Women at the Cannes Lions creative festival in France found a rude surprise in their inbox on Wednesday. A number of festival-goers received an invitation to an event called The Wednesday Party, thrown by media group Thrillist and digital agency VaynerMedia. The invite included sickeningly misogynistic language and demanded that "attractive females and models only" attend. Adweek reports that one of the recipients forwarded the invite to ad agency leader Cindy Gallop, who shared the screenshot on Twitter.
"Thank you for your interest in attending!! Please be aware that this specific list is for attractive females and models only," reads the email. "Ladies, [i]f you are interested in attending, please send us recent untouched photos and/or your Instagram/Facebook links for you and each of your additional female guest [sic]. Once we have reviewed we will send you specific entry details."
VaynerMedia founder and CEO Gary Vaynerchuk replied to Gallop with several videos in which he takes full responsibility for the email and says he is "mortified" by it. We reached out to the agency and was told that Vaynerchuk is currently on a plane back from Cannes and that he will not be available to comment until after landing on the East Coast this afternoon. They declined to provide additional comment.
In an internal email from Thrillist founder and CEO Ben Lerer, he addressed employees about the situation, and how the email came to be distributed without the company's knowledge. He explained that Thrillist hired a production group they have previously worked with to help produce the the party; that company in turn hired other vendors.
"We learned this morning (on Twitter) that one of these [promotional vendors] went about their job in an awful, sexist and just generally unacceptable way," he wrote. "No one at Thrillist (or Vayner for that matter) knew anything about what this vendor was doing and we are clearly appalled by it." Lerer also made it clear that Thrillist "will never be working with these promotional vendors again," and that the selection and management process for event partners and vendors will become "significantly more stringent moving forward."
We will continue to update this post as developments arise.