When Virginia’s Office of the Attorney General decided to fight human trafficking in the Commonwealth, they knew they needed a bold attack plan. Due to Virginia’s mid-Atlantic location, almost 50% of the U.S. population is within a one-day drive of the state making it a notorious focal point for trafficking.
Instead of a typical awareness campaign, where you are trying to reach a broad swath of the general population, our goal was to reach people who may be actively involved in human trafficking: those that may be held against their will, those who wish to exploit them and those who may come into contact with illegal activity.
Research indicated that truck stops are a hotbed for this kind of activity, so we partnered with MNI Media to target mobile phones that were within a quarter mile of truck stops along the major interstates in Virginia. Through a series of geo-targeted mobile banner ads, we were able to reach concerned citizens, possible “johns,” victims who have internet capable mobile phones, etc., to make them aware that the problem surrounds them and that help is out there. The ads featured direct wording to victims, such as “Are you being held against your will?” in a variety of different languages, including Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese. Other ads directly addressed exploiters — “She needs your help, not your cash.”
The cutting edge campaign, which began November 19, 2015 and ran through May 17, 2016, garnered more than 6.8 million impressions across the state of Virginia in just six months, resulting in more than 11,600 clicks to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s Website run by the Polaris Project. Although the campaign only ran for a month and a half during 2015, Virginia had the eighth-highest call volume of all 50 states and Washington, D.C. in 2015, with 624 substantive phone calls, 22 emails and 33 online tip reports. During the course of the campaign, website traffic from Virginia increased 54.84%. The campaign exceeded expectations in impressions, results, and awareness for a major societal issue that we all want to see come to an end.