McCann Created an Escort Service That Had a Macabre Surprise for Anyone Who Tried It

And you thought Ashley Madison was scary

Illegal prostitution has always been fraught with the risk of violence, but today the internet provides broader scope and anonymity. Alongside the sense of entitlement that some people get when they pay for something, this both strengthens the industry while making it harder to see its victims.

That's why French organization Le Mouvement du Nid launched its own escort website, with help from McCann Paris.

Wait, what…? 

At first glance, Girls of Paradise looks like a basic escort service. You can check out profiles and pictures, and opt to chat or call the women you're interested in before arranging a date. 

But the site's goal is to show clients that, by financing the black market, they're accomplices in the violence these women face. That's easy to forget behind a computer screen—until you start engaging the girls themselves: True to its name (if you believe in an afterlife, anyway), each woman featured in Girls of Paradise is already dead. 

The reveal is made when clients initiate a chat or a phone call. They're shown photos of the woman, beat up and bloody, or simply told that she isn't available tonight because she was killed in a manner most grisly. In the case study video, you can actually hear the reaction of one potential client, who's only able to say "NO!" while a voice calmly explains that the girl he wanted was found dead in her apartment with 53 stab wounds. 

Over 600 calls were taken in the first week, not to mention thousands of chat messages. Le Mouvement du Nid, which seeks to help women victimized by the sex trade, believes the campaign woke France's moral indignation—on April 6, the country made paying for sex illegal. 

This isn't the first time we've encountered a surprise reveal that uses online habits as its lever: In 2013, The Walking Dead used Tinder to promote its upcoming season, with pretty women progressively transforming into zombies as men chatted with them. But if Mouvement du Nid's work is powerful, it's for the opposite reason: The Walking Dead slid fantasy into the everyday. Girls of Paradise brutally breaks the fourth wall of fantasy and drives cold, ugly reality into clients' faces. 

That job is less simple. But while the 'net has made many crimes a lot murkier, it's also made it far easier for nonprofit organizations to get their messages out there in ways as impactful as any big-budget brand. 

As a tribute to its resonance, Girls of Paradise will score a gold Clio this Wednesday.

Note: This article has been updated to highlight illegal sex work, and not the state of legal—and regulated—prostitution.

CREDITS

Company: McCann Paris

Agency Network: McCann Worldgroup

Production Company: Medialab Technology, Paris

Creative Agency: McCann Paris, Clichy

Executive Creative Director: Riccardo Fregoso

Executive Creative Director: Julien Chiapolini

Art Director: Christophe Rambaux

Copywriter: Gilles Ollier

CEO: Bruno Tallent

Account Coordinator: Coline Déchelette

Worldwide Account Director: Fiona Ferrier-Weil

Digital Account Manager: Selim Boukhanef

Strategic Planner: Shadi Razavi

Art Buyer: Véronique Leblanc

Art Buyer: Delphine Devaux

Producer: Isabelle Créchet

Producer: Caroline de Génis

Chief technology officer: Dragan Kontic

Technical Project Manager: Vianney de Villier

Technical Project Manager: Clément Hardouin

Front End Developer: Pierre-Yves Chassaigne

Managing Director: Agnieszka Kozbial

Sound Producer: Capitaine Plouf