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Fearful Girl

Industry: Public interest & Non-profit
Media:Promotion & Event
Market:United States
Style: Minimalism
Why is this work relevant for Direct?

America has a gun violence epidemic that is unique in the world, and yet the government has been paralyzed in addressing it due to the power of the gun lobby in politics. Ahead of the 2018 U.S. midterm election, this activation was conceived with a very specific and critical result in mind: Jolt voters out of complacency and incite them to vote out the status quo in Washington with regards to gun reform.


While there has been a groundswell of activism around the gun violence issue, and 94% of Americans support some form of stricter gun control, no meaningful legislation has passed due to the NRA’s stranglehold on U.S. politicians. The only way change can truly be enacted is by changing the political landscape during an election cycle.

This brief was developed as part of the Fight Gunfire with Fire initiative, which seeks to empower students’ ideas in the fight against gun violence. The brief called for ideas that are simple, powerful, and actionable to effect real change around the gun issue. The goal was to execute ideas ahead of the mid-term election and influence Americans to vote for change.

After working with students from University of Alabama to craft their idea, we approached Change the Ref, founded by the parents of a Parkland victim, and found the perfect partner for the idea.

Describe the creative idea (30% of vote)

Four days before the U.S. midterm elections, the team powerfully re-contextualized the famous Fearless Girl statue, outfitting her in a bulletproof vest emblazoned with #FearfulGirl and making the simple statement that she can’t be fearless if she is afraid to go to school. The vest was placed there by Change the Ref founders, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, whose son was killed in the school shooting in Parkland, FL.

The idea needed to incite action right before the midterm election. Complacency was really the enemy, with 94% of Americans supportive of some form of gun reform but only 72% identifying it as a Very Important voting issue, and typical midterm voter turnout under 40%. The media landscape just before the election was frenzied and inundated with political messaging so a typical ad was not going to do the trick. We needed to be provocative, newsworthy, and emotional to be successful.

Describe the strategy (20% of vote)

There is so much data about the gun violence epidemic in America that it’s easy to get lost in the numbers and become numb to the reality. The biggest breakthrough came not from research, but from picking our children up at school and listening to them relay what it’s like to go through an active shooter drill. It was devastating to process that they need to prepare for the possibility of being shot in their own school. We needed to channel that emotion in the 28% of registered voters who weren’t rating the issue as Very Important and the over 64% of Americans who typically don’t vote in the mid-terms.

We targeted American voters ahead of the mid-term elections, aiming to jolt them out of complacency by reminding them that the gun violence issue affects us all, even the youngest among us.

Describe the execution (20% of vote)

Early morning on November 2, 2018, in New York City, Manuel and Patricia Oliver placed a bulletproof vest on the Fearful Girl statue. With no permit, we had to act quickly and decisively. The vest stayed on her for about 2 hours before the police arrived.

There was no paid support behind the activation.

List the results (30% of vote)

#FearfulGirl garnered 353 million earned impressions.

#FearfulGirl helped the Olivers’ message reach a wider audience and was part of series of actions that propelled the brand further into the media spotlight.

The efforts of gun control activists also yielded a sea change in voter behavior specific to the issue. The Trace reported, “Democrats earning F ratings from the NRA for their views on gun laws prevailed not only in increasingly bluish swing states such as Virginia, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Colorado, but also in conservative strongholds like South Carolina and Kansas.”

Please tell us how you designed/adapted your campaign for the single country / region / market where it aired.

While gun violence touches every corner of the globe, mass shootings are particularly prevalent in America with some reports at over 300 in 2018 alone.

Dating back before Parkland, driven by other school shootings like Columbine and Sandy Hook, active shooter drills have become the norm in schools across America. According to the National Center for Education Statistics report from 2015–2016, 95% of U.S. schools perform some kind of active shooter drills. In Massachusetts, five-year-olds are being taught active shooter drills to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.”

This activation was designed to shine a light on the horrifying new normal faced by America’s youth.
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Other credit:Entrant Company: McCANN NEW YORK, USA
Global Creative Chairman, Rob Reilly, McCann New York
Chief Production Officer, Nathy Aviram, McCann New York
Executive Music Producer, Eric Johnson, McCann New York
Senior Project Manager, Steven Marchione, McCann New York
SVP Executive Producer, Christine Lane, McCann New York
Music Producer, Dan Gross, McCann New York
Managing Director, Devika Bulchandani, McCann New York
Senior Integrated Producer, Deb Archambault, McCann New York
Regional Director, Rich O’Leary, McCann New York
Chief Communications Officer, Jeremy Miller, McCann New York
Design Director, George Katz, McCann New York
Director of Social and Mobile, Gemma Craven, McCann New York
Head of Communications Strategy, David Broad, McCann New York
Executive Account Director, Peter Bracegirdle, McCann New York
Content Creator, Brett Berman, McCann New York
Content Creator, Eric Perini, McCann New York
Artist, Kristen Visbal, Visbal Fine Bronze Sculpture, Inc.
Owner, Bryan Roberts, Traction Creative
President/Creative Director, Joel Simon, JSM Music
Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2019
Shortlist Direct
Single-market Campaign
Latest Updated