Sleek, sumptuous and elegant, Melanie Bridge‘s spot for Period Equity (created with pledged agency J. Walter Thompson NY) starts out like many other ads for luxury goods. An intimately lit and lavish-looking interior, overlaid with a seductive voiceover, leads to a closeup on a model twirling a diamond-studded chain.
But this isn’t your average jewelry or fragrance ad. The model is activist Amber Rose, and what she’s selling isn’t a necklace – it’s a message about unfair taxation on menstrual products. It’s time for Period Equity!
Period Equity is a law and policy organization “fighting for menstrual equity – committed to ensuring that menstrual products are affordable, safe and available to those in need.”
“In order to have a fully equitable society, we must have laws and policies that take into account the reality that half the population menstruates. Menstrual products should be tax-exempt. They should be affordable and available for all, safe for our bodies and the planet. Periods should not hold anyone back, period.”
Free The Bid had the opportunity to speak with director Melanie Bridge, touching on both this latest campaign and her 15 year career as a photographer/director, along with J. Walter Thompson Executive Creative Director Sarah Barclay, who shed some light on the video’s creation from the agency side!
PHOTO CREDIT (top left inset image & image above): Howard Wise
MELANIE BRIDGE, Director, The Sweet Shop
Your new spot spoofs luxury ads to make a powerful message about the unfair practice of taxing tampons as luxury products. Can you tell us a bit about how you initially began work on the project?
I was at JWT New York having a chat with ECD Sarah Barclay and CD Yana Hunt, and they were telling me about this project they were working on, and the incredible jewelry they had commissioned for it. I just loved everything about the idea. I felt it could really help make this change happen, it gave me goosebumps, and I told them that I would love to be involved if they needed a director.
We’re so glad that this advertisement was created with one of our pledged agencies, JWT! Have you worked with them before? Tell us more about the working process with the creatives!
No, I’ve never worked with JWT New York before, but I have worked with many other JWT agencies around the globe. The creatives on this project are just so talented, the idea is flawless, and it was a real project of passion for them – as it became in the end for me too. They gave me a simple script and really let me run with it, giving me complete freedom with my storyboard, setting, the look, the camera style and they trusted me implicitly with all my ideas. I feel proud I could bring so much to the project.
Amber Rose, the spot’s star, is the founder of Slutwalk and an outspoken advocate for women’s and reproductive health rights in general. What was the experience of shooting her like?
I really admire Amber, what she has done and what she continues to do for women, she’s an incredibly strong woman and a great role model for so many. We only had the briefest amount of time to shoot her. The entire shoot ended up being only four hours and we only had Amber on set for two hours. Luckily for us, Amber looked great and was such a great performer that we got everything we needed in record time. We were very lucky to pull it off though!
Do you have a sense of how the spot was received?
We are incredibly excited by the spot’s reception, it’s only been a week since its launch and it’s already been viewed over a million times and generated over countless press mentions, including a feature in Newsweek.
Let’s talk more about your illustrious career – you’ve been working as a director and photographer for 15 years! Looking back, what’s some of your work that you’ve been most proud of?
I’m very proud of ‘Periods are Not a Luxury’ obviously, and will be even more proud if we manage to get the law changed. There’ve been many highlights over the years, but my proudest moments come when we’ve presented an edit, there are no changes, and the client and agency are high fiving each other. Even if it’s a very simple job, giving it my all and making everyone in the team happy is what matters most to me, even more than the work itself.
Do you find that working as a still photographer complements your work as a director, and vice versa?
I’ve always been known for my highly visual style, which was honed as a photographer, it’s definitely made me the director I am today.
Being based in New Zealand, can you speak to any differences in international markets?
I think the main difference I see in each country is the amount of power the agency has versus the client, and the way that this can affect the creativity and effectiveness of the work.
Free The Bid is committed to advocating for diverse perspectives and points of view. What do you think are some of the benefits to diverse representation on both sides of the camera lens?
We are all so different and we all offer something so unique and valuable. I feel that my work in general has a stereotypical femininity about it, I think that if you gave my reel to someone who didn’t know me and asked if a man or woman directed it most would guess a woman. But to be honest, I love and embrace this, and all through my career I’ve been embraced by the advertising world because I have been able to offer up something slightly different to all the male directors out there. So far for me, being female hasn’t been much of a disadvantage, in some respects it’s been an advantage. Although I’ve never been offered a car commercial, that’s possible the one thing that irks me because I think I could make a damn fine car commercial!
Any advice for aspiring women directors?
Be confident in the uniqueness of what you offer, whatever that might be. Work hand and hone your craft, if you are brilliant you will get noticed, regardless of sex.
PHOTO CREDIT: Howard Wise
SARAH BARCLAY, Executive Creative Director, J. Walter Thompson New York
Tell us about the process of how you began work on this Period Equity ad.
A “tampon tax” is a sales tax that’s applied to items that are not deemed necessities. Try telling 50% of the population that buying a product that stops you bleeding from your vagina is not a necessity. The fact that 36 states in this country tax women for the privilege of having mood swings, excruciating pain and 30 years worth of monthly blood loss is a joke. So we thought if tampons are going to be taxed like they’re a luxury, then we’d better keep them safe. And what better place than a diamond studded 18 carat gold holder.
What initially drew you to Melanie’s work and led you to work with her on this project?
I’ve always loved Melanie’s work and have considered her for a variety of projects but somehow was never able to get further than a call. This time the stars aligned. All it took was a cup of tea and a quick chat for us both to know this was the perfect project.
How much did Amber Rose bring to the creative process, since she’s such a powerful & outspoken activist?
Right from the moment we asked Amber if she would be interested, she was in. She was as incensed as everyone is when they hear about this tax. She loved the idea from the start and was gracious and invested all the way. She is so committed to empowering women in any way she can and was amazing partner.
How often do you get work on projects that address social issues?
Not many of these projects come around, so we were all very aware that this one was special. Culturally it is a pivotal moment for women’s rights and perfect timing to provoke the debate for (hopefully) legislation change.
JWT is one of the earliest agencies that took the pledge to Free The Bid globally. As a creative, I’m sure you’ve seen how useful our searchable database can be, since we’re constantly adding new directors on a weekly basis. How have you seen the effects of our initiative at work?
As a woman, I have always championed and supported women in the industry, so love that there is now an easy way to find women directors. I can’t believe that less than 7% of directors are women. (Only 11% of creative directors at agencies are female, another outrageous statistic).
Any final words for the Free The Bid family?
It is incumbent on us as an industry to support and nurture the under-represented 50% of the population. And at the same time, not impose ridiculous taxes on them.
Client: Period Equity
Founder: Jennifer Weiss-Wolf
Founder: Laura Strausfeld
Agency: J. Walter Thompson New York
Executive Creative Director: Sarah Barclay
Creative Director: Yana Hunt
Copywriter: Danielle White
Copywriter: Christopher Phillips
Head of Production: Anthony Nelson
Agency Producer: Gillian Blain
Global President: Claire Capeci
Account Manager: Adaire Carey
Global Planning Director: Marina Pen
Project Manager: Drazen Kupres
Production Company: The Sweet Shop
Director: Melanie Bridge
Executive Producer: Laura Thoel
Bidding Producer: Carolyn Pedrossian
Line Producer: Michelle Stark
Director of Photography: Danny Ruhlmann
Production Designer: Erin Dallesandro
Still Photographer: Howard Wise
Editor: Lindsey Nadolski
Executive Producer: Melissa Lubin
Color Grading: Company 3
Senior Colorist: Sofie Borup
Music: Amber Music
Producer/Music Supervisor: Mike Perri
EP/Music Creative Director: Michelle Curran
Audio Mix: Heard City
Engineer: Jodi Levine
Voice Talent: Lindsey Kaufman