Backpage.com, an online classifieds service owned by the Village Voice, makes over $27 million a year as the largest advertiser of adult services. Many of the individuals advertising on their site are actually pimps trafficking underage girls. In 2012, our client—the advocacy group Fair Girls–spearheaded a campaign to shame Backpage into answering for their role in putting innocent children in danger.
Fair Girls asked Art Not War to create an ad that would draw attention to their campaign against Backpage. Fair Girls’ goal was to take aim at Backpage for profiting from the child sex trafficking taking place on their site. Fair Girls hoped to generate enough attention that they’d win a meeting with the White House and bring the issue of child trafficking to the global forum. After combing through hours of court cases, Art Not War found the testimony of a 13 year-old trafficking victim who’d been exploited through Backpage. Our Creative Director, Laura Dawn, crafted the girl’s true story into a 30 second ad. To protect the victim’s anonymity, ART NOT WAR cast a local actress to bring her words to life.
The result? “Backpage” aired on numerous TV news shows, including The O’Reilly Factor and MSNBC’s The Cycle. Representatives from Backpage.com were forced to publicly acknowledge the existence of child trafficking on their site. Due to the media coverage, Fair Girls garnered a meeting with Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. A month later, President Obama unveiled his unprecedented multi-agency initiative to combat human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative. In April of 2013, “Backpage” won a Gold Pollie for Best Issue Advocacy Ad—and the coveted “Best in Show” Pollie for all Television ads of 2012.