By Victor A. Rodriguez
How do you bring peace to a country which has been in the throes of a civil war for well over 50 years? Advertising!!! If your befuddled by the answer, don’t be. It’s certainly an out of the box solution, yet it’s exactly what advertising executive Jose Miguel Sokoloff did to help demobilize guerilla forces in Colombia.
It’s no secret that Colombia has been plagued by the civil war between F.A.R.C (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the government since the 1950’s. In speaking with WIRED 2015 Sokoloff spoke of the damage, noting that the war “has caused 5.7 million people to be displaced — the second largest displacement in the world — and cost us 220,000 lives. And there’s also fear, kidnappings, terrorism — the collateral damage of war.” The government at a loss for how to bring about peace, resorted to an unconventional means to resolve the conflict and hired Sokoloff’s advertising agency Lowe-SSP3 Colombia to craft a campaign that would demobilize the guerilla forces.
Sokoloff and his team set about speaking to as many of the guerilla forces as possible. In their research they learned these forces felt just as trapped as their opponents. With this in mind they crafted messages that hit home. For their first campaign, they utilized several towering trees in the jungle and decorated each with over 2,000 LED lights and a banner that read: “If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can come home. Demobilise.” The lights were rigged with motion sensors to detect movement, so when guerillas passed by the trees would light up. It worked, as several hundred soldiers demobilized.
In 2010 Sokoloff set to replicate the campaign, this time using the river. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he noted that rivers were like the roads of the jungle, a means of transportation and communication. So he and his team, formulated a campaign that entailed placing glowing plastic balls full of gifts and messages from the families of guerilla soldiers down rivers on which the revolutionaries typically travelled. Sokoloff called the campaign ‘Rivers of Light’. The effort was also successful and led to further demobilization.
For seeking to bring peace to his country, Jose Miguel Sokoloff is one of our Men of the Year in 2016.