Lighting Peace

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Colombia is a country of exceptional beauty and promise, and it’s also a country where the F.A.R.C. guerrilla movement has incited violence for 50 years. “In my lifetime, I have never lived one day of peace in my country,” says Jose Miguel Sokoloff. This ad executive and his team saw an opportunity to sway guerrillas’ hearts and minds with Christmas trees and personalized messages strategically placed throughout the jungle. A look at the creative messages that have led thousands of guerrillas to abandon the war, and the key insights behind these surprising tactics.

Jose Miguel Sokoloff

Jose Miguel Sokoloff knows what it's like to go into a jungle to make a commercial in a Black Hawk helicopter surrounded by soldiers with machine guns. In the last few years he has planned and realized pro-bono ad campaigns on behalf of the Ministry of Defense against the guerrilla war in Colombia -- to persuade FARC guerrillas to demoblize. Realizing that a guerrillero is as much a prisoner of his organization as are his hostages, Sokoloff and his team played on the promise of freedom. At Christmas 2010, his agency, Lowe-SSP3 Colombia, placed nine decorated holiday trees in the jungle near a banner ad that read: "If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can come home. Demobilize." It won gold at Cannes Lions -- but the most important prize was that it succeeded in its intent, creating a spike in demobilization rates. The following year the agency planned a poetic campaign called "Rivers of Light" (Operación Ríos de Luz), which floated a raft of glowing plastic balls, filled with gifts and messages from family, down rivers that the revolutionaries typically travel. Christmas 2012's campaign, "Operation Bethlehem," lit up wayfinding "stars" over local villages, offering defectors a route back.

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