On Sunday, the Academy Awards will take place for the 92nd time. And a man will win Best Director, because only men were nominated this year, in a time-honored tradition that has resulted in only 5 Oscar nominations ever for women directors. The male-dominated category was the subject of an Issa Rae joke gone viral when the Insecure creator quipped “congratulations to those men” during an official Oscar noms announcement video.
In steps agency Mojo Supermarket with a biting campaign created to remind movie fans of all the talent being left out of the ceremony. The agency’s GiveHerABreak campaign uses an online Oscar-viewing portal that replaces commercials, instead filling the breaks with trailers for over a dozen of the buzzworthy and blockbuster films directed by women last year. “You stole our Oscars. So we stole your ads,” reads the tagline for the campaign. And the potential to impact the market is very real; women make up about 80 percent of consumer purchases, and according to one February 2019 study are twice more likely to watch the Academy Awards than men.
Considering that women drive both ratings and the consumer market reach of the event, it’s a wonder that critically acclaimed films like Booksmart (dir: Olivia Wilde), Queen and Slim (dir: Melina Matsoukas), Little Women (dir: Greta Gerwig), The Farewell (dir: Lulu Wang), and box office hit Hustlers (dir: Lorena Scarfaria) didn’t make the cut for the directory category. In Gerwig’s case, it’s especially surprising since Little Women is in the running for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and other categories. Overall, this year’s Academy Award nominations feature very few people of color as well, leading to the sense that 2020 is a regression from the gradual progress of diversity initiated by campaigns like #OscarsSoWhite and Time’s Up.
GiveHerABreak’s portal — a “watch live” button on its website — is a middle finger to Academy voters that collectively snubbed female directors, while allowing viewers to still tune in to the ceremony in a perfectly legal way. You still have to enter ABC or cable credentials to watch, but when the broadcast breaks for ads your screen will populate with YouTube trailers for a lengthy list of women-directed films — none of which were nominated for Best Director.
“We currently have a list of 200 films made in the last year that would’ve been eligible for Best Director nominations,” Mojo Supermarket senior creative Emily Berger told Adweek. The agency isn’t working in a vacuum, but partnered with groups that Berger said “know this space better than we do.”
“The organization Film Fatales was a huge help to us in helping compile our thorough list of films and helped support the campaign,” said Berger. “Both Women In Film and Free The Bid have also been a huge help. Alma Har’el, one of our favorite snubbed directors, actually helped us get the word out. And we’re working with a network of female directors on helping us whittle down the list and make sure we recognize great talent.”
Mojo Supermarket founder Mo Said, a former Droga5 Creative Director, noted that the project is a step in a new direction for an agency that usually works with brands. “Even though we’d usually be making the ads during the Oscars, this issue is much bigger than us.” Said, whose agency staff makeup is 50 percent women and 50 percent immigrant, said in a press release Friday. “There’s millions of women who create incredible films, but just don’t get the same break by this misogynistic industry. We wanted to fix that.”
Not only is the agency fixing the lack of visibility The Oscars are giving women directors, it’s also started a heated conversation online through the #GiveHerABreak hashtag. On Friday, film industry professionals, gender equality advocates, and critics highlighted the project on social media.
“This Sunday, millions of people across the country will finally have a choice—watch the movies a select group handpicked for you. Or actually watch the best films of the year. We’ve never had that choice before” said Said.