From Fearless Girl to Like a Girl: The campaigns that moved the decade

PR did the heavy lifting on many of the most influential campaigns of the past 10 years.

Fearless Girl was one of the decades most memorable -- and inspiring -- campaigns. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
Fearless Girl was one of the decades most memorable -- and inspiring -- campaigns. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

It’s not easy to pick the best PR campaign of a year, let alone a decade -- and especially this decade. Over the past 10 years, there was the continued rise of social media, the emergence of influencers, a major retraction in traditional news outlets and challenging issues like "fake news."

Paid media also faced its share of challenges, from the rise of content streaming to ad blockers, making it more difficult for brands to win the attention of time-strapped consumers. PR did the heavy lifting for so many successful campaigns this decade. 

Think of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that turned into a global, viral sensation in 2014. Or when REI launched #OptOutside in 2015 and transformed a business decision for its staff—to close its stores on Black Friday—into a brand-defining rallying cry. 

PRWeek asked leading agency and in-house communicators to look back at their favorite campaign of the last decade. 

Gail Heimann, president and CEO, Weber Shandwick 

"This campaign would have been powerful had the Fearless Girl statue only been up for International Women’s Day in 2017, but she’s still standing today. The statue was, and continues to be, through all the controversy and shifting locations, a representation of hope and empowerment, and a unifying symbol of the gender equality movement."

Corey duBrowa, VP, global communications and public affairs, Google

"I would give the nod to REI's Opt Outside. It was a creative and customer-focused way of transforming Black Friday from a consumer revenue-generation moment into a consciousness- and awareness-raising opportunity. For the REI customer -- I've proudly been one for decades -- it just felt right to go from passive consumption to proactive decision-making. And they've only managed to make it more engaging ever since." 

Sarah Gavin, VP, global communications and corporate brand, Expedia 

"The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge proved that you don’t need big budgets or flashy products to break through in a big way. I particularly thought they did a great job keeping ALS top-of-mind throughout the run of the campaign. One could easily imagine a scenario where people get obsessed with the fun of it and no one remembers who it’s actually for. I’m certain that happened to some extent, but the brand recognition even deep into the campaign blew me away."

Jim Joseph, global president, BCW 

"This year’s Cannes Lions PR Grand Prix Winner: the Tampon Book from the Female Company. This campaign was successful with truly integrated public relations that included data and insights, public policy, consumer education, stakeholder engagement, packaging and retail marketing all combined to solve a real problem. It worked."

Michael Sneed, EVP, global corporate affairs and chief communications officer, Johnson & Johnson

"Patagonia: closed for Thanksgiving. CVS: no longer selling cigarettes. Gerber Baby for its message about inclusion. Fearless Girl. But if I had to pick one, it would probably be CVS, as it removed a big obstacle that has allowed it to transform itself." 

Tony Cervone, SVP, global communications, General Motors

"Always #Like a Girl. Not only was it successfully executed, but it was perfectly timed, and I believe potentially foundational for #MeToo as well as myriad diversity initiatives that followed."

Barri Friedman Rafferty, president and CEO, Ketchum

"Every Baby is a Gerber Baby, because it showed that the best work is that which is inclusive. The world is made of many different types of people and everyone should be represented. As an industry, we need to constantly be mindful of this, from the work we create and the counsel we give our clients to the people we hire and the platforms we utilize. This beautiful campaign from Gerber showed us how it can and should be done."

Frank Shaw, corporate VP of communications, Microsoft

"REI’s Opt Outside work, which speaks to the brand so perfectly. It built on a cultural moment, Black Friday, and then had a twist: take the time to get outside."

Matthew Harrington, global president and COO, Edelman 

"The Like a Girl campaign – insightful, provocative and sparked conversation. In many respects, you might say it laid the groundwork for the subsequent #MeToo movement in that it seeded a conversation about girls, women and empowerment."

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