The Martin Agency Chief Creative Officer Joe Alexander Exited After Multiple Sexual Harassment Complaints, Sources Say

He denies the allegations

Alexander left the agency last week after more than 26 years. The Martin Agency
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Joe Alexander, the former chief creative officer at The Martin Agency of Richmond, Va., left the company last week after several sexual harassment claims about him were made with the agency, according to multiple agency veterans who spoke to Adweek.
Alexander spent more than 26 years with Martin, serving in the top creative role since 2012. During his tenure, the agency was best known for its award-winning work for such clients as Geico and Walmart. Alexander denies all allegations of impropriety, stating that they are “false.”
Eleven individuals, including 10 women and one man, talked with Adweek about their experiences working with Alexander, who is married with children. Several said they reported concerns about his behavior to the agency, citing incidents as far back as the late 1990s. According to one woman who worked there in the 2000s, his nickname among some staff at the time was “HR Joe.”
“There are instances when we’re unable to provide details in deference to the request of individuals who have come forward to report actions of others that are inconsistent with our values and guidelines,” said an agency spokesperson.
“We have demonstrated consistently that when we are made aware of behavior by individuals that run counter to IPG’s values and guidelines, we take swift action,” read a statement provided by the agency’s parent company. “In this case, as soon as IPG was made aware of these allegations, we made sure that the right action was taken. We continue to look into the manner in which this situation was handled.”
Alexander is denying the claims against him and said he chose to leave.
“The allegations you are reporting on are false. All of them,” he said. “The Martin Agency is my family. Rather than a drawn-out, hurtful investigation, resigning was the proper thing to do to protect my family and all the people I’ve worked so closely together with in my 26 wonderful years. I will always love that place and people who make it so special. Please respect my privacy during this very, very sad time.”
Most sources asked that their names not be included in this story, saying they feared retaliation that might damage their careers. The only exceptions are former vp, associate creative director Sissy Estes, who worked at The Martin Agency from 2007 to 2012, and senior art director Daniela Montañez, who worked there from 2007 to 2013.
Estes told Adweek that she approached late agency president Mike Hughes about what she believed was a brewing problem in 2012, the same year Alexander was promoted to chief creative officer. She told him the newly installed CCO could not continue hitting on women. “Mike said, ‘OK,’ and I got laid off three weeks later after logging a 100-hour week,” she said.
Three individuals said that when they complained about Alexander’s conduct several years ago, they were told to resolve their issues with him directly. Montañez approached human resources in 2012 to let them know that she was uncomfortable working with Alexander. “I was told to speak directly to Joe,” she said, adding that a manager then told her, “I’m sure you’ll be happy wherever you choose to go.”
Regarding these specific comments, the Martin Agency representative said, “Everyone’s recollection from four years ago will be different. We can say, however, that it’s never been our practice at the Martin Agency to tell an employee to address issues that made him/her feel unsafe or threatened directly with the person who made him/her feel that way. Our employees have always been our top priority.”
At least one employee’s complaint to the company was settled in 2013 for an undisclosed sum. Attorney Tara Hanley, partner at the Dallas law firm Markland Hanley LLP, confirmed that one of her former clients “did have a matter” involving The Martin Agency and Alexander that year.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.