As you scroll through the Hotel De Jeunesse’s new website, you’ll realize this is no ordinary place to spend the night. In fact, you’ll be shocked to discover that rooms include not only king-size beds and complimentary coffee, but underage girls, soundproof walls and “kinky fantasies.”
You’re promised dimly lit hallways and secluded parking lots, plus OxyContin, cocaine and heroin for your “dining” pleasure.
And rest assured, you can book on an hourly basis—anonymity guaranteed!
The Jeunesse, thankfully, doesn’t exist IRL. It’s a fake online destination, created by Tribal Worldwide as the centerpiece of a campaign for Toronto Crime Stoppers designed to raise awareness of sex trafficking in Canada.
Banner ads for the property (its name translates as “Hotel of Youth”) pop up when folks search for accommodations in the Toronto area. A spin through the image gallery is palpably disconcerting, as many of its pristine, over-lit lobby and suite shots show teenage girls in various poses and stages of undress. You’ll also see panties and bras tossed carelessly across floors, drugs littering a bedside table and a wastebasket brimming with condoms.
“When you land on it, everything is fairly normal, but the more you click around the site, the more unsettling things get, and the clearer the signs become,” Tribal executive creative director Marketa Krivy tells Adweek. The main goal of the campaign, she says, “is to arm people with the signs of human trafficking so they know what to look for and will call Crime Stoppers. We know people want to help, but they just don’t know how.”
Guest reviews rank among the site’s most unnerving elements.
Some are written from the johns’ point of view. One notes that “the walls were thick enough that I felt comfortable getting pretty vocal,” while another writes, “I would recommend this spot to anyone in need of a satisfying lay.”
The girls they spend time with, however, experience the hotel quite differently. “I don’t know how many men came—I stopped counting,” one writes. “Sometimes we’d get a bucket of ice, which felt nice on my bruises. If it were up to me, I’d never go back.”
Krivy and her team drew inspiration from real life.
“When we started working on this project,” she says, “we read about a flight attendant who saved a young girl from human trafficking during one of her flights. The social conversations surrounding the incident showed that, if put in that same situation, other flight attendants, and people in general, wouldn’t have taken notice. They would have dismissed seeing a young, quiet girl with an older man [who did all the talking for her] as nothing suspicious. But this, it turns out, is actually one of the signs of human trafficking. And it got us thinking about how the signs are hiding in plain sight.”
Print and out-of-home components really drive home that point, showing seemingly normal hotel rooms with subtle indications of sex crimes placed in the patterns of wallpaper, bedding and drapes. The headline reads, “Human trafficking often hides in plain sight.”
Instagram posts tagged “Learn the Signs” alert travelers to be on the lookout for, among other human trafficking telltales, “young girls with expensive possessions and no reasonable means to afford them,” “many male visitors coming and going from hotel rooms or a parking lot” and “girls carrying bundles of cash.”
While the Jeunesse is fictitious, it’s a sobering reminder that crimes are perpetrated against desperate girls in real brick-and-mortar hotels every single day.
“We deliberately took a contemporary approach to the styling of the sets, because there is a perception that human trafficking is a ‘seedy motel’ kind of problem,” Krivy says. “The reality is that this isn’t a problem that exists in the dark underbelly, or isolated to a specific socioeconomic class. Human trafficking could have taken place at that four-star hotel you stayed at the other week.”