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Using Digital Advertising to Lower Sex Trafficking

London Abused Women’s Centre Logo
  • London Abused Women’s Centre
  • Advocacy
  • Online Campaign

In Canada, prostitution is illegal. Yet the trafficking of women is high including in the London, Ontario region because of the city’s fulcrum centrality in Southwestern Ontario (it acts as a nexus between Detroit, Toronto and Buffalo) and the size of its population (approximately 380,000 people).

The London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) is one of the region’s prominent support and advocacy agencies in the sector, assisting women in abusive or exploitive relationships to escape dangerous situations safely. In 2018, LAWC and tbk conducted a ground-breaking digital advertising campaign that had tbk use Facebook and Google advertising for two aims:

First, to digitally advertise to prospective buyers of prostitution services, informing them that the act they are about to commit is illegal and has adverse impacts on society; and second, to advertise LAWC’s services to women who may be in dangerous situations. A similar, but smaller-scale 2018 program was met with tremendous success and subsequently attracted federal government funding in 2019 to invest in further campaigns of its nature. That same year, the Web Marketing Association also recognized LAWC and tbk’s groundbreaking digital advertising advocacy work, awarding the 2018 campaign Best Advocacy Integrated Ad Campaign at the 2019 IAC Awards.

London Abused Women’s Centre 2019 IAC Award

In 2019, with federal government funding LAWC continued to advance their efforts in the digital terrain by ushering tbk to execute another campaign but at a larger scope—in both funding and geographic reach—with the goal of thwarting sex trafficking and evacuating women from harmful situations.

The Strategy

As mentioned, the 2019 campaign was a stratum higher in funding, targeting and geographical catchment. Whereas the 2018 campaign focused bi-modally on advertising to those seeking prostitution and women at risk in the Southwestern Ontario region (i.e., spanning Windsor, London and Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario), the 2019 campaign introduced a third target audience group: parents of women at risk, and stretched its catchment area into the densely populated region of the western Greater Toronto Area. Entering into this new market, increased the catchment area by another 2 million people.

The ad products selected for this campaign included:

  • Google Ads Search
  • Facebook Advertising
  • Instagram Advertising
  • Programmatic Advertising

I) Google Ads Search

For an advocacy campaign of this nature and importance, Google Ads Search is a boon. When targeting keywords associated to those seeking prostitution services and listing/directory websites that advertise such services, we literally could serve anti-prostitution ads to these people actually in the midst of using Google to search for the service.

With this background in mind, for the Google Ads Search we chose to target two audiences:

  • Those seeking prostitution
  • Women-at-risk
Google Advertisement for LAWC
Google Advertisement for LAWC
Google Advertisement for LAWC
Google Advertisement for LAWC

The four images above depict example Google Ads Search ads run.

The results were not only illuminating but eye-opening for everyone involved as it showed the size of the need out there.

People seeking prostitution:

  • Clicks on Ads – 19,604
  • Impressions – 178,627
  • Click-Through-Rate – 11%
  • Cost-Per-Click – $1.20


  • Clicks on Ads – 5,038
  • Impressions – 87,006
  • Click-Through-Rate – 31.3%
  • Cost-Per-Click – $3.16
  • Conversions – 129 (4 contact form submissions; 116 phone calls; 9 PDF downloads)

II) Facebook & Instagram Advertising

Facebook & Instagram are useful ad products to create general awareness about the core messages of the campaign. Similar to Google Ads Search, we targeted those in the market seeking prostitution services and women-at-risk.

Instagram Advertisement for LAWC
Facebook Advertisement for LAWC
Facebook Advertisement for LAWC
Instagram Advertisement for LAWC

The four images above depict example Facebook and Instagram ads run.

For slightly under $20,000 spent on Facebook and Instagram media, the following was generated:

  • Impressions – 5+ Million
  • Ad Clicks – 23,157
  • Ad Shares – 602*
  • Cost-Per-Click – $0.86

*Having the ads shared over 600 times based on a $20K media budget is an incredible amount of volume. It shows that the community, as a whole, were passionate about amplifying the message.

III) Programmatic Advertising

To round out all the stages of the funnel (e.g., women not knowing LAWC’s services even existed, down to those seeking immediate relief) programmatic advertising was used to reach a broader audience in the catchment area.

Programmatic Advertisement for LAWC
Programmatic Advertisement for LAWC
Programmatic Advertisement for LAWC

The three images above depict examples of Programmatic Native ads run.

The results were marked. For $19,995.30 spent:

  • Impressions – 8+ Million
  • Ad Clicks – 17,767
  • Click-Through-Rate – 0.47% (nearly 1 in 200 people clicked on a display ad)
  • Cost-Per-Click –$1.13


In total, the campaign had overwhelming impact:

  • Impressions – 5+ Million
  • Ad Clicks – 65,566
  • Conversions – 187 (mainly those responding to the Women-At-Risk ads)

In a period of reckoning where digital media monoliths are being chastised and questioned as to their responsibility towards the management of content and user data, this campaign is a paragon example of how digital media can be used to advance important issues and create more safety for those in our society.

Contact tbk if you wish to Book a Call to discuss your project.