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Cannes Lions 2017: It was important for the Fearless Girl to be powerful, but not antagonistic, say creators

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Cannes Lions 2017: It was important for the Fearless Girl to be powerful, but not antagonistic, say creators

Two young women and a fearless little bronze girl took the 64th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity by storm, winning award after award and sealing their place in the history of the festival at Cannes. ‘Fearless Girl’, a bronze sculpture of a little Latina girl placed right opposite the raging bull on Wall Street in Manhattan, New York, is the brainwork of Tali Gumbiner and Lizzie Wilson from McCann New York. They worked on a brief by investment firm State Street Global Advisors to create an advertisement for an index fund comprising gender-diverse companies with a higher percentage of women among their senior leadership, and also to encourage more companies to appoint women in leadership positions.

At Cannes, the Titanium Grand Prix for ‘Fearless Girl’ on the last day of the festival capped a week that also saw it win PR, Outdoor and Glass Lions Grand Prix awards. ‘Fearless Girl’ becomes one of only two campaigns to ever win four Grand Prix awards at Cannes, the other being Harvey Nichols’ ‘Sorry, I Spent It on Myself’ in 2014. The most highly honoured campaign of the festivals remains 2013’s ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ by McCann Melbourne, which won five Grand Prix awards.

‘Fearless Girl’ was applauded for being both timely and permanent. “That is not an ad. That is beyond anything we’ve ever done,” said Titanium Lions jury president Tham Khai Meng, worldwide CCO of Ogilvy & Mather, calling the work disruptive and irreverent’. “We may not be here anymore one day, but that thing, that icon, will stay there forever,” Khai added.

We caught up with Tali Gumbiner and Lizzie Wilson beside the red carpet at the Palais des festivals after an award ceremony, to talk about their iconic work. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation:

Tell us how the idea of the Fearless Girl took shape and became a statue for the campaign. Did you model her on anybody you know?

We knew we had to disrupt the financial districts idea of leadership and power—the charging bull being the most salient icon of that.

Once we landed on him, we started discussing the right symbol as a companion piece, to establish women's place in the financial district. From there, the girl was born—she was modelled after a number of girls, so she would have a more ubiquitous look and be more widely relatable.

Tell us a little about the qualities of the Fearless Girl, and what attributes you wanted her to have.  

Every detail was considered to express our message of fearlessness— the tilt of her chin, her stance. It was important that she be powerful, but not antagonistic.

What was the advertiser’s feedback? Is this the first version that you presented or were there other versions too? 

The client always knew there was something there. In collaboration with them, Eric Silver and Rob Reilly, we landed on the girl.

Did you expect Fearless Girl to win so big - four Grand Prix awards in four categories? 

No way! So exciting and unpredictable! No one could expect that.

Tell us some stories from the making of the campaign.

Given that we didn't have a statue until the day of the launch, Tali, being the shortest member on the team, became the stand-in Fearless Girl for any prep photographs, decks, base measurements, etc.

Where does the Fearless Girl go from here? 

Hopefully nowhere! Fingers crossed she's staying right where she is for good.

What are some of the other projects that you are working on? 

This year, we did some really exciting work and had a lot of great opportunities at McCann and a team that truly advocates and builds upon interesting ideas: Godiva's The Box that Keeps Giving, the Cutest Cause for Tommee Tippee, the Most Wonderful Ornament and Hippo for the United States Postal Service. 


TaliGumbiner, originally from Los Angeles, has spent the last decade migrating east, with a pit stop at the University of Michigan. She stumbled upon her career in advertising one fateful New Year’s Eve five years ago, whilst sitting in the trunk of a Subaru hatchback. Currently, she is a writer at McCann, where she’s had the opportunity to work on projects such as Godiva’s Box That Keeps Giving, The US Postal Services’ The Most Wonderful Ornament, and, most recently, Fearless Girl. She is also attempting to get her MFA from NYU somewhere in the weeds.

Lizzie Wilson, a proud native of Athens, Georgia, originally ventured from the south to get her BFA in photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Like most great things, her career in advertising began with an extensive Google search. For the past three years, Wilson has worked as an art director at McCann, where she’s been a part of projects such as Godiva’s Box That Keeps Giving, TommeeTippee’s The Cutest Cause and, most recently, Fearless Girl.

TaliGumbiner and Lizzie Wilson have been ‘happily married’ at McCann for the past year-and-a-half! Their partnership is founded on the principles of being kind, doing good, and making something interesting along the way. While they come from very different backgrounds, they’ve managed to find a common ground through their bleeding hearts and love of superfluous dog videos.

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