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Outrage isn’t enough

9 May 2012

Children’s charity Barnardo’s approached us in late 2010 with a brief to develop the messaging and creative for a campaign that they wanted to launch around the crime of child sexual exploitation. As a team we were challenged. Personally, some of the team found the issues really difficult to confront, those of us with teenage daughters felt bewildered and on a professional level, the narrow line between sensationalising an issue to make sure it would demand the attention it deserved and treating it with sensitivity and absolute truthfulness, was high on our minds.

Laura Payne, Head of Campaigns at Barnardo’s spearheaded the brief: “During 2009, our services were seeing a sharp increase in the number of children being groomed and coerced into sexual activity against their will across theUK. Barnardo’s spotted this crime well over a decade ago as it was emerging, but with this increased demand we knew it was something we needed to campaign to stop. Forster’s creative work delivered a hard-hitting, clear message and call to action.”

We worked closely with the Barnardo’s campaign team to develop the creative strategy and campaign identity for what launched in January 2011 as the Cut them free campaign

Jointly, we got the strategy and the messaging right.  Cut them free is still running and both awareness and understanding of this specific child sexual exploitation crime has grown. High profile cases and convictions have contributed to this a sharp increase in awareness levels – a key target for the campaign.

In approaching the brief, our first challenge was to explain the crime as an issue of child abuse and to separate it from other sexual abuse issues such as trafficking.

Additionally, the campaign had focussed policy and practice targets – to increase efforts from government, police and prosecution services to increase protection for children at risk or who are victims of sexual exploitation – which needed to be addressed through the creative execution. These targets have also been partially met with the Government making Children’s Minister Tim Loughton responsible for protecting children from sexual exploitation, and producing a national action plan to address it.

But the campaign is far from over. The level of service provision is still insufficient. Few safeguarding children boards in England are implementing government guidance on sexual exploitation appropriately. More worryingly, conviction rates remain lamentably low. In the past year, Barnardo’s services knew of 137 police investigations involving child sexual exploitation. Of these, only 24 resulted in convictions.

Outrage isn’t enough. We want the Cut them Free campaign to meet its two core campaign ambitions: firstly, to allow people to understand that this crime is happening – in the UK, today, to boys and girls, affecting all communities, and that they can help prevent it and secondly, to make sure that all those responsible for safeguarding, implement their duties effectively and ensure that investigations and convictions happen.


Athena Lamnisos, Senior Consultant, Campaign Planning & Strategy