M&C Saatchi under fire for striptease at party

Article by Cara Waters /
Stuff.co.nz /
January 23, 2016 /
Click here to view original /

Advertising agency M&C Saatchi has sparked outrage after including a striptease performance at a party last night to celebrate its 21 years in Australia.

The party for over 600 staff members and clients was held at Beresford Hotel in Sydney’s Surry Hills and featured a performance by singer Deni Hines and speeches by founder Tom Dery​ followed by chief executive Jaimes Leggett.

Mumbrella reports Leggett finished his speech saying: “It wouldn’t be a 21st, however, without a cake. Ladies and gentlemen, happy birthday.”

M&C Saatchi’s birthday cake burst open and a woman emerged from it and began to perform a striptease.

A later performance featured women stripping from business shirts to bondage style underwear and Louis Vuitton bags ending with the women putting the bags over their heads so their faces were covered.

Mumbrella criticised the entertainment in an editorial headlined “It’s 2016. Let’s stop being an industry where girls jump out of birthday cakes”.

“It’s time for the industry to let go of the last vestiges of the Mad Men era,” the editorial said. “Those days are gone, and mostly for the better.”

M&C Saatchi also copped criticism on social media, including from prominent British equality campaigner and advertising heavyweight Cindy Gallop who tweeted “WHATWHATWHATWHAT? #changetheratio #diversity”.

M&C Saatchi defended its decision to include striptease as part of the party entertainment in a statement to MySmallBusiness saying the party included a “diverse repertoire of acts” which included “satirical performance artistes” The Bag Ladies and Miss Burlesque Australia 2012, Briana Bluebell.

“It was a celebration of 21 years of creativity and incredible work, amazing clients and great people,” a spokesperson for the advertising agency said. “Creativity is our stock in trade and at M&C Saatchi, creativity comes in many forms.”

The spokesperson said all the acts included in the party entertainment have appeared at popular music and arts festivals throughout Australia “and should be celebrated for the amazing and talented performers they are”.

The outcry over M&C Saatchi’s party follows recent discussions over sexism in the advertising industry after ad agency Leo Burnett publicised its all white and all male new hires.

Dr Lauren Rosewarne, senior lecturer in the school of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, says advertising has a “very long history” of being a blokey environment.

“If Mad Men taught us anything it’s that this is not a good idea,” she says. 

Rosewarne says the advertising industry repeatedly portrays women’s roles as being limited to cooking, cleaning and raising children.

“When you look at their output, one of the places sexism is most easily detected is in advertising,” she says. “We keep saying now that women are moving up through the ranks of industry things should change but this party is a good example that things aren’t.”

Rosewarne says M&C Saatchi’s decision to include strip teases in its celebration is particularly worrying because it is a major advertising agency and seen as a trend setter. 

“Even if people are happy with this behaviour they should be conscious about the optics of how it looks to the outside world and how it makes female employees feel in their business,” she says.