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The Ugly Truth returns to highlight human trafficking in DC on inauguration day


By Kyle O'Brien, Creative Works Editor

January 17, 2017 | 6 min read

For some, inauguration day in the US is a cause for celebration, but Kinetic Worldwide is using the day to bring back its award-winning “The Ugly Truth” campaign to highlight the global problem of human trafficking.

Human Trafficking

The Ugly Truth brings attention to human trafficking / Kinetic Worldwide

WPP's Kinetic Worldwide has been on a mission to end human trafficking, so it’s re-launching “The Ugly Truth” in the Washington DC market in partnership with non-profit storytelling entity The Voices and Faces Project, along with World Without Exploitation (WorldWE), a coalition of organizations and individuals that are fighting to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation by confronting its root causes. The efforts will coincide with inauguration day and the Women’s March on Washington.

“The Ugly Truth” campaign was created to debunk myths and shine a light on the realities of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Kinetic developed and implemented the media strategy and media buy through a multimedia out-of-home campaign. The ads are running on six transit shelters – already in market – and mobile billboards from January 19th through the 23rd, targeting the millions of citizens that will flock to Washington during the inauguration.

"This campaign is an example of how media and creative can work together to change minds and hearts around social justice issues. Together, we really have succeeded in marketing a movement that will improve the lives of women and girls in the U.S. and across the globe,” said Anne K. Ream, founder and creative director, Voices and Faces Project and creator of “The Ugly Truth” campaign.

The Prostitution Myth

Re-launching the campaign in DC will give Kinetic Worldwide a globally-viewed stage, and the agency sees the city as a fitting place to discuss the issue, since they have stated that in Washington DC alone, trafficking innocent children is a $100m industry. They cited a Washington Post article that estimated that 70 defendants have been prosecuted in the federal and DC courts on charges related to human trafficking since 2009.

"The civilians that will flock to the inauguration and, specifically, the Women's March, want to be part of a change. Tapping into their sentiments, this campaign capitalizes on the contextual-relevancy of an audience traveling to witness history being made in Washington DC. Utilizing the power of out-of-home media, we're optimistic that the momentum of this movement, in combination of the right people at the right time, will ignite positive advocacy for not only the District but the nation," said David Krupp, CEO, Kinetic North America.

The global stats show a great need to bring more light – and prosecution – to the issue. Trafficking happens because of sex and labor, making it what President Obama called an “outrage…which must be called by its true name – modern slavery,” in 2012.

The stats are telling. According to a report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) in May of 2014:

  • An estimated 21 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery. Of these, 14.2 million (68%) were exploited for labor, 4.5 million (22%) were sexually exploited, and 2.2 million (10%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labor.
  • Forced labor takes place in many different industries. Of the 14.2 million trafficking victims exploited for labor:
    • 7.1 million (50%) forced labor victims work in construction, manufacturing, mining, or utilities
    • 3.4 million (24%) forced labor victims are domestic workers
    • 3.5 million (25%) forced labor victims work in agriculture
  • 55% of trafficking victims around the world are women and girls and 45% are men and boys.
  • 15.4 million victims (74%) are aged 18 or older, with the number of children under the age of 18 estimated at 5.5 million (26%).
  • The Asia-pacific region accounts for the largest number of forced laborers—11.7 million (56% of the global total). Africa has 3.7 million (18%) followed by Latin America and the Caribbean with 1.8 million (9%). Countries in central, south-eastern and eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States have 1.6 million (7%). The Developed Economies and European Union account for 1.5 million (7%). There are an estimated 600,000 (3%) victims in the Middle East.
  • Victims spend an average of 18 months in forced labor, although this varied with different forms of forced labor.

Unfortunately, trafficking is also big business. According to the same ILO report, $99bn comes in globally from sex trafficking alone, with more than $50bn in the other sectors of modern slavery.

Kinetic’s campaign with the Voices and Faces Project helps debunk myths about trafficking by putting the words out there, like “The Prostitution Myth – This business is all about pleasure,” then debunking the statement with “The Ugly Truth: For those in prostitution, it’s far more likely to be about pain.”

Kinetic’s involvement coincides with the recent formation of World Without Exploitation. The organization understands that the stories of survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation must guide policy recommendations and action initiatives, and it hopes to bring the voices, faces, and stories of survivors to the public’s attention in order to understand greater issues.

"This campaign was created after listening to the insights and experiences of survivors. We are taking their teachings and bringing them to the public so that together we can create a world where no one is bought, sold, or exploited," added Lauren Hersh, national director, World Without Exploitation.

Kinetic hopes to bring the campaign to other markets, as they did with San Diego and Chicago previously.

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