After Watching This Brutal PSA, You Won’t Look at a Height Chart the Same Way Again

When a happy home hides deep tragedy

In this stirring two-minute PSA for The Children's Society, a hand-drawn height chart on the wall of a suburban home marks milestones in a young person's life. When the entries take an unexpectedly dark turn, however, we realize something's gone tragically wrong for teenage Emily.

London ad shop VCCP Me created the spot to raise donations to help The Children's Society fight child sexual exploitation. The team drew inspiration from "a face-to-face briefing with the Metropolitan Police on the issue and the book Girl for Sale by Lara McDonnell, a victim of the Oxford child sex ring," agency creative director Michael Quinn tells AdFreak. "It made me angry that this is happening right now—young lives being destroyed."

The film derives considerable power from the contrast between the goings-on in a typical middle-class house (the family playing video games, Mom preparing dinner) and Emily's private suffering. Note also the toys in her bedroom, remnants of a childhood lost, another counterpoint to the cycle of exploitation that's tearing her apart.

"Everyone thinks that this only happens in underprivileged areas or to other people's children," says Quinn. "They stick their heads in the sand and ignore it. So putting it in a mundane, ordinary, everyday setting was key. Could this be happening in my street? Right now? To a happy family? That, to me, is very frightening."

As for the wall chart, Quinn says this use of "a universally recognized symbol of loving family life" is designed to drive home the message that "some children are groomed into abuse when the rest of the world doesn't realize what's happening. They are groomed, robbed of their innocence—and trapped."

The chart seems an especially apt metaphor. Every kid deserves the chance to mature and flourish in a safe, nurturing environment. Here, Emily's growth has been cruelly stunted, her sense of self diminished by abuse and despair.

CREDITS
Project name: Growing Pains
Client: The Children's Society
Creative agency: VCCPme
Creative director: Michael Quinn
Art director: Brett Gascoigne
Copy writer: Tom Young
Planner: Chloe McMahon
Production company: Mustard London
Director: Sam Miller
Executive producer: Matt Hichens
Editor: Quin Willliams @ tenthree
VFX: Electric Theatre Collective
Music: Deborah Burrett
Sound design: Ben Leeves/Aaron Taffel @ Grand Central Studios

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.
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