Public Safety Canada takes Canadians inside human trafficking with ‘Uncontained’

Who: Public Safety Canada and Ottawa’s Banfield Agency, with Scouts Honour, Outsider Editorial, The Vanity, Alter Ego and Rajakovic Electric. Media by Cossette, with public relations from Hype PR.

What: “Uncontained,” a new awareness campaign highlighting the grim realities and prevalence of human trafficking in Canada.

When & Where: The campaign launched this week, and includes digital banners and social ads on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat.

Why: More than 1,700 incidents of human trafficking have been reported to police across the country since 2009, according to Public Safety Canada data. The campaign is intended to change misconceptions around human trafficking, highlighting the fact that up to one-third of all victims are trafficked by an intimate partner.

The goal is to alert Canadians to the potential signs of trafficking, and help them distinguish between trafficking and human smuggling. Smuggling tends to involve the consent of the person being smuggled and they are generally free to do what they want once arriving at their country of destination. People who are trafficked have their liberties stripped away and are forced to provide their labour or service.

How: Set to the Billie Eilish song “When the party’s over,” the campaign’s 90-second anchor spot  depicts one victim’s journey into human trafficking. It opens on a man approaching a shipping container from which viewers hear muffled cries, accompanied by the super “Human trafficking isn’t what you think it is.”

When the door to the shipping container swings open, we don’t see the expected sight of someone huddled inside. Instead, the camera moves forward through darkness to capture a benign scene of a young couple. The spot grows darker as it progresses, alternating between scenes of happiness and violent arguments. Throughout the spot, the man texts an unknown person with increasingly sinister messages, starting with “she’s beautiful” and “you’ll love her” to “she’s all yours” and “bring $$$$.”

The spot comes full circle by showing the man who opened the container door coming to collect the young victim as she is held in place by her partner. The spot was directed by Mark Zibert, whose reel includes several spots for SickKids Foundation (including the recent “One Million Strong”) as well as Kruger’s “Unapologetically Human” and Right to Play’s “We Rise.”

Static ads, with photography by Rémi Theriault of Ottawa-based photo and video studio House of Common, show some of the ways that people who are trafficked can be exploited, from being forced to pose for lewd photos or forced to work as domestic/hospitality help.

And we quote: “We were presented with a unique creative challenge for this project—one that meant confronting our team’s own misperceptions about human trafficking. We wanted to create something relatable to the Canadian public by evoking the common imagery many mistakenly associate with human trafficking—the shipping container. We debunk these misperceptions using the ‘Human Trafficking isn’t what you think it is’ campaign tagline and reveal that things sometimes aren’t what they seem between traffickers and victims.” — Craig Lobban, creative director, Banfield Agency.

Chris Powell