#FreeTheBid drive launches to combat lack of female ad directors

Alma Har’el: director wants to address the lack of female directors
Alma Har’el: director wants to address the lack of female directors

Ad agencies are being urged to take the #FreeTheBid pledge to ensure more female directors are given the opportunity to direct ads.

Launched by director Alma Har’el (B-Reel Films, Epoch),  the initiative is aimed at encouraging agencies to include female directors at the bidding stage for commercials. 

At the pitch stage, agencies traditionally present three directors per spot to clients. According to Har’el, female directors are often missing from the "three director mix" so her aim is that one bid of the three should be a female director.

Agencies that have already signed up include Mother, 180, FCB Global, DDB, Joan Agency and Phenomenon.

According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, in 2015, women accounted for 9% of directors, up 2 percentage points from 2014 but even with the figure from 1998. In other roles, women comprised 11% of writers, 26% of producers, 20% of executive producers, 22% of editors, and 6% of cinematographers.

To address this, Har'el has teamed up with PJ Pereira, chief creative officer and co-founder of San Francisco-based agency Pereira & O'Dell, to launch the #FreeTheBid pledge.

Pereira described #FreeTheBid as, "a simple idea that would force the entire ecosystem to consider women directors".  

Har’el added: "It's not just to see women getting more bids, it's to see women winning jobs and directing them with crews that have more women in them, and slowly changing the cliches of how women are represented in advertising.  

"It's also about women getting more equal pay, and sustaining themselves financially, so they can support their lifestyles or families and have the freedom to develop themselves as filmmakers."

FreeTheBid.com will present the work of women directors from all production companies, alongside a selection of women directors who aren't signed.

There has been an increase of female-empowered ads including ‘Like a Girl’ and ‘This Girl Can’, however Har’el feels there is a general mistrust of women when it comes to handling big budgets and major brands.

She said: "Women directors enter a very male-dominated world since there are hardly any women creatives, so they're appreciated but not taken seriously. When I direct, I notice everyone feels like they need to talk differently about the casting, about the viewer etc.

"When there's great female-empowering advertising but the directors of those spots are still 90 to 95% men, there's a very limited narrative to explore. I see this as a great opportunity for momentum and this month we took that momentum and turned into action."

Har’el is best known for her documentary Bombay Beach, which took the top prize at Tribeca Film Festival in 2011. She was also the first woman to direct an ad for Stella Artois. Earlier this year, she premiered her newest film ‘Love True’. 

In 2013 she directed the "Birdhouses" campaign for Airbnb, featuring a team of artists who turned 50 Airbnb listings into miniature versions of dream destinations.

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