Missing persons group deploys shock posters

Dominic Wood

The National Missing Persons Helpline is using hard-hitting images of rent boys and drug addicts in its biggest-ever advertising campaign, launched this week.

In a departure from its familiar posters featuring mugshots of missing people, the uncompromising new campaign depicts faceless people who have fallen into a life of drug abuse or prostitution. The posters explain that the charity won't judge missing people on their lifestyles, but urges them to contact the charity so it can deliver a confidential message to their family members letting them know they are still alive.

More than 5,000 posters of the drug addict will go up on mainline and Underground stations, and 1,000 billboards across the UK will carry an ad featuring a faceless stripper. An image of a rent boy with client will appear in gay clubs and magazines around Christmas.

The charity expects the campaign to considerably boost its profile and public donations.

"Although we have existed since 1992, we are still relatively unknown, misunderstood and under-funded," said Sophie Woodforde, the charity's head of press and publicity.

She defended the stark imagery, saying it "depicts scenarios that our staff hear about all the time".

Ad agency Walsh Trott Chick Smith designed the campaign for free, and all poster sites have been donated.

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