Ketchum to Fight Human Trafficking

Ketchum plans a multicultural, grassroots campaign to call attention to the problem of human trafficking—and get information to its victims—as part of a two-year, $5 million contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS officials said last week.

The national effort to highlight the exploitation of immigrants forced into labor or the sex trade is the first of its kind, said Monica Marshall, svp of corporate and government marketing at Ketchum in Washington, who heads up the account.

“The thing that was striking about [Ketchum’s] approach is that it involves the aggressive use of non-governmental organizations to help us disseminate our message,” said Steven Wagner, coordinator of the trafficking program at the HHS in Washington.

Those organizations include the social-service groups that come into contact with migrant laborers and immigrants. The Omnicom Group shop’s first work, set to break by Jan. 1, will include print and interactive, as well as public relations, according to Marshall.

The government estimates 20,000 people are brought into the U.S. each year to be exploited either in commercial sex or traditional labor. The phenomenon came to national attention when Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.

The key message the HHS wants to convey is “that exploitation is illegal … and [victims] can get help,” said Wagner.

“It’s very difficult to break down barriers with victims—they’re scared,” said Marshall. “Some don’t have any idea of where to turn and who to trust. I think that since there hasn’t been a concerted effort to educate [victims] … we’re starting from scratch.”

The New York-based shop bested three undisclosed agencies last week for the business. “We need to have an unusually creative approach, and that’s what we got out of Ketchum,” Wagner said.