
On Tuesday May 29, United Adworkers posted this on their site:
“In light of the resignation of Dan Fietsam as president of United Adworkers, the Board of Directors would like to share additional context surrounding the events and our subsequent actions.
First and foremost, the club is incredibly proud of and thankful for the women who had the courage to come forward to share their concerns.
On May 25, following the events that transpired at the Women in Leadership panel on May 24, United Adworkers asked Fietsam to step down from his role as board president. Fietsam tendered his resignation that afternoon, and United Adworkers published Fietsam’s resignation letter on our website to communicate this change. We understand that in our haste to post the letter, we unintentionally gave him a platform to defend his actions and address his accusers, for which we are deeply sorry.
We want to be clear that when Fietsam was elected as Board President of United Adworkers in December 2017, we had no knowledge of any similar claims. When claims were later brought to our attention, information was quickly shared with the appropriate parties to address. None of the alleged events occurred at an United Adworkers event.
United Adworkers is a volunteer organization with the goal of bringing together the Milwaukee ad community and creating a safe place for us to network, share ideas and support each other. It is our highest priority to create an organization where everyone feels protected and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are not tolerated.
We realize that the issue we face today is representative of a larger societal issue. We are committed to understanding how best to handle harassment and the role that United Adworkers plays in helping educate and advocate for the advertising industry at large.
As members within the Milwaukee ad community, we need to work together to become a part of the solution, promote dialogue that encourages thoughtful discourse, encourage awareness and take action to make our ad community a greater, and safer place.”
Reel Chicago contacted United Adworkers to identify Fietsam’s public accuser, but the organization did not respond.
Contact Colin Costello at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.