I’m in the Colombian capital Bogotá where I’m meeting Jose Miguel Sokoloff, a man who is using his creative genius to help end the guerilla war that has been raging in his home country for decades. Jose is the president of the Lowe Global Creative Council and he is the co-Chairman and CCO at Lowe SSP3 Colombia.
Jose and I are sitting at the trendy Juan Valdez Café in La Candelaria in downtown Bogotá and he is telling me about his work with the Ministry of Defence and his hope of one day seeing Colombia at peace. “I am in my 50s now, and I have never known peace in my country. Even though the war mainly takes place in the jungle, it affects everyone. I can’t travel in about one third of the country if I want to stay safe.”
“That must be really frustrating,” I say.
“It is,” says Jose. “It makes me sad. Peace is what I want, for myself and for my four children. And that is what I am trying to do now. I am trying to change things.”
“So tell me more about your work with the Ministry of Defence. How does a creative agency get to work with the military?”
“It’s been a very interesting experience,” says Jose. “The ministry asked us to work with them to develop communications campaigns to reach out to the guerrillas.”
“That’s interesting,” I say. “Communication as a pressure tool… And does it work?”
“I think we can definitely help,” says Jose. “Every saved life is a victory. We tried to find common ground with the guerrillas – try to find what touches them. In the end, we have found that rational arguments don’t work. We have to appeal to emotions.”
“Can you give an example of one of the campaigns?”
“Well for example, last year we designed a Christmas campaign, ‘Operation Bethlehem’, to encourage guerrillas to demobilize and return to their families. The message was incredibly powerful.
“We installed massive spotlights in urban centres and shone them up into the sky. At the same time, the Colombian army created paths of light small fluorescent devices that they scattered along routes out of the jungle back to the urban centres.
“The slogan said: “Guerrilla, this Christmas follow the light, it will guide you to find your family and freedom. Demobilize. At Christmas everything is possible.”
“That sounds incredible. What has been the outcome of these campaigns?”
“I believe there are impacts on several levels.” Jose says. “We have brought back the focus to the conflict, both internally within Colombia and internationally. It’s back on the international agenda. Everyone involved – both sides – are in the picture again.
“This has strengthened my conviction that we are heading in the right direction and that these kind of campaigns make people stop and think. I desperately hope that a solution can be found soon, so that we can finally enjoy peace.”
“That would be a confirmation to all that ideas and communication can still change the world,” I say.
“Indeed,” Jose says. “And it would encourage us and hopefully many others to continue using the power of communication for the good!”
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