Facebook and Amazon back search engine for female movie and ad directors

A still for an ad for Free the Work, an initiative to help businesses find female movie directors.
Free the Work

Facebook and Amazon Studios are among the backers of a new website that will help businesses and producers find female photographers, ad and movie directors and editors in an effort to balance up male-dominated creative industries.

Amazon Studios is a subsidiary of Amazon and produces and distributes movies.

Dubbed a talent discovery service, Free the Work was launched by director Alma Har'el, whose movie "Honey Boy" will be released on Amazon in November. Har'el has also overseen commercials for companies such as Airbnb, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, and was the first woman to direct an ad for Stella Artois. Procter & Gamble and AT&T are also sponsors of Free the Work.

A cross between a social network and online talent scout, Free the Work provides a database of female creatives, with an option to subscribe to a premium service. People using it can make personalized shortlists of the women they want to work with and share them with colleagues, and those with profiles on the site can network with each other, among other functions. Agency Wieden + Kennedy Portland made an ad to promote the initiative featuring Maria Anna Mozart, a musical prodigy whose talent was ignored in favor of her younger brother Wolfgang Amadeus.

Film director Alma Har'el at the Cannes Lions advertising conference in France, June 2019
Free the Work | Cannes Lions

"Many of us use services every day to discover new restaurants or a new song we're excited about. We want to bring the same urgency and innovation to talent discovering and make sure that this is something that appeals to people across the board, not only in the diversity 'echo chamber' but outside of it," Har'el said on Wednesday, speaking to CNBC at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France.

Antonio Lucio, who joined Facebook as its chief marketing officer (CMO) in September, said that advertising made by a diverse group of people makes for better business results. "It starts with a business case for diversity … if I can find diverse teams, you're going to have better (advertising) work and that better work translates into business results," he told CNBC on Wednesday.

Lucio was previously CMO at HP, where in 2016, he made his ad agencies increase the number of women directors they worked with. Eighteen months later, more than half of HP's 53 commercials were directed by women, and he claims this had a positive impact on sales. Marketers use measurements such as someone's preference for their brand over a competitor to assess the impact of marketing, and Lucio has said the measure for "intention to buy" went up by 6 percent in the 18-month period.

Facebook launched its latest ad campaign in the U.S. last month, in an attempt to regain the trust of people using the site after a series of privacy issues and government scrutiny. Lucio told industry publication AdAge that the company wanted to be "participants in the way that our story is told and not just on the receiving end," in an interview.

The "More Together" campaign focuses on its Groups' feature to show how people can interact with others who have common interests. "What Facebook needs to communicate is basically to amplify what happens in the platform. The real people, real stories … Our reflection of our community will become increasingly important," he told CNBC. Since the start of 2019, 44 percent of Facebook's ads have been directed by women, Lucio added, and the "More Together" ads are set to run in Brazil and Europe, with more regions to follow in 2020.