top of page

A campaign to change the minds of a community

An image of one of the billboard campaigns targeting the community in Oakland, CA.


The Protect Oakland Kids billboard campaign was a joint effort by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, Clear Channel Outdoor, MISSSEY, and community advocates to end the mindset that child sex trafficking is a victimless crime, and to provide victims with a way to get out of the life.

I managed the project on behalf of the District Attorney's Office, who was the lead agency, fiscal sponsor, and visionary behind the campaign. This included working with key stakeholders, and applying human-centered design. We strategically launched the campaign in January 2014 to coincide with National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

The District Attorney held a press conference with our partners to launch the Protect Oakland Kids billboard campaign at the Alameda County Family Justice Center. It was attended by local agencies, key legislative staff, survivors, and the media.


How to build empathy for victims of sex trafficking in Oakland, CA, when many saw the issue as a victimless crime

When I first came on board as the anti-human trafficking Program Coordinator for the Alameda County DA's Office, I would often hear the community call victims, prostitutes; human traffickers, pimps; and those who purchased the victims, johns. Those terms were drastically at odds with the true nature of the crime. After much discussion, our team decided to launch a public awareness campaign through billboards and bus shelters to target two key audiences: local parents with young children, and victims of sex trafficking who walked along International Blvd.  


Using UX design to identify the right message to target the community and victims

I wanted to make sure that the billboard campaign would not automatically go down the path of many before it - pictures of young kids huddled in the corner, scared of their looming trafficker. My team and I felt like the issue of sex trafficking in America was more nuanced, so not addressing those nuances would help to perpetuate the current apathy from the community, and lack of empathy towards victims.

Instead, we wanted a campaign that pushed the envelope, was representative of our diverse community, and communicated a message that would drive a positive response. Some of the constraints we faced was limited funding and resources, competing interests from our partners, and a highly charged and political subject matter.

With those values and constraints in mind, I worked with the community advocate to establish key partnership with MISSSEY, a survivor-led nonprofit, and Clear Channel Outdoor, an out of home media advertising company. With those partners aligned, we gained access to local parents and survivors for user research and usability testing of our campaign messaging and design. We also received 30 billboards and 27 bus shelters in Oakland at a reduced cost.

Photo courtesy of Oakland Voices.

Once our partnerships and resources were aligned, I led the user research and ideation phase with the community advocate and a pro bono copywriter. We co-wrote a campaign design brief, which included a description of user personas, goals, their journey maps, and additional assumptions we wanted to test with the users themselves.

A rough sketch of an initial journey map for local parents.

A rough sketch of an initial journey map for a victim on International Blvd.

After coming up with the target message for each persona, we conducted focus groups with parents and survivors to get a pulse check on the direction we were headed. From there we created mockups of potential designs, conducted additional testing with each audience.

What we learned from survivors is that they wished they had seen images of girls like them, with testimonials of the benefits that getting out of the life would give them. Feedback from the community was that they wanted a balance between innocence and reality. Ultimately, settled on the following.

The majority of the billboards were in English, with some in Spanish and Chinese characters. Once the designs were agreed upon, my office negotiated to make sure that each billboard and bus shelter were strategically placed across the city and along International Blvd. We did this, by taking the list of locations from Clear Channel Outdoor, and driving around, taking photos of the specific locations and make up of each neighborhood. From there, I synthesized the information and photos into a deck, which I used as a tool to communicate the suggested locations for each English, Spanish or Chinese character billboard. This was a way in which we made sure our partners agreed and remained on the same page. 

Finally, in addition to the billboard campaign, I designed a CRM strategy that included a campaign website, social media strategy, and contribution funnel to drive donations and engagement. 

This is H.E.A.T. Watch's Twitter page, which is where we directed users to engage with us from the website.

This is H.E.A.T. Watch's Facebook page, which is where we directed users to engage with us from the website.

This is the campaign website today, which has changed since I left (today, it is more text heavy, added subsequent campaign examples, and different color scheme). But, the overall journey is the same.


We mobilized the community to become fierce advocates against child sex trafficking in Oakland, CA, through UX and product design

We launched ProtectOaklandKids in January 2014, during National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Within the first two months of the launch, we saw 2,000 visits to our website, which converted into several thousands of dollars in donations, a 67% increase in Twitter Followers, and a 27% increase in Facebook Likes. More significantly, while Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego received 3x the number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, our County saw 19x the number of calls. We have been informed by the National Hotline that, to date, our campaign has been the most successful anti-human trafficking campaign in the Nation. As a result, we have shared our designs with other jurisdictions across the State, at no charge.

Keep Exploring



bottom of page