- Alcoholic beverage producer Diageo, whose brand portfolio includes Guinness, Tanqueray and Bailey's, joined the "Free the Bid" initiative that calls on ad agencies and content producers worldwide to include at least one female director as part of the creative bidding process, per a company news release.
- Beyond encouraging gender parity in the advertising industry, Free the Bid comes as part of Diageo's broader project to bring more diversity and inclusion into its business and the communities where it operates, the release said. The company's executive committee is currently made up of 40% women, and the brand intends to soon add more women to its board.
- Fewer than 7% of directors are women and just 9% of commercials are directed by women, according to research cited in the release. The Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index recognized Diageo in January for its efforts, and the company is listed in joint first place in the Cranfield School of Management Female FTSE Report 2017 for Companies with Female Executive Directors. It also ranked No. 5 in the Thomson Reuters Global Diversity and Inclusion Index.
Diageo isn't the first brand to pursue an initiative like Free the Bid, as the ad world — and agencies, in particular — have historically come up short in terms of racial and gender representation both in consumer-facing marketing and in their staffing. Former General Mills CMO Ann Simonds earned a lot of praise for introducing quotas wherein any agency looking for the brand's business had to staff at least 50% women and 20% people of color, for example.
However, Free the Bid comes at an especially relevant time, as the #MeToo movement has brought to light widespread instances of sexual harassment and abuse claims across industries, including advertising. It's also put a harsh spotlight on a lack of gender equality, and specifically how few women hold leadership roles in the advertising and marketing sectors. Diageo, with the news, might help nudge the industry closer toward true parity by giving more creative women and commercial directors a foot in the door on the bidding process.
Gender equality and diversity have been a growing focus for the major ad trade groups as well, including the Association of National Advertisers, which last year rolled out a #SeeHer project providing advertisers with tools and data to help make better decisions when it comes to representation in ad campaigns. While there may be an industry-wide push to create more gender equality in ads and improve the portrayals of women, there's still a lot of work to be done. During this year's Super Bowl, for example, the number of ads featuring women increased to 73% from 62% last year, but the number of ads portraying women in significant roles dropped to 34% from 43%, according to ABX research, which the ANA uses for its Gender Equality Measure.