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Fighting the FARC Through Defensive Advertising

In times of war there is a call to action. A call to fight for what’s right and try to regain peace. Colombia’s final call to action wasn’t to physically fight the FARC, but to instead win the enemy over with heartfelt advertising.  Fighting for peace through carefully thought out marketing campaigns.

The Colombian military was fighting the guerrilla organization known as FARC for decades. As a last resort, the government went to advertising executive Jose Miguel Sokoloff. Sokoloff’s assigned mission: use defensive advertising, not bullets, convince the FARC to demilitarize.

Like most campaign, first comes research with trial and error. Sokoloff started with TV commercials that were reenactments of true stories. The spots performed poorly – because the guerillas knew they were fake. When the campaign didn’t hit home with the FARC, it was time to do more research. Sokoloff’s team started interviewing past members of the organization. They figured out that while many members wanted to get out, they couldn’t figure out how to make that happen. Many didn’t even know how to get out of the jungle that they have been in for so many decades. Christmas was coming, and Sokoloff knew that the guerrillas wanted to come home. This was the time of year to bring them back.

The defensive advertising professional’s team got the Colombian Military to help them with the next few strategies. They wrapped trees in the jungles so they lit up when triggered. The sign that hung underneath the Christmas Tree explained that they can still come home for Christmas – if they demilitarize. The team got many civilians to write letters to the FARC. They sent these letters down the river in glowing bubbles, illuminating the river and the hearts of the intended recipients. They also made light trails that led to the city – shooting beams of light into the sky and showing the FARC how to get home.

On top of all that, a new, more effective ad campaign was about something that almost everyone in Colombia loves: futbol. These ads focused on the civilians saving a seat for the FARC for when they come home, further bringing people together in spirit.

Now lots of campaigns claim lots of different metrics, such as click through, conversion, and other buzz words. The results of this campaign? The majority of the FARC demilitarized. Peace talks were arranged between the FARC and the Colombian Government. Sokoloff used defensive advertising for good, helping to end this long dispute – fighting for peace through advertising instead of violence.


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