With Harrowing Portrayals of Kids in Cages, an Ad Agency Hopes to Reignite Outrage

Badger & Winters' '#NoKidsInCages' installations included real audio from detention centers

In support of immigrant advocacy group Raices, agency Badger & Winters set up cages that appeared to have children sleeping inside.
Badger & Winters

Pedestrians in New York may have noticed a startling sight while walking the streets yesterday.

Installations made to resemble children sleeping in small cages, wrapped in reflective blankets and accompanied by the message “#NoKidsInCages” were briefly installed around the city before being taken down by police. The installations combine the unsettling imagery resembling children wrapped in blankets with disturbing real audio from the detention centers of children crying out in distress.

New York agency Badger & Winters, which became part of holding company alternative Plan A last November, is behind the activation. It was created on behalf of Raices, a Texas-based nonprofit (whose name is an acronym for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services but also means “root” or “origins” in Spanish) providing pro-bono legal services for immigration cases.

“We were just trying to bring home this simple truth,” Badger & Winters co-founder Jim Winters told Adweek. “The idea that in America in 2019, we pull innocent children away from their parents and detain them and put them in cages under Mylar blankets to cry in despair—it’s just simply the truth, and we wanted people to have to look at that and to have to listen to that again.”

“We as an agency have been committed to using our creative forces for positive change,” he said. “We try to bring that to bear in the work we do for clients and as we show up as a company in the world. Recently this issue has been something that Madonna [Badger, agency co-founder] and I, and our agency, are deeply passionate about, and have been thinking, ‘How do we make this not be the reality in the America we live in in 2019?'”

So when the agency was seeking a way to pursue an initiative to address the issue and learned about Raices, the team decided to do something to support the organization. The advocacy group told Badger & Winters that, more than volunteers and contributions, they needed to make family separation at the border an issue that people are passionate about.

“In the news cycles that we live in, it’s hard to hold on to outrage about anything,” Winters said. “So this is something that these children—we don’t even know how many, which is part of the problem—they deserve our outrage. We wanted to do this initiative to reignite the conversation, to lend support to Raices and ultimately for Americans to take action on it by reaching out to their representatives and encouraging them to support the Keep Families Together Act.”

Too many Americans, he said, have simply become numb to child detentions at the border and have begun seeing it as a political trend rather than a story of human suffering.

“When this first began with the zero-tolerance [illegal-immigration policy], it was a very emotional story, and since then it feels like it has devolved into being statistics,” he said. “They suddenly become increments, and you lose the emotional truth. We wanted to get to an idea that made people viscerally feel the horror of this crisis.”

He said that the agency fully expected the installations to be taken down quickly, which only helped make it more visible. Locations around the city were selected for their high foot traffic and proximity to media.

Ultimately, Badger & Winters hopes the installation reignites the conversation around this issue, lends support to Raices and causes Americans to reach out to their representatives in support of the Keep Families Together Act, which would outlaw the separation of families in most circumstances.

In addition to the installations, the “No Kids In Cages” campaign also includes a series of videos and social media graphics drawing attention to the border crisis and a digital platform where visitors can urge their legislators to support immigrant families.