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Special Project

Special Project
From the 11th Annual Shorty Awards

The Scully Effect

Entered in Social Good Campaign


In February 2018, 21st Century Fox launched "The Scully Effect," a campaign celebrating "The X-Files" character Dana Scully and her influence in inspiring a generation of female viewers to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Agent Scully, portrayed by Gillian Anderson, first appeared on air in 1993 as an independent, cerebral female lead character, a rarity in TV at the time. To celebrate the trailblazing character and her legacy, 21CF partnered with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to commission a study on the "Scully Effect", a previously anecdotal correlation that saw a generation of women enter STEM due to Agent Scully's influence.

The objectives for the campaign, which launched for Women's History Month, were to:

If the study could show that Scully did, in fact, inspire women to pursue STEM, it would make an empirical case for the importance of representation in media and the role that 21CF has had in advancing positive portrayals in entertainment media, while reinforcing its stated mission to use the power of storytelling to build a better, more equitable society.

Strategy and Execution

For the "Scully Effect" campaign, FOX and 21CF assembled all of the tools it typically uses to market new programming—appearances by Hollywood talent, weeks-long social media pushes across platforms—and instead used them to celebrate "The X-Files'" positive social impact on a generation of women looking to pursue STEM careers.

This approach followed several core tenets:

21CF partnered with Geena Davis Institute to conduct a national survey to identify trends among fans of The X-Files and women in STEM. Actress Geena Davis founded the Institute in 2004 to combat unconscious bias, challenge stereotypes, and create better role models in the entertainment industry through data and research. Next, 21CF recorded an interview with Gillian Anderson, an outspoken advocate on gender equality both on screen and behind the camera. The company also interviewed key female cast and crew, including female writers, Anderson's stunt coordinator, and Anne Simon, a biology professor and the show's chief science advisor, as well as female fans. Each spoke about their perspectives on Agent Scully's importance as a role model for women and a ground-breaking character in the history of television.

21CF hosted the campaign video, research report, and other campaign assets on its corporate websites and "The X-Files" homepage, as well as on social media, engaging fans on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while leveraging both show talent and local Fox affiliates across the country. Using the #ScullyEffect hashtag, 21CF encouraged audiences to share their own stories of how Agent Scully inspired them. 21CF also pitched the story and research to journalists across the country in the entertainment and general interest verticals, as well as those covering topics in STEM and around gender equality.

21CF identified the pro-social angle as a key way to make the new season stand out among a crowded media marketplace while engaging a millennial audience who increasingly place social impacts high on their list of priorities when trying a product or patronizing a company, and are the ones most likely to engage with digital content and social media.

Finally, engaged the broader CSR community is a key method of providing value to 21CF, not only among stakeholders and potential viewers but also in attracting and retaining top talent and reaching new audiences around the world. Consumers, advertisers, and investors increasingly support companies with robust CSR programs. As a media company, 21CF's programming is both its foremost product and its greatest chance at making a positive impact in communities around the world.


The survey found overwhelming statistical support for the Scully Effect:

The video and #ScullyEffect digital campaign garnered significant attention on social media and online press, with viral video retweets, combined # ScullyEffect and #IWD2018 posts tied to International Women's Day, stories in Fast Company, Google Education, NYMag's The Cut, and other outlets, and thousands of heartfelt affirmations from fans who pursued STEM careers because of Scully, or who were made to feel less alone or less of an outlier as one of a few women in their fields. The video was later included on the DVD and Blu-ray release of Season 11 of the show.

Above all, the campaign succeeded in advocating for greater gender equality in the STEM fields, an increase in positive portrayals of female characters in entertainment, and the power of compelling storytelling in effecting positive change. As Anderson says in the video, "Scully was a desperately needed role model for women of all ages, everywhere… and if she can see it, then she can be it."


Video for The Scully Effect

Entrant Company / Organization Name

21st Century Fox


Entry Credits