In the eight months since, it has opened a lot of eyes and, at
least anecdotally, produced results.
"The biggest development that I've seen is the conversation and
the awareness, and how fast it translated into action," said
founder and director Alma Har'el.
What at first seemed a simple pledge has evolved into a whole
new way of working for its signatories. Agencies have had to shift
gears in creative work and production, leading to tough hurdles but
also unexpected opportunities. "It creates a new environment where
you take a little more risk, but you get a much bigger reward,"
said 72andSunny Chief Production Officer Tom
Free the Bid has forced the agency to look beyond the typical
(male) A-listers. That's led to female directors becoming part of
the agency's normal production rotation and projects with
impressive and sometimes unexpected talents, including a Google Home initiative with
Knucklehead's Siri Bunford (one spot from which landed in the Super
Bowl this year) and an undisclosed effort with "Handmaid's Tale"
director and executive producer Reed Morano. At Pereira & O'Dell, the team has been
seeing more female options from its production company partners
because of their participation in Free the Bid. "It feels like a
lot of their new hires have been women, and I believe it's because
of Free the Bid," said VP-Production Jeff Ferro.
There are no hard numbers on just how many more female directors
have gotten ad work as a result of Free the Bid. With a staff of
three including Har'el, the group does not track that, citing the
lack of resources. But one agency, at least, has seen solid
results. FCB Chicago reported that prior to joining
Free the Bid, roughly 40% of its bids included a female director.
Six months in, 95% of bids now include a woman. Before, women
directors actually landed about 10% of all its bids. Now that
number has jumped to 30%.
HP has been an avid benefactor as the effort has dovetailed with
the company's own stated commitment to promote diversity. Chief
Marketing Officer Antonio Lucio "has been our biggest ally in
facilitating the conversation about what women are capable of as
directors and turning good intentions into positive action," Har'el
said. The company's financial support has helped Free the Bid to
bring in an executive director, Emma Reeves, and expand the
portfolio of female directors' reels on its website to more than
400 from 70 at the start.
A recent HP campaign, "Reinvent My Story," brought in director
Peyton Wilson and Free the Bid writers. Last week, during the
Cannes Film Festival, the brand said it would be stepping into the
film business for the first time with a female director, Nandita
Das, on the biopic "Manto." At a presentation introducing the film,
HP also brought in Crystal Moselle, a direct beneficiary of the
initiative. The week Free the Bid debuted, "I'd gotten more calls
than I've ever gotten, and it's continued," she said at the panel.
Recently, it helped her land work for big brands such as eBay, out
of Pereira & O'Dell.
Ad Age's Creativity in recent months, coincidentally, has seen
an uptick in notable spots shot by female talents. Along with
Bunford, Somesuch's Aoife McArdle landed in the Super Bowl, in a
category not typically friendly to female directors: cars. She
directed one of the more favorably reviewed ads of the big game,
Audi's "Daughter," about pay equality, via Venables Bell & Partners. McArdle
and Knucklehead's Bunford were among the five finalists for
Director of the Year honors at Ad Age's Creativity Awards.
Growing the organization has one downside, though: It has been
tough on Har'el's own career. "I had to stop working for a few good
months," she said, "and I only got back to directing commercials