A statue of a girl facing the Wall St. Bull is seen, as part of a campaign by US fund manager State Street to push companies to put women on their boards, in the financial district in New York, US, March 7, 2017. Picture: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID
A statue of a girl facing the Wall St. Bull is seen, as part of a campaign by US fund manager State Street to push companies to put women on their boards, in the financial district in New York, US, March 7, 2017. Picture: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID

Fearless Girl, the statue that mysteriously appeared the night before International Women’s Day in 2017 on New York’s Wall Street, was the creation of advertising agency McCann New York on behalf of a client, State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), a financial advisory firm.

SSGA is the third-largest asset manager globally, but prior to this campaign there was little understanding of the company in the consumer space. One of its values is creating and promoting gender diversity.

The campaign, ranked the most successful one promoting good causes in 2017 by The Good Report advertising website, was created on a shoestring budget with no paid media. The image of the statue – a young girl with her hands on her hips facing down Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull statue – soon went viral online. Within the first 12 hours the image had more than 1bn Twitter impressions. Within the first 12 weeks this figure had reached 4.6bn, and there had been 215,000 Instagram posts.

The campaign garnered four grand prix awards at Cannes and a total of 18 Cannes Lions.

Fearless Girl reportedly generated close to US$7.5 in free marketing across TV, social media and radio, according to an Adweek article. While the Fearless Girl statue has become an icon in its own right, that was never the intention behind the campaign, which was to promote the anniversary of SSGA’s SHE Fund, which invests only in companies that have women in top leadership positions.

Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

The big take-out

Brands that want to tap into big national or international dialogues need to have the goods and the right partner to be able to do in a way that is not seen as a stunt.

Following the launch of the campaign SSGA went on to support gender diversity at board level, in particular encouraging companies in which it invests to put women in board and other leadership positions. Fearless Girl, according to Adweek, had a huge impact on the company’s SHE Fund, with daily trading volume growing by 384% in the three days after the statue debuted and 170% over the next 20 business days. 

The campaign continues to have resonance: a petition signed by 40,000 people called for Fearless Girl to stay put opposite the Charging Bull for long past the initially planned month. More than a year after the statue’s debut, reports indicate that SSGA is working with New York’s mayor’s office with the intention of keeping the statue in New York permanently.

Interviewed in the wake of the campaign’s success Stephen Tisdalle, senior managing director and chief marketing officer at SSGA, said brands that want to tap into big national or international dialogues need to have the goods and the right partner to be able to do it in a way that is not seen as a stunt.

Key to the campaign’s success, both the company and the agency agree, is keeping the lines of communication open. The name, for instance, wasn’t finalised until three days before the statue was unveiled.

While Tisdalle conceded that the campaign was potentially high risk given the powerful statement it was making about society, both the client and the agency were convinced that the idea was a good one. The result: one of the most celebrated marketing campaigns of 2017 that continues to make headlines more than a year later.