Covenant House is a North American agency providing services to homeless and runaway teens.
Ahead of Ontario’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Covenant House partnered with Toronto's sex trafficking prevention unit to launch an anti sex trafficking campaign called #ShoppableGirls.
The campaign highlighted to passers-by the harrowing truth that 93% of (domestic) sex trafficking victims are Canadian citizens.
Most of these victims are your everyday girl (or boy).
The Big Idea / What They Did
The idea was to create a shop front window display with five different girls.
“The Amara,” “The Ellie,” “The Samantha,” “The Maya,” and “The Michaela” stood in the shopfront as objects that could seemingly be bought.
Between them all, there was a sign reading “To sex traffickers, girls are just products” showcasing the chilling truth and reality of sex trafficking.
It was a good campaign but I wasn’t 100% sold for a few reasons.
The idea of sex trafficking adults or children is so distressing.
I had a very brief stopover flight in Toronto when I was in my early 20’s where, through booking mishaps and cancellations, a friend and I ended up locking ourselves in the room of a shady motel. This was after a weird conversation with a self-professed “pimp” who took a sudden liking to our accents when he overheard us checking in. This same man bragged about the line of girls our age he was “helping” to make easy money, who forayed in and out of rooms next to ours – the realities of sex trafficking is fricking scary and can happen at any moment.
In my opinion sex trafficking is filled with emotion and horrifying tales and bad endings. This campaign didn’t convey those horrors and felt passive.
Potentially as passive as the consumers, especially natives, who walk past shop windows and ads all the time and don’t even give them a second glance.
On one hand, a powerful shop window is hard for passers-by to ignore. However, if people could have walked by and not fully understood the gravity of the situation, this feels like a lost message.
Also, where were the boys?
We fall into a risky space when we talk about shoppable girls ignoring the rise and silence around little boys and men who are being manipulated and sold against their will into sex trafficking. The omission of males in this campaign feels dangerous.
With a tweak or two this campaign would have hit harder.
Partner with a well-known brand that people queue around the block for like a Yeezy because, I guarantee you, people would have stopped to see the trainer first and then be hit with the message.
Partner with Mattel – make the shoppable boys and girls feel almost shoppable so people reflect on how easy it was to nearly purchase these items so they can be confronted with the dilemma.
Put the offenders/culprits of sex trafficking on display so people know how easy it is for them to blend into everyday life while ruining and profiting from others.
It needed to just hit home a little harder.