It’s that time of year again in Colombia. Every year, seasonal festivities include a campaign to get soldiers home for Christmas — enemy soldiers, that is — the guerrilla insurgents fighting from deep in the jungle against the democratically elected Colombian government.
The government’s advertising agency, Lowe SSP3, has been trying to persuade guerrilla fighters from groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to “demobilize”. “Last year, the agency’s “Rivers of Light” Christmas campaign floated LED-lit plastic balls filled with hopeful messages and small gifts down the rivers the guerrilla fighters use to get around,” writes Laurel Wentz in Ad Age.
The effort brought 180 guerrillas in from the jungle cold. “That included one senior commandant who defected with his whole group and brought along its entire arsenal, including guns, mortars and grenades,” said Jose Miguel Sokoloff, Lowe SSP3’s chief creative officer.
While guerrilla numbers are constantly shifting, Sokoloff claims 16,000 desertions from rebel forces since the demobilization effort began in 2009.
Guerrilla leaders have learned to keep their troops on the move to make desertion more difficult. The Christmastime campaign always catches guerrillas when they are most homesick for friends and family. Also, with guerrilla leaders negotiating with national authorities, many rebel fighters feel like extra pieces in a chess game about to fold up.
So this year’s campaign was designed to help reluctant guerrillas find their way out of the woods. The Army set up beacons at the center of strategic areas to point guerrilla deserters to safe harbor and government protection. Piggybacking on a December 7th Colombian holiday when children light candles, military helicopters tossed off a trail of LED breadcrumbs to guide guerrillas to those lights. Glow-in-the-dark riverside billboards and glow-in-the-dark bumper stickers spread the message.
“Follow the glow light that will guide you to your family and friends. Demobilize. At Christmas, everything is possible.”
Here’s the video:
Happy trails to all on seeking well-lite paths to friends and family this season.