Fake ‘Call Girl’ Line Presents Real Life Horror Stories of Trafficked Women

Swedish agency Åkestam Holst directed callers to recordings of women discussing their exploitation in the sex industry

Non profit Talita, which works to combat sex trafficking, was behind the stunt. Akestam Holst / Talita

Sex workers don’t often have a voice—but Swedish agency Åkestam Holst has found a powerful way to make people sit up and listen to them.

The shop, which was named Adweek’s International Agency of the Year in 2017, created a fake “call girl” sex service targeted at men and offering “real girls, no fake profiles.” The message was advertised on digital billboards and in print as part of a campaign for non-profit Talita, which works to help vulnerable women escape sex work.

People who called the line got more than they bargained for: instead of being connected to the “experienced girls” they were led to expect, callers were greeted with pre-recorded audio of several women speaking in Swedish and English about how they were trafficked into the sex industry and abused.

Calls to the number were charged at 9.90 krona ($1.16) per minute, with proceeds going to the charity. The phone line will stay open for a year.

One story, by a woman named as Abigail, describes the abuse she suffered after she was trafficked to Stockholm to work as a prostitute.

In the recording, she says: “I especially remember the encounter with the man, who I was forced to meet time and time again, he used to burn me with cigarettes and bite me so hard that I started to bleed.”  

In another recorded call, a woman named Sonia from a Hungary girl says: “I went with (a) man to Stockholm. But once there he was transformed. He refused to let me go out, beat me when I did not do as he said, raped me and let other men have sex with me for money.”

You can listen to the recordings below.

Talita said the campaign was designed to help the general public understand that sex workers are real people with backgrounds of trauma and abuse. The agency hopes it will encourage men who paid for the services of prostitutes to think about the impact of their choices.

Noah Bramme, creative at Åkestam Holst said: We believe that the problem when it comes to this issue is the demand—the fact that a man pays for a woman’s body, and with that treats it like any other transaction, as if she was only a product. We truly need a shift in attitudes, and we hope that this campaign can contribute to that.”

Agency: Åkestam Holst
Client: Talita
Creatives: Andreas Karlsson and Noah Bramme

@saramayspary sara.spary@adweek.com Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.