Cannes Lions

People Smuggling Limited

VCCP, London / AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL / 2022

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Overview

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Overview

Background

In 2022, the British government’s hostile policy towards refugees has been hitting the headlines. A major piece of this policy was the UK’s Nationality & Borders bill which was being fast-tracked through the British parliament. The bill says it’ll break the business model of people smuggling but in fact it’ll make them more money. It will shut down the UK’s asylum system, forcing desperate people into the arms of criminal gangs. The campaign needed to expose the bill for what it is, directing people to a petition to force the UK government to amend it.

Idea

Each year the people-smuggling industry makes over $150 billion. More than twice Apple’s turnover. And thanks to the UK’s Nationality & Borders bill, profits were set to skyrocket. How could we halt a bill that would destroy the lives of so many asylum seekers? We created a fake company - People Smuggling Limited - to show the British public how much the people smuggling industry would thrive under this bill. We built a brand world and launched a nationwide integrated recruitment drive. The campaign directed people to an online petition which received over 15,000 signatures. And within a week, the UK government’s bill was defeated on 19 different counts.

Strategy

The Nationality & Borders bill is being fast-tracked through the UK parliament. The bill says it’ll break the business model of people smuggling, but in fact it’ll make them more money. It’ll shut down the UK’s asylum system, forcing desperate people into the arms of criminal gangs. The campaign needed to expose the bill for what it is. We needed to engage socially-conscious people, and where better to do it than the UK’s Guardian newspaper. A bastion for human rights. The Guardian was fully behind the idea, giving us media, and supporting a highly-visible insert that advertised job vacancies at People Smuggling Limited and the huge amounts of money to be made. The insert ended on a serious message, directing people to send an email to the prime minister via a petition on Amnesty International’s site, calling for the bill to be halted and for the government to amend it.

Execution

We created People Smuggling Limited - a fake company that depicts people smuggling as a booming industry. It was designed to show the British public how much this industry would profit, thanks to the UK’s Nationality & Borders Bill. On an almost non-existent budget, we launched a nationwide recruitment drive. As well as a corporate video announcing People Smuggling Limited as a booming business, we created an insert in the UK’s Guardian newspaper advertising jobs such as Inhuman Resources Coordinator. The satirical campaign ended on a serious note, to email the government and force politicians to amend the bill and protect innocent lives. With a readership of 19 million, the Guardian spread the message to the people most likely to act. It went live days before the vote in parliament, letting the British public know they had to act quickly to halt this bill and save the UK’s asylum system.

Outcome

Within a couple of days of the campaign launch, the British government received over 15,000 emails from Amnesty International’s online petition. And within a week, the British government’s bill was defeated on 19 different counts as it tried to pass through the House of Lords. Forcing the government to rethink the controversial Nationality & Borders Bill and greatly assisting in the ongoing battle to keep desperate asylum seekers from being forced into the lethal arms of the people smuggling industry. In the days after the campaign there was a huge uptick in Google Trends, with searches increasing 100% for the Nationality & Borders bill and the UK refugee crisis. And ever since, the UK government’s continuing war on refugees has been in the headlines of all national newspapers.

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