It’s easy to feel like progress is being made when we see movements like #MeToo and #Timesup, but it’s the everyday experiences of women, like those of female directors in the advertising industry, that hit home how far we still have to go in the pursuit of gender equality.
Women directors are still frequently faced with arriving on set and being mistaken for make-up artists or runners. They’re working with smaller budgets on average. And they’re still having to refer to themselves as women directors.
It’s hard to imagine male directors dealing with these issues.
The advertising industry has been slower than many to react and although there are far more women of all backgrounds and cultures on our screens now, how many are behind the camera? The answer…very few.
Free The Bid announced that just 7% of commercial directors are women, despite estimates that between 70-80% of consumer purchasing is driven by women.
Those stats shouldn’t sit comfortably with any marketer, but the good news is change is in their hands.
The buck stops with the brand. It’s easy to think it’s the responsibility of agencies and production partners to hire female talent, and to a degree that’s true. But think about what’s incentivising them. Emma Reeves, Executive Director of Free The Bid, recently pointed to the level of fear in agencies at the moment. When people are scared they play it safe. They hire the people with the most experience and directors they’ve worked with before. And more often than not, that means white middle-class men.
If a brand wants female talent, they need to demand it. Rules need to be made and enforced. When Antonio Lucio was CMO at HP, he demanded that every triple bid brought to him contained at least one female filmmaker. Within a year, 59% of HP’s global campaign films were directed by women.
If agencies should be fearful of anything, it should be turning up to present reels without at least one woman director in the mix.
Don’t stereotype briefs
One of the trademarks of good content is the accurate portrayal of the target audience. When it comes to connecting with women, female creatives and directors bring experiences that male counterparts simply can’t tap into. It’s doubtful a male director would have captured the authenticity seen in the latest ‘This Girl Can’ film directed by Georgi Banks-Davies. Whilst that’s not to say men can’t direct ads for women, the perspective a woman director brings to a script is significant.
But women directors shouldn’t just be hired to work on female-focused campaigns. Women drive cars, drink beer, do DIY and play sports...just as men do.
Brands need to think beyond male and female briefs and find a way of including the influences of both in their campaigns.
Audit creative processes
Brands need to evaluate their entire creative pipeline - all the way from CMO through to the editors outputting the final content.
There are some amazingly diverse brand teams with a mix of gender, culture and experience, but the influence of that diversity is capped when those teams brief their majority male agency, who book their favourite male director, and so on.
As well as ensuring that everything is in order internally, action needs to be taken to force agencies and production partners to do the same. It’s important for marketers to ask why female creative teams aren’t working on their business. Push back when they’re presented with three white males in a triple bid. Take a look around at the crew next time they’re on a production.
Because as soon as it’s made clear that this lack of diversity is unacceptable to brands, unsurprisingly, their agencies will follow suit.
Written by Rebecca Sykes, CEO at MOFILM