Advertising campaigns have the ability to change the world and drive peace initiatives, as Francisco Samper told registrants at yesterday’s Lunch and Learn.
“Creativity thrives in the face of obstacles,” Francisco Samper, Founder and President of MullenLowe SSP3 (Colombia) and Regional Director, MullenLowe Latin America, told an audience at yesterday’s Lunch and Learn Changing the World Through Advertising - Guerrillas, Soccer, and Peace.
Mr. Samper shared inspirational stories of how advertising campaigns influenced the Colombian peace process.
Starting in 2008, advertising campaigns created by MullenLowe SSP3 assisted in demobilizing 18,000 Colombia guerrillas and helped prevent more than 3,800 deaths, according to Mr. Samper.
The Colombian conflict lasted 53 years and left 260,000 dead, he said. While he praised the efforts of the national military in helping reach a peace agreement, there was a “lesser-known weapon that was instrumental in the demobilization of guerrillas”.
“I’m talking about the advertising ideas that we developed as part of the military plan,” he said.
“How was this possible? It all started ten years ago when one day out of the blue I received a phone call in my office from the Ministry of Defense.”
During the conversation, Mr. Samper was asked whether he thought advertising campaigns could help demobilize the guerrillas.
“I immediately responded, ‘yes.’” Mr. Samper took on the proposition but said there were three conditions that needed to be met for successful implementation of the campaigns.
The first was continuity. “Every advertising campaign needs time to meet its goals, and this was a formidable task,” he said.
The second condition was coherence: knowing the product and understanding how it will achieve its goals.
The final condition was identifying the target audience and understanding their fears, beliefs, thoughts and feelings. In this instance the target audience was the guerrillas.
Once this was established, Mr. Samper and his team set about establishing campaigns that would demobilize the guerrillas.
By this time, deep in the Amazon rainforest, the guerrillas had been surrounded by the Colombian military. “The guerrillas were hostages just as much as the people they had kidnapped.” Essentials were beginning to be cut off.
“We decided to talk to the guerrillas’ hearts instead of their minds,” said Mr. Samper.
But there was a problem. How could this be achieved when the guerrillas were rarely exposed to mainstream media?
The answer was to develop a series of campaigns to tell emotive stories and encourage the guerrillas to put down their weapons and return to their families.
Christmas was chosen to launch the campaign because it was thought to be when the guerrillas would be most sensitive to the message. Out of this, Operation Christmas was born.
The military decorated nine trees in different zones of the rainforest with Christmas lights. When somebody walked past the decorated tree, it lit up.
Mr. Samper and his team also identified soccer as something that was important to the guerrillas.
“Our next big move was to drop soccer balls the way that bombs were dropped before” from helicopters, he explained.
Well-known athletes, politicians, and member the general public wrote inspirational messages on the soccer balls encouraging the guerrillas to return to their homes.
This campaign clearly pulled at the heartstrings of the target audience, as it was followed by 588 guerrillas demobilizing and returning to their homes.
Other campaigns included putting illuminated balls containing more inspirational letters, and gifts to the guerrillas, into the Amazon river. Throughout this campaign, there was a demobilization every six hours.
A key demographic that MullenLowe SSP3 began to target was the female population within the guerrilla groups. Mr. Samper said that women in the groups couldn’t get access to cosmetics and feminine hygiene products. To reach out to them, the campaign launched advertisements for cosmetics with the caption “A New Life Awaits.” This was another success, since following the campaign more than half of the women in the groups returned to their homes.
For the male guerrillas, another campaign targeted their relationships with their mothers that they left behind when they joined the group.
To tap into their emotions, wanted posters featuring the guerrillas as children were posted throughout the jungle. Because of these efforts, 218 mothers welcomed their sons home.
“What is truly relevant is that some of these ideas have been implemented to directly confront conflict in other countries,” explained Mr. Samper.
While he acknowledged that there is still work to be done, the campaigns have been a resounding success.
Overall, MullenLowe SSP3 produced more than 400 successful campaigns.
They resulted in close to 18,000 guerrillas being convinced to leave their lives in the jungle in favor of their families.
“As long as there are ideas, there will also be hope,” concluded Mr. Samper. “Advertising can be instrumental in helping the world become a better place.”
Francisco Samper, INTA, INTA 2018, trademarks, advertising, Colombia, MullenLowe SSP3, guerrillas, advertising campaigns