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Thanks to Alma Har’el, more women are shooting major commercials

With Free the Bid, the award-winning filmmaker has gotten major brands (Coke, Diageo, Levi’s) and agencies (BBDO, CP+B) to give female directors a shot

Thanks to Alma Har’el, more women are shooting major commercials
[Photo: Mary Rozzi; Hair: Marley Gonzales at The Rex Agency; makeup: Kendell Cotta at The Rex Agency]

Alma Har’el was tired of hearing the same old excuses for why brands and ad agencies weren’t hiring female directors, so at the end of 2016 she launched Free the Bid to get more women behind the camera. After committing to consider a bid from at least one woman director for every ad they plan to create, agencies and brands gain access to the nonprofit’s curated database of hundreds of top female filmmakers. Nearly 70 agencies and more than a dozen major brands have signed on, including Coke, Diageo, and Levi’s. Two major agencies—BBDO and CP+B—reported a 400% increase in assignments to women, and Free the Bid’s efforts have led to prominent TV spots, including Siri Bunford’s Super Bowl ad for Google Home.

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Related: See The 100 Most Creative People In Business 2018


Fast Company: Why is Free the Bid appealing to advertisers right now?

Alma Har’el: Advertisers know that 85% of purchase decisions are made by women, [yet] 94% of all ads are directed by white men. The world is thirsty for new voices, and advertisers know this is the only way to stay relevant.

FC: Why has it been so hard for female directors to find work?

AH: Because the power constructs built by men kept them out. Now people want change [but] don’t have the time to research who’s out there. They find a list of the 10 best women directors, and those 10 are [already] working. So [the agencies] say, “Well, I guess there are no women directors available.” We have more than 400 women on the site. They all have work worth knowing about. Most times, if you can provide people a path to change, they will walk it.

FC: How are these issues being reflected in your own creative efforts?

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AH: I’m working on a feature film that deals with a boy and his relationship to his father. The expectation is that women will only make films about other women. Women see men in a different way from how men see men. The female gaze can change the world, if it’s shown.


Alma Har’el is No.90 on the 2018 Most Creative People in Business list. Check out all 100 people here.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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