Co-Chairman and CEO
LOWE SSP3, Colombia
Jose Miguel Sokoloff and Francisco Samper are co-leaders of the Bogota, Colombia-based agency they founded in 1996 with Humberto Polar—LOWE SSP3. Not only has the agency become the second largest agency in Colombia, it has also gained recognition as the most consistently creative agency in the market.
Most in the industry are now familiar with their extraordinary, award-winning and brave pro-bono work to bring peace to their homeland by encouraging the demobilization of the FARC Guerrillas who have been at war with the Colombian government for 60 years. (FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, is a Marxist peasant revolutionary army, funded by drug smuggling and hostage ransoms.)
Working with the Colombian Ministry of Defense, LOWE SSP3 created “Operation Christmas,” which used the spirit of the season and lighted trees throughout the jungle to eventually persuade 24,000 FARC guerrilla combatants to re-enter society, give up violence, and hand over their arsenals.
For those who have not seen the story of “Operation Christmas,” go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gODTTz3ayCk
This year LOWE SSP3 won a prized Titanium Lion at Cannes, considered one of the advertising world’s highest accolades. Awarded only on occasion for extraordinary work, a Titanium Lion honors ideas considered to be “world firsts.”
The team of Samper and Sokoloff also proved how advertising can be used to create genuine change and improve our world. Speaking at a Cannes Master Class, Jose Miguel said: “Creativity has always been key in fighting wars and winning them. In the past it was put to use to develop new weapons, new strategies, to crack new codes and to devise new ways to gather intelligence. At LOWE, we feel a new era is dawning. The era of creativity to end conflict in peaceful ways.”
However, “Operation Christmas” is just the beginning. They now have to solve the problem of nearly 24,000 “demobbed” FARC members who have left the jungle and returned to society, but cannot find work or acceptance.
According to Jose Miguel, who recently addressed these issues at the Spikes Asia Ad Festival, “The campaign has been the victim of its own success. Guerillas are going back to their villages, but re-integration is difficult. Some in Colombia are against it. What do you with this flood of people? They need work and to be accepted as part of society again. After all, it’s hard to hire someone who was trying to kill you 6 months ago.”
So, the LOWE SSP3 team created a brand.
They learned that some of the “demobbed” were tailors and shoemakers, who had even been forced to join FARC due to their skills. With the backing of the Colombian government, former guerrillas are now turning to couture by designing and manufacturing clothing in their own factory. Particularly for many of the ex-revolutionaries without formal education, this means employment as the brand grows, as well as transforming the stigma of a demobilized population to a national opportunity.
Called CHANCE by Colombia, the clothing line is named for the second chance these men and women need. Today, it is a clothing line with 84 pieces, soon to launch online. The CHANCE label premiered at Bogota Fashion Week in May, alongside other famous international lines. It was supported by an introduction by Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos.
According to the introductory video, one of the men involved in the 'Chance By Colombia' label, Alvaro Perez, had spent ten years as 'The Tailor of Farc', creating uniforms for the leftist guerrilla group. Now he says, "I'm very happy I've had the chance to start a new life. This is my contribution to peace."