Pledged agency GTB‘s Sumer Friedrichs is somewhat of a rarity in the auto industry – as a woman in the SVP Director of Integrated Production role, she has had an up-close-and-personal relationship with the male biases that drive decision-making in the automotive marketing sector.
In September 2016, soon after the launch of Free The Bid, GTB became one of the pledge’s early adopters, thanks in large part to the outgoing CCO, Toby Barlow, who encouraged Sumer’s personal enthusiasm and drive for equal opportunity. Breaking into the male-dominated culture of car advertising requires extra effort for women directors, and Sumer’s experience with pushing for the inclusion of one woman director on every triple-bid at GTB is a testament to the enormity of the task – it “was like ice skating uphill,” she told us.
Due to the fact that women have been found to be responsible for 85% of consumer decisions across industries, Free The Bid strongly believes that inclusion of women’s directorial perspective will lead to marketing in all sectors that resonates with customers of all genders. In a recent study conducted by AutoTrader in the UK, nine out of ten consumers, men and women alike, reported finding automotive advertising “too masculine” and representative of negative gender stereotypes, an outcome that listening to the perspective of a woman director would help to alleviate.
We spoke with Sumer about the task of implementing the pledge, some of the many women directors that GTB has worked with and bid since pledging, and working with an all-woman team on the latest EcoSport spot, shot by director Peyton Wilson of Chelsea Pictures. This brand new spot, which can be viewed above, is the touching story of bringing to life one woman’s seemingly simple wish: to hug her parents.
(left – right): Rhonda Raulston, Peyton Wilson, Maia Javan, Tami Reiker, Maeliosa Tiernan
Can you explain the role that GTB plays within the automotive sector?
Sure, I’ll start easy and break down the name – Global Team Blue. We encompass all global marketing and advertising for the blue oval, Ford Motor Company. This includes National TV & Social campaigns for Ford vehicle launches & high value media like the Superbowl; partnership executions, such as NASCAR & Motorsports commercials/digital content; all the way to sweepstakes initiatives backed by Ford; philanthropies, like all of the Warriors in Pink content (initiative for breast cancer awareness), and all of the Drive4YourSchool programs; and then all of our US Retail, Dealer & Owner Experiences – all national and regional offers, from TV to .com for our shopper target. We are proud of Experiences like Brazil’s “Safe Cap,” a cap for truckers that prevents them from falling asleep at the wheel, Italy’s “Feel the View,” giving blind passengers a sense of landscape through vibration sensors, and the United States’ “GT-The Return,” a full VR documentary of the Ford GT, which made its way back to Le Mans a few years ago.
Andressa Cor (left), Lila Byall (right), shooting an EcoSport campaign
Since GTB was an early adopter of the Free The Bid pledge, can you talk us through how GTB’s pledge initially came about?
I had seen a preliminary web blast from a friend who has been a part of Free The Bid since its conception. I took one look and jumped right in. I sent it to my boss at the time, CCO Toby Barlow. Before he could open the email, I was in his office with bated breath. He was extremely supportive, and so next I had to clear it with our Chief Operations Officer. Soon after that, I called my team together, showed them the website (once it had gone live) and shared it with the company via an announcement from Toby & I.
In your position as head of production in the traditionally male-dominated automotive arena, what challenges have you faced in implementing the pledge?
I was waiting for you to ask this! At the beginning, it was initially well received…until it was time to seriously list your bidders, at which point there were reservations.
It played out in chapters:
Chapter 1) Getting the attention of the majority, who did/do not identify with the issue. The US automotive arena is not only male-dominated, but also very conservative, for many good reasons. Ford has a lot at stake. They are producing for the masses in a highly competitive industry, an industry where they have to put the law and safety before many other attributes in a today that concentrates on tomorrow.
Chapter 2) Presenting the solution, as a woman. There were groups that were harder to break into (such as Truck or Retail), where women were never even thought of to execute because they did not ‘fit the mold’ or they were bereft of car footage on their reels. A woman telling them to include a woman in their process was like ice skating uphill.
Chapter 3) Highlighting the added value of the female contribution and retaining it for next time. Retaining the idea that this is not a one-and-done movement and eliminating the notion of, “we included a woman on the last project”. Having Cindy Gallop’s, ‘blow shit up’ force handy in my back pocket gave me courage to push many times.
Director Nora Urbanski (far left) on set of Ford F-150 shoot
What have some of the successes been? Could you talk us through the highlights of work created since the implementation of the pledge at GTB?
The biggest success has been how it has resonated with the overall Production and Creative groups. There is a much higher acceptance and contribution rate when pulling a list of directorial candidates together for every project. Some of the largest highlights have been in our executions around vehicle features and how they impact the consumer.
Our new Vehicle Walk-Arounds are a continuing campaign that takes lead engineers and walks the audience through features and design of each vehicle. Tatia Pilieva from Pulse directed these, and they are scoring higher than any other work of their kind.
Car & F-150 Platform & Social sustainment contained a plethora of resources for our online presence with our shopper demographics. These included “Car,” directed by Amara Untermeyer from The Work, and “Truck,” directed by Nora Urbanski from Seventy7 Productions. The content has been elevated to relate with the consumers. So the female perspective was a key contribute.
I don’t want to discount the women (and the amount of women) we have bid, yet did not award to. I consider this one of our biggest successes for building up the reputations for these talented women. For example, for our latest Mustang Pony campaign – an all CG initiative, very design oriented and hip to a male dominated culture – we bid Maryanne Butler of Framestore.
Another realm into which we’ve had tremendous breakthrough is our Tier 1.5 work, which are our most seen, consistent advertising campaigns. In the last year, we have bid Joanna Bailey from Sandwick Media and JJ Adler from Tool on these campaigns.
Benna Sanchez (left) on set
What effect has taking the pledge had on the final outcome of the work created across this timeframe?
It has definitely opened up another angle to the way creatives and clients are thinking. The approach to building brand equity is slowly shifting to a stronger human-centered thought. What was always referred to as car porn (another male-dominated term), has shifted the way we message the vehicles. It’s been a teaching moment to implement a stronger female perspective to help the brand build relatability and trust with their female consumers.
Still from director Peyton Wilson‘s EcoSport, “Hug” spot
Tell us about the experience of putting together a crew of all women on the Eco-Sport campaign. What did these women bring to the set when working on this project?
This was thrilling for me. To have a female core production team on these social storytelling spots made the most sense. The EcoSport’s demographic weighs to women, the initiative of ‘EcoSports First time Evers’, concentrated on asking women, “what is one thing you’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to?” I immediately called Lisa Mehling at Chelsea and worked with EP Michel Waxman, and director Peyton Wilson. We had two all-female camera units, AD, Line Producer, Production Designer, etc.
It was a challenging project between time, budget and the variables of filming real people. We all knew signing on that there would be elbow grease; we respected each person’s discipline and we banded together to get it done. It was a perfect example of using others’ time and space efficiently and recognizing the expert in one another.
What are your hopes going forward, both for GTB and for automotive marketing in broader terms?
I would hope that the agency continues to try and move the needle forward. Hopefully the automotive marketing arena does not wait to react; and instead, acts on making decisions because they are the right thing to do.
Director Peyton Wilson (left), with Maeloisa Tiernan (center) & Tami Reiker (right)
“First-Ever: Natsuko’s First Real Hug – EcoSport”
Production Company: Chelsea Pictures
Director: Peyton Wilson
President/Executive Producer: Lisa Mehling
Executive Producer: Michel Waxman
Line Producer: Maeliosa Tiernan
Director of Photography: Tami Reiker
Editorial: Work Editorial
Editor: Trish Fuller
Editorial Producer: Chris Delarenal
Advertising Agency: Global Team Blue (GTB)
Director of Integrated Production: Sumer Friedrichs
Global Chief Creative Officer: Tito Melega
Exec Creative Director: Matt Soldan
Creative Director: Martin Insua
Creative Director: Ezequiel Soules
Senior Brand Manager: David Rivers
Brand Content Manager: David Finnegan
SUV Marketing Manager: Ryan Gillenwater
Social Media Manager: Eric Gremier
Sound: Sound Lounge
Mix Artist: Justin Kooy
Producer: Becca Falbourn
Music: Tuesday Collective
Color Grade: FreeFolk NY
TK Artist: Paul Harrison
EP: Celia Williams