Campaigns challenge misconceptions about human trafficking

CivicAction and Public Safety Canada aim to educate Canadians about a complex crime.

Two separate campaigns launched this week aimed at educating Canadians about human trafficking and the misperceptions surrounding it.

The first of the campaigns, from CivicAction, coincided with Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Monday. Driven by insight from its own survey that found 73% of Canadians mistakenly believe sex trafficking starts with an abduction, the non-profit’s campaign aims to educate people – particularly teen girls, who are the most common victims – about the dangers of unhealthy relationships and how they can lead to trafficking.

CivicAction tapped 21-year-old Canadian actor and social media content creator Keara Graves for “Under the Influence.” For the campaign, Graves will use her Instagram to tell a fictional story that will reflect how sex traffickers target, lure and groom their victims online.

The campaign, which is unfolding over the week, also points to a hub of online resources developed by the nonprofit. The goal is to bring information and those resources to one of the social media platforms, as 90% of survivors say they communicated with their clients and traffickers using social media, according to the non-profit.

“The victims of sex trafficking are mainly women my age or even younger. Although the resources and support are there to help victims, there is still not enough awareness and education to protect them,” Graves said in a release. “This is an opportunity to use my platform to help educate young people where they are.”

“Under the Influence” is supported by Scotiabank, which has worked with CivicAction in the past to combat human trafficking through programs including the Financial Access Project, which provides survivors with access to financial resources, and Project Shadow, which helps Canada’s financial institutions detect activity that may be related to human trafficking. Edelman was CivicAction’s agency partner, and they handled influencers and PR for the campaign.

Meanwhile, Public Safety Canada and marketing agency Banfield released a campaign of their own on a similar subject, focusing their lens on how often victims are trafficked by someone close to them.

According to Lindsay Gavey, strategy director at Banfield, 95% of Canadians confused human trafficking with human smuggling between countries, though the crimes are not the same. In reality, one in three victims is trafficked by a current or former intimate partner, according to the government agency.

A campaign spot, shot by director Mark Zibert, illustrates that reality while subverting Canadian misconceptions by opening on an image of a shipping container, which many erroneously associate with human trafficking.

The campaign is running nationally on digital, supported by social ads on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, as well as online banner ads. The buy is being handled by Cossette Media, with Hype handling PR.