'Free the Bid' Initiative Calls for Ad Industry to Give Voice to Female Directors

Coca-Cola, McCann, JWT, FCB, Mother, Ebay Amongst Those Pledging to Include Women Helmers in Production Project Bids

Published On
Sep 15, 2016
Free the Bid

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We all know Hollywood has been facing intense scrutiny for its lack of diversity and pay gaps with respect to female talent, including directors, who were behind the camera for only about 7% of the top 250 films last year.

The ad industry is no less guilty of such inequities, so one female director, backed by several high-profile advertising and marketing names, is looking to change the landscape with "#FreeTheBid," an initiative calling for all agencies to include at least one female director every time it triple-bids a production for a client.

Director Alma Har'el, who has helmed spots for Airbnb and Stella Artois, riveting music videos such as "Fjogur Piano" for Sigur Ros featuring a balletic Shia LeBeouf and the documentary films "Bombay Beach" and "LoveTrue," is behind the new program, which also calls for brands to encourage their agencies to include female directors in the bidding process and also asks production companies to add more women to their rosters.

Additionally, the #FreeTheBid website will host the reels of 130 female directors, both those already signed to production companies and those without representation. It will also track the work women do as a result of the initiative. #FreeTheBid will also organize agency screenings featuring female talent as well as events to showcase work done by those who are part of the platform.

"There's so much talking about women empowerment and the low percentage of women directors but when you see the numbers year after year there's not much change," Ms. Har'el said. "I know how many women can't get a break and I wanted to do something practical and inclusive. I hope that the ad agencies that pledged are going to make a true effort to get more familiar with women directors."

The idea came about after Pereira & O'Dell co-founder PJ Pereira, whom she had worked with on projects for Airbnb, had reached out to her after seeing her quoted in a Mashable piece about gender inequities with commercial directors. The article had examined the rosters of the production companies that made Ad Age and Creativity's Production Company A-List and found that women comprised only 9.7% of the rostered directors at those shops.

Mr. Pereira had seen Ms. Har'el quoted in the article and "the same day I got back at the agency and told people I wanted to have a woman in every triple bid," he said. "It was a no brainer. Everyone agreed."

Ms. Har'el discussed the idea with him over dinner, and it was then that she saw a bigger opportunity that could include other agencies. That led to some brainstorming and "a couple of intense weeks inviting agencies big and small" into the process, Mr. Pereira said.

180 L.A. and Mother, both agencies Ms. Har'el also had worked with previously, soon jumped in and things kept rolling from there.

Now, on launch day, #FreetheBid has already received support from Make LoveNotPorn/IfWeRantheWorld founder Cindy Gallop, Kat Gordon of the 3% Conference, BBDO's Global CCO David Lubars, Joan Founders Lisa Clunie and Jaime Robinson, Director Spike Jonze, Coca-Cola VP Rodolfo Echeverria, FCB's Global CCO Susan Credle and CEO Carter Murray, McCann Global Creative Chairman Rob Reilly, Nestle Waters North America Chairman Tim Brown, eBay CMO Suzy Deering, JWT Global CCO Matt Eastwood, DDB Chief Production Officer Diane Jackson, Leo Burnett CCO Britt Nolan, 180 L.A. Head of Integrated Production Natasha Wellesley, Mother's Mr. Waites and Ms. Markova, Phenomenon CEO Krish Menon, Nikki Weiss & Co. Founder Nikki Weiss. Production companies B-Reel, M ss ng p eces, Epoch Films, Little Minx, Great Guns and Tool, which reps Ms. Har'el in the States, have also pledged their support.

"I hope this stays alive and people who took the pledge are going to use the website to introduce themselves to the good work so many women are doing but also think about how to bring more diversity in general," said Ms. Har'el. "I want to make sure other women filmmakers have the same chance to sustain themselves while being creative and shaping the way women are represented in advertising. "

Read more about the effort on Adage.com.


Sep 15, 2016
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Free the Bid
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Free the Bid

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