Helping Canadians see the signs of sex trafficking

Who: The Joy Smith Foundation, with Diamond for strategy and creative; Untitled Films for production (directed by Taylor Reid); Nimiopere and Darling for post-production; sound by Berkeley Inc.; and PR by Glossy.

What: “See the Trafficking Signs,” a national awareness campaign about sex trafficking in Canada—warning youth of the dangers, while educating others about the common signs someone might be at risk.

When & Where: The campaign launched today (Feb.22), timed to coincide with National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Media includes TV and online video, paid and organic social, digital display and out-of-home, as well as influencer outreach.

Why: With sex trafficking a growing crisis, education is the most important weapon against the predators targeting youth in cities and towns across Canada. “Predators shouldn’t be the only ones who recognize who is most vulnerable,” said Janet Campbell, CEO and president of the Joy Smith Foundation, in a release introducing the campaign. “When each of us know the signs to watch for, we can all take steps to keep it from happening.”

How: The anchor video for the campaign begins brightly, with young people talking about seemingly innocent romantic interests. But their stories quickly get darker as they explain how they were in fact pulled deeper into sex trafficking—being forced to wear certain types of clothing, for example, or being given a second phone.

“The warning signs of sex trafficking are there in plain sight, if you know what to look for,” said Dave Stevenson, senior vice-president and creative director at Diamond. “This campaign is about making trafficking signs as obvious as traffic signs to give every Canadian the know-how to keep youth safe.”

Posters placed in schools show young people inside the campaign’s visual motif of a triangular warning sign, and explain the nine warning signs that someone might be in danger. Influencers have also been given a red “Warning Signs” shirt, and information to talk about the warning signs.

Much of the creative also uses the line: “Within 1KM, someone is being lured into sex trafficking,” to emphasize the disturbing prevalence of the problem.

“Over the last 25 years, The Joy Smith Foundation has worked with over 7,000 survivors and their families who reside in provinces across Canada,” explained Joy Smith, a former Manitoba MP and Member of the Manitoba Legislature who is now recognized as one of Canada’s anti-human trafficking activists.

“In examination of these cases, The Joy Smith Foundation has found that human trafficking is so prevalent that within one kilometre of where people reside both in cities and rural areas, someone is being lured, groomed, or trafficked by a human trafficker. This happens both in person and online. 

“The pandemic increased the luring of innocent victims by isolation, along with the internet in everyone’s home and school,” she said. “The traffickers used this isolation to their advantage.”

And we quote: “We need to join forces with our police agencies, our survivors, and our communities to bring awareness to this horrific crime. The ‘See the Trafficking Signs’ campaign enables everyone to participate. You could save a child. It could be your own.” —Joy Smith, founder, the Joy Smith Foundation

David Brown