It’s an unfortunate and uncomfortable situation that many advertising creatives who started in the 90’s, no matter how talented, are facing today.
It’s an ugly word and becomes more unappetizing and, quite frankly, terrifying the older we get in the industry.
One creative is finally fighting back. Advertising veteran and former Epsilon chief creative officer John Immesoete has filed a suit worth $800,000 against the Chicago data agency, alleging age discrimination led to his firing last December.
AgencySpy reports that the former chief creative officer filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on Aug. 5, alleging age discrimination, defamation per se and false light.
Also named in the lawsuit are Richard McDonald, president of Epsilon’s agency practice, and svp and chief client officer Sandy Kolkey. Immesoete alleges McDonald and Kolkey made false statements regarding his conduct in an attempt to justify his termination, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, which Immesoete posted on Linkedin, Epsilon informed Immesoete he was being fired for cause on Nov. 29, according to the complaint. The complaint does not identify the stated cause, but according to Immesoete’s complaint, the 54-year-old believes the company wanted to replace him with a younger creative lead. He shared the legal complaint in a LinkedIn post on Monday.
“We strongly dispute the allegations included in John Immesoete’s public LinkedIn post,” an Epsilon spokesperson said in a statement provided to Adweek. “As a matter of policy, we have no further comment on the pending litigation.”
Immesoete told Reel 360 that his last months at Epsilon were something akin to, “The Salem Witch Trials.”
“The Salem Witch Trial I endured, subsequent sham ‘investigation’ and childish punitive actions were unlike anything I’ve seen or heard before from any company. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. A group that will support saying ‘data is the truth’ out of one side of its mouth while saying ‘if you can’t find anything in the data, just make it up. Just lie,’ is capable of anything. It’s mind boggling.”
What’s in the Complaint?
>In the complaint, which Immesoete posted on Linkedin, states his problems with McDonald date back to when he was first overlooked for the president. This is a role that had changed six times during Immesoete’s tenure. Richard McDonald, “who is nearly a decade younger,” according to the complaint, was tapped for the role instead.
Immesoete claims McDonald made comments critical of his age, both in person and to other people calling him, “too old, too grey and too fat to be the head of a cool digital agency.”
The complaint goes further claiming that McDonald said to Immesoete’s face, “You’re too fucking old” and “You’re a dinosaur.”
The document alleges that Epsilon’s decision to fire Immesoete followed a series of other firings and McDonald instructing employees to “play fast and loose” with clients,
The complaint further documents that he was left out of meetings more and more.
When Immesoete complained about his absence from a client meeting, he alleges, vice president for human resources Ellen Evans told him not to make a big deal about it at a time when Epsilon was in the process of being sold.
According to the complaint, Evans asked Immesoete, “Having been through so many agency presidents now, have you thought about moving on?”
The complaint also alleges, the cco subsequently chaired a “huddle” of around 20 people, including McDonald and Kolkey, to retain an account, which was under review. The complaint states further that during the meeting, an account supervisor repeatedly challenged Immesoete on his ideas for the client’s account and the meeting ended with Immesoete calling the account supervisor’s comments “stupid.”
Immesoete alleges that McDonald used animosity between the chief creative and account director and Immesoete’s conduct in the meeting as a pretext to fire him, subsequently telling Immesoete not to come into the office and calling a special meeting of the team.
McDonald and Kolkey then allegedly called Immesoete’s conduct in the “huddle” meeting “inexcusable,” and McDonald, according to the complaint, told Immesoete’s assistant later that day that he would be fired and that “your boss said [the account supervisor] was stupid and everything she said and did was fucking stupid.”
Immesoete alleges that an anonymous source has provided him with an audio recording of that meeting that refutes and contradicts Epsilon’s statements [to Adweek] about his character.
It’s also alleged that McDonald informed the agency that Immesoete would be placed on administrative leave, while portraying him as a safety risk and predator.
While on leave, Immesoete claims he was not allowed in the offices, access to his agency email was cut off and he was warned not to speak to anyone about the details of his leave since he had signed a confidentiality agreement. Epsilon then launched a month-long investigation the complaint characterized as a “sham investigation” that concluded with Immesoete’s firing, according to the complaint.
McDonald allegedly sent an agency-wide email that read, “John Immesoete will no longer be with the company,” which the complaint claims was “designed to encourage speculation that Mr. Immesoete was a predator.”
According to the complaint, McDonald subtly threatened Epsilon employees not to post anything supportive of Immesoete on social media “because your loyalty to the company could be questioned,” adding, “If you have posted anything, take it down.”
Immesoete is seeking back pay, including benefits and bonuses for the alleged age discrimination against him, front pay as determined by the court, liquidated damages, attorney fees, prejudgment interest and costs.
Reel 360 reached out to both McDonald and Kolkey via Linkedin. There was no response.