The Fearless Girl

“Everything we want is on the other side of fear.” – George Addair.

 

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Thanks to Instagram’s savvy (but creepy) technology, posts we genuinely are interested in often appear on our ‘explore’ pages. This is usually pretty useful for me for four reasons;

  1. To look at healthy food I’ll probably never make
  2. To look at unhealthy food I definitely will make
  3. To watch fitness videos whilst lying horizontal on the sofa
  4. To stalk my best-friend’s ex-housemate’s sister’s friend’s brother (see relevant Kardashian meme below)

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Last night however, a picture caught my eye.

The image depicted what looked like a young girl, squaring up to a bull with the caption #TheFearlessGirl.  Pretty random? So I dug a little deeper.

One Google search later and any hope of getting a decent night’s sleep became a distant memory. Instagram had lead me to one of the most inspiring yet controversial campaigns of 2017. (THANKS Kevin Systrom!)

Here’s what I found out…

On 7th March 2017, the day before International Women’s Day, The Fearless Girl was erected on Wall Street. She arrived overnight, seemingly out of thin air and stood roughly 50 inches tall. With her hands triumphantly placed upon her hips and facing Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull statue, she took New York’s heart of finance (and the world) by storm.

But why?

Fearless Girl was created for financial advising company State Street Global Advisors by creative agency McCann New York.

Their research identified one key issue;

“The problem is this – women are not making it to the top of any profession, anywhere in the world.” – Sheryl Sandberg, 2017.

They found that companies with women in leadership perform better than those without  (MSCI, November 2015) and aimed to challenge 3,500 companies (a quarter of which had no female board representatives) to add more women to their boards (NBC News, 2017).

They wanted to create a symbol of leadership for the women of today and tomorrow and brilliantly illustrated this with Fearless Girl. She represents courage, strength and ambition but with child-like innocence. When we look at Fearless Girl we see determination, not yet tainted by corruption. We see bravery, not yet tarnished by the unjust. We see heart, not yet disappointed or betrayed by deceit.  

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When I look at her, I see myself. I see 8 year old me playing games of British bulldogs against the boys, determined to win, never for a second doubting that I could.  I see myself studying hard for GCSE’s and am reminded of  the tears of joy I cried as I opened my results to see that (despite all odds) I had achieved a B in maths. I see myself at University. I see my hockey team victorious at Inter-provincial championships. I see myself working long hours far away from home on placement. Fearless Girl reminds me that there is nothing more rewarding than working hard for something and the feeling you get when you achieve it. America’s king of Monday night television, Stephen Colbert, dubbed Fearless Girl as a symbol, “representing women’s daily experience of having to face a tonne of bull.” She reminds us that as women, we’re inevitably going to face an abundance of daily hardships, but who’s to say we’ll let it stand in our way?

Did the campaign work?

Initially for State Street, yes.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Fearless Girl spawned almost one million tweets and an array of free publicity for State Street, including thousands of mentions on TV programs and hundreds of articles in papers around America. State Street estimates the traditional and social-media exposure generated by Fearless Girl is valued between $27 million and $38 million. Not bad for a rumoured budget of $250,000 (Wall Street Journal 2017). The statue’s resonance in social media highlighted the fact that digital campaign success can often stem from a purely offline idea.

And that’s not all.. Fearless Girl is now one of the most highly honoured campaigns in the history of the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity and one of two campaigns ever to have won four Grand Prix at Cannes (Adweek 2017).

However

State Street came under fire in March, when documents by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program stated that, “since at least December 1, 2010, and continuing thereafter, State Street discriminated against Females employed in the Senior Vice President (SVP), Managing Director (MD), and Vice President (VP) positions by paying them less, in base salary, bonus pay and total compensation, than similarly situated Males employed in the same position.” (Quartz Media 2017). The company initially rejected the claims but has since agreed to pay nearly $4.5 million in back pay and over $507,000 in interest to settle the dispute.

So my question is this; A cleverly insincere marketing ploy or a heartfelt do-good campaign?

I’ve always tried to see the good in people. A somewhat naive personality trait, but one that allows me to sleep at night with less worries and angst that leave me tossing and turning in the sheets. When I see pictures of the grown women and the little girls standing next to Fearless Girl, I can relate to the emotions the 50 inch statue provokes. She inspires us all to be the best and forces us to believe that we can be, no matter who or what is standing in our way. To create and implement such a heartwarming campaign, I really do believe State Street were trying to promote real positive change. That being said, I can hardly ignore the initial benefits it brought about for their business, and the unfortunate tsunami of negativity that followed.

Ernest Gaines tells us to, “ Question everything. Every stripe, every star, every word spoken. Everything.”

Well… Are campaigns fooling us and merely created for the benefit of organisations?

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Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/

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