Creative Insights: Mike Houldsworth on the ‘Uncomfortable Truth’ Campaign

The campaign by TAXI Canada for the Human Rights Foundation sought to address pressing issues with Uyghur forced labor.

TAXI Canada recently took home honors for their campaign “Uncomfortable Truth” for the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) at the annual Luum Awards competition.

The campaign shines a spotlight on the plight of Uyghur forced labor in prison camps in Xinjiang, China. It included a Chrome browser extension designed to “Keep Uyghur forced labor out of your online shopping carts.” According to HRF, There’s a 1 in 5 chance clothes are linked to Uyghur forced labor.

To learn more about the campaign, we spoke with Mike Houldsworth, Senior Writer at TAXI Canada for more insight. He told us: “We needed this to be more of a step towards encouraging the fashion industry to do the right thing rather than us just naming and shaming.”


Tell us about the inspiration behind the campaign and how it evolved creatively.

I read an article exposing how “1 in 5 of the world’s cotton items” are made using Uyghur forced labour in prison camps in Xinjiang, China. Like most people when they hear this stat, my first reaction was to try and think about what I could do on an individual level to not support that.

I realised pretty quickly how hard it is to know for sure which brands were involved – since many hide their involvement through complex supply chains. The extension came from a desire to make it easier to know where was “safe” to buy from.

What were some of the challenges in putting the campaign together for launch?

It’s always easy for a campaign like this to come across as an all-out attack, which can often alienate the people we want to reach. We needed this to be more of a step towards encouraging the fashion industry to do the right thing rather than us just naming and shaming. Ultimately, we want brands to see the plug-in popping up on their online stores as an invitation to meet with HRF and discuss the steps they can take to remove Uyghur forced labour from their supply chains.


At the same time, there was the actual logistical challenge of making and maintaining the plug-in. The list of websites where we needed this to work is huge and it’s also changing. It’s a lot of hard work to make it easy for shoppers.

What were the results in terms of your client and your agency’s KPIs?

To date, the plug-in has diverted over 1000 sales and counting in 8 countries. On top of that, it was also instrumental in opening closed door conversations between HRF and three global fashion brands (with one currently taking steps towards clearing up their supply chain).

That being said, the problem still exists. Being able to delist the plug-in because it’s no longer needed would be the greatest result of all.

What was a peer campaign amongst the award entrants that you liked?

There were so many great ones to choose from. If I had to pick one in particular, I’d say “Pet Interns”. Everything from the insight to the mechanic was spot on and left me smiling.

I’m also going to cheat and name two more: Morning After Island and Mission to Uranus.

In terms of the creative ad industry, as we emerge from the pandemic, are there any particular trends you’re seeing in the market?

One thing I’m noticing, both with the work I’m seeing out in the world and the work we’re doing for our clients at TAXI, is the return of humour (which I’m very happy about).

I think that, in 99.9% of cases, there are few more powerful tools for making something memorable than to make the person seeing it laugh.

Why do you think awards such as the Luum Awards are important for the industry?

As an industry that exists to shift mindsets and build awareness, we are exceptionally well-placed to use our skills to make positive change. When award shows like Luum raise the profile of the work that’s doing that, it encourages more of it. I also think shows like this help to attract more people that want to make a difference into the industry which is hugely important.



Chief Creative Officer: Graham Lang
Managing Director: Lizzie Dabous
Executive Creative Director: James Sadler
Senior Writer: Mike Houldsworth
Art Director: Dom Desmond
National Head of Production: Tim Pelz
Senior Integrated Producer: Scott Polzen
Account Director: Mara Neil
Account Manager: Ruan Van Gend

Human Rights Foundation

President: Céline Assaf Boustani
Creative Director: Mariana Bernardez
Senior Strategy & Research Associate: Jenny Wang

Strategy Lab

CIO: Jeph Maystruck
Software Developer: Connor Brezinsky

Mike Houldsworth

This is part of a series of interviews done in collaboration with the Luum Awards. To learn more or enter the awards, go here

The Staff

The Staff

Gettin' it done, when the done needs gettin'.

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