In a historical move big networks such as DDB, BBDO, McCann, JWT and FCB to hot shops like Pereira & O’Dell, Mother and 180 take the pledge to #FreeTheBid. The initiative created by award-winning director Alma Har’el seems poised to give women a leg up with mandatory bids in commercial directing.

Har’el, was inspired to ignite change when giving a recent interview to Mashable about the low number of female-helmed commercials.

“I’m starting #FreeTheBid so the ad industry can come together and take an affirmative step towards addressing what stops advertisers from working with women directors. I couldn’t have been an independent filmmaker and make the films I love if I didn’t make a living directing commercials. 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. We have to start the change right now in the only practical and effective way – Let women be heard.”

After some long conversations with women directors and leading ad agencies she gathered what she believes are easy solutions to some of the problems that keep agencies from finding the right women for the job. The #FreeTheBid website will feature over 130 signed women directors from all leading production companies including links to their reels and producers, it will curate new unsigned directors on a monthly basis and will keep track of the work that’s being done by women as a result of the initiative. Organized screenings for ad agencies who want to discover female directors and a system that will allow to track some of the numbers are also in the works, as well as events to showcase the work created from Free The Bid’s success stories.

The database is a critical resource that will help the pledged agencies keep their commitment. A few years ago a similar initiative was launched at the Swedish advertising market called One Out of Three. It was a recommendation in a regulatory document and although it launched an important conversation, it didn’t manage to create a profound impact because agencies were struggling to find women directors. This resource is just a facilitator, though. The real change will happen inside of the agencies.

“There are incredibly capable and talented women on the site, but we all know that without the commitment from ad agencies and brands, this would have been just another database of women who deserve a chance. My wish is that the agencies will be able to report positive results and see a real change in numbers a year from now.” – said Har’el.

Susan Credle Global CCO of FCB who was one of the first to join the Initiative and helped Har’el reach some of the more prominent agencies says

“To find great female directors, first, you have to look for them. It’s that simple. #FreeTheBid reminds us all to open our eyes to the less obvious but perhaps even more brilliant choice.”

“BBDO and I fully support anything that opens opportunity up to people that would otherwise be overlooked. This initiative will undoubtedly allow the industry to discover new talent so it’ll be a win for everyone.”
– David Lubars. Chief Creative Officer BBDO Worldwide.

“Initiatives like this shouldn’t be done to fill a quota or because it is the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for the work. There are a lot of kick ass female directors who just need more swings at bat.”
– Rob Reilly. Global Creative Chairman, McCann.

“While everybody in the industry is talking about diversity, #FreeTheBid is a killer opportunity to DO something. Leo Burnett has always been fully engaged in diverse hiring practices across every specialty and level. FreetheBid is going to have an immediate impact. It’s a great idea and I’m proud that we’re a part of it.
– Britt Nolan’s, Leo Burnett USA CCO.

“If there is something, anything, we can do to promote diversity in our industry then we should do it without question. Diversity leads to better ideas. And that’s what keep our industry thriving. #FreetheBid is a simple, action-based intitiative that the entire community should embrace. J. Walter Thompson is proud to support it.”
– Matt Eastwood Worldwide Chief Creative Officer.

“Alice Guy Blanche would have been proud of this initiative but maybe question why it has taken 120 years. I know there are many out there who will see #FreeTheBid as a token gesture to promote female directors and so it is up to those of us with influence, to really make it count. DDB is committed to contributing to the industry’s transformation and the new era of equality it is bringing about.”
– Diane Jackson. Chief Production Officer. DDB Chicago.

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