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My favourite campaign of all time: State Street Global Advisors’ ‘Fearless Girl’ from 2017

Weber Shandwick’s Uma Rudd Tan on ‘Fearless Girl’, a piece of advertising that is a favourite with the world-at-large rather than just within the ivory towers of the marketing industry

It was launched with a defiant bronze statue that stopped Wall Street’s charging bull in its tracks.

‘Fearless Girl’ first made its appearance on International Women’s Day 2017, when it was unveiled in New York’s financial district.

This monumental (pun fully intended) piece of work by Kristen Verbal was commissioned by McCann New York for its client, State Street Global Advisors.

Most people think it was a single execution public relations tactic. But the campaign aimed to pressure corporates into adding more women to their boards.

The installation was followed up by a letter to the thousands of companies that comprise the Russell 3000 index, asking them to increase diversity on their boards.

As a female creative director with an eight-year old daughter who bears a strong resemblance to the fearless girl in the way she looks and behaves, ‘Fearless Girl’ gripped my heartstrings so tight that I haven’t been able to shake it off.

We always look way back into the awards books and shows to campaigns of old and wax lyrical about the beauty of the craft, the cleverness of the idea and the golden era of advertising.

Fearless Girl London

But none of it compares to the reactions ‘Fearless Girl’ invoked – immediate and powerful global conversations around the strength of female leadership and gender equality, while at the same time encouraging businesses to make their boards more inclusive, gender-balanced and diverse.

It created so much controversy: From what it represents to where it was placed. Today, it has become a tourist destination, even though it was moved from its original spot to the New York Stock Exchange.

A replica of ‘Fearless Girl’ has also been installed in London. It has earned more organic social shares than any other campaign in the history of social media.

I’ve got a positive response and a clear nod of recognition every time I have mentioned ‘Fearless Girl’ at a client meeting.

Sadly, I can’t say the same for some of the other great campaigns hailed by people in the ad world as earthshaking.

Yes, we in the industry may love them but everyone else is clueless of their existence, so what’s the point?

My favourite story about ‘Fearless Girl’ is from the day it was being installed. An old Japanese woman from Hawaii was visiting New York. She hardly spoke any English.

And yet, when she first set eyes on that bronze statue holding its ground, tears flowed from her eyes as she whispered in Japanese: “That’s me.”

A great piece of communication transcends language and culture.

The best ads in my humble opinion, evolve beyond their original purpose to become powerful platforms for a greater cause. The message of ‘Fearless Girl’ has been elevated beyond its initial purpose to become a symbol of women empowerment and gender equality the world over.

Why do I love it so much? Because for a cold 50-inch-tall bronze statue, she exudes the kind of warmth and confidence that reflect me, my daughter and every woman out there.

Uma Rudd Tan is creative director at Weber Shandwick. She lives in Singapore

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