Anti-human trafficking campaign honored at Virginia PRSA Awards
Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s latest initiative to combat human trafficking in Virginia was recognized with the prestigious Commonwealth Award for Public Service at the 69th Virginia Public Relations Awards.
Presented by the Richmond Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the Commonwealth Award for Public Service recognizes exceptional public relations programs or campaigns that advance public understanding of societal issues, problems, or concerns.
The winning campaign is a new mobile, data-driven component of the statewide anti-human trafficking campaign Attorney General Herring launched in 2014 to raise awareness of the problem and to generate calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline. Experts believe that Virginia’s central location, large number of interstates, and international connections, make the Commonwealth vulnerable to human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is a real and growing issue around the world and we can’t pretend it doesn’t happen here,” said Attorney General Herring. “Whether it’s forced labor, domestic work, or even forced sex work, this modern form of slavery robs too many of their freedom, their dignity, and in many instances their childhood. By using cutting-edge mobile technology, we’ve been able to deliver our message of help directly to the victims, as well as our message of warning directly to the exploiters, in the exact areas where these intolerable activities most often occur. This is an issue everyone in Virginia needs to be aware of and this award is a great acknowledgement that our message is loudly and clearly working.”
The online campaign, created by Richmond-based brand communications agency Madison+Main, started in November of 2015 and continued through mid-May. Madison+Main helped the OAG use a unique digital communications strategy to reach two very disparate audiences – victims of human trafficking and those individuals who seek to exploit those victims. Because both groups are difficult to reach through traditional media channels, the campaign targets mobile phones that are within a quarter mile of truck stops along the major interstates in Virginia, which have been identified for human trafficking activity. Because targeting is not restricted to certain websites, the ads appear on any website, as long as the device being used is within a quarter mile of a truck stop.
Mobile internet users in the geo-fenced areas are shown ads on their devices that feature direct language to victims, such as “Are you being held against your will,” in a variety of different languages including English, Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese. Other ads directly address exploiters with messages such as, “She needs your help, not your cash.” All ads prominently feature the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline – 1-888-373-7888.
“Human trafficking is one of the most heinous problems our society faces today and combatting it effectively requires a bold approach,” said Dave Saunders, President & Chief Idea Officer of Madison+Main. “We were able to utilize some amazing new mobile ad targeted technology to take Attorney General Herring’s desire to help these victims and deliver it directly to them. Our team saw this as an incredibly important task and we were proud to play a part.”
Other awareness initiatives of Herring’s statewide campaign have included billboardson major highways and anti-human trafficking stickers on the mirrors of every rest stop in the Commonwealth, which serve more than 32 million motorists annually.
Because of the innovative approach being utilized in this campaign, the National Association of Attorneys General is sharing the materials and strategy with its Human Trafficking Committee and all state attorneys general for their use as they consider how best to combat human trafficking in their own states.