Joe Alexander, the former chief creative officer at The Martin Agency who was dismissed in late 2017 amid an allegation of sexual harassment of an employee, has filed a $25.35 million defamation lawsuit in federal court.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Richmond, is against advertising industry trade publication Adweek and its former senior editor Patrick Coffee as well as anonymous social media account Diet Madison Avenue and the “collective” of 17 people behind it.
Alexander, 59, seeks damages for the “extreme insult, pain, embarrassment, humiliation, mental suffering, destruction of his career, destruction of his good name, destruction of his personal and professional reputations, and the enormous financial loss caused by the defendants’ tortious interference with contract, common law conspiracy, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” the suit said.
“The misconduct at issue in this case is egregious, intolerable and of an unprecedented type and scale,” the suit said. “The defendants went out of their way to target and wreck the life of a hugely successful and incredibly popular Virginia creative.”
The Martin Agency severed ties in December 2017 with Alexander, a 26-year veteran with the agency who was appointed chief creative officer in 2012. Alexander said then that he resigned. But the agency’s CEO and president at the time said Alexander was dismissed amid a claim of sexual harassment of an employee.
The suit, filed by Charlottesville attorney Steven Biss, alleges Adweek and Coffee published defamatory articles about Alexander in late 2017 and throughout 2018 and 2019. It also claims Diet Madison Avenue, an anonymous social media entity that named men accused of sexual harassment and related offenses on Instagram and Twitter, along with the 17 people behind it, made “false and defamatory accusations” about Alexander.
“Between October 2017 and the present, [Diet Madison Avenue] and its agents published unverified, scandalous, and salacious statements about Joe, and acted as judge, jury and executioner to ‘call out’ Joe for termination,” according to the suit. Diet Madison Avenue “acted without due process, without affording Joe or any other target an opportunity to be heard, without evidence or verification.”
The suit claims the stories and statements destroyed Alexander’s “reputation and ended his stellar career” in advertising, which includes work on the Geico “Gecko” ads. The suit says that in 2016, Alexander earned gross wages of $1.071 million.
“It is now virtually impossible for Joe to obtain work,” it claims. “As an example: Joe was hired to do freelance, but when a vendor was told Joe was working on the job, they said he couldn’t be seen in their office or be on phone calls. Joe lost the freelance job.”