So , I thought a lot about the first word I 'd say today , and I decided to say `` Colombia . '' And the reason , I do n't know how many of you have visited Colombia , but Colombia is just north of the border with Brazil .
It 's a beautiful country with extraordinary people , like me and others -- ( Laughter ) -- and it 's populated with incredible fauna , flora .
It 's got water ; it 's got everything to be the perfect place .
But we have a few problems .
You may have heard of some of them .
We have the oldest standing guerrilla in the world .
It 's been around for over 50 years , which means that in my lifetime , I have never lived one day of peace in my country .
This guerrilla -- and the main group is the FARC guerrillas , Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- they have financed their war by kidnapping , by extortion , by getting into the drug trade , by illegal mining .
There has been terrorism . There have been random bombs .
So it 's not good . It 's not really good .
And if you look at the human cost of this war over 50 years , we have had more than 5.7 million displaced population .
It 's one of the biggest displaced populations in the world , and this conflict has cost over 220,000 lives .
So it 's a little bit like the Bolívar wars again .
It 's a lot of people who have died unnecessarily .
We are now in the middle of peace talks , and we 've been trying to help resolve this problem peacefully , and as part of that , we decided to try something completely lateral and different : Christmas lights .
So Christmas lights , and you 're saying , what the hell is this guy going to talk about ?
I am going to talk about gigantic trees that we put in nine strategic pathways in the jungle covered with Christmas lights .
These trees helped us demobilize 331 guerrillas , roughly five percent of the guerrilla force at the time .
These trees were lit up at night , and they had a sign beside them that said , `` If Christmas can come to the jungle , you can come home .
At Christmas , everything is possible . ''
So how do we know these trees worked ?
Well , we got 331 , which is okay , but we also know that not a lot of guerrillas saw them , but we know that a lot of guerrillas heard about them , and we know this because we are constantly talking to demobilized guerrillas .
So let me take you back four years before the trees .
Four years before the trees , we were approached by the government to help them come up with a communications strategy to get as many guerrillas as we could out of the jungle .
The government had a military strategy , it had a legal strategy , it had a political strategy , but it said , `` We do n't really have a communications strategy , and it probably would be a good thing to have , '' so we decided to immediately jump into this , because it is an opportunity to affect the outcome of the conflict with the things that we do , with the tools that we have .
But we did n't know very much about it .
We did n't understand in Colombia , if you live in the cities , you 're very far away from where the war is actually happening , so you do n't really understand it , and we asked the government to give us access to as many demobilized guerrillas as possible .
And we talked to about 60 of them before we felt we fully understood the problem .
We talked about -- they told us why they had joined the guerrillas , why the left the guerrillas , what their dreams were , what their frustrations were , and from those conversations came the underlying insight that has guided this whole campaign , which is that guerrillas are as much prisoners of their organizations as the people they hold hostage .
And at the beginning , we were so touched by these stories , we were so amazed by these stories , that we thought that maybe the best way to talk to the guerrillas was to have them talk to themselves , so we recorded about a hundred different stories during the first year , and we put them on the radio and television so that the guerrillas in the jungle could hear stories , their stories , or stories similar to theirs , and when they heard them , they decided to go out .
I want to tell you one of these stories .
This person you see here is Giovanni Andres .
Giovanni Andres is 25 when we took that picture .
He had been seven years in the guerrilla , and he had demobilized very recently .
His story is the following : He was recruited when he was 17 , and sometime later , in his squadron , if you will , this beautiful girl was recruited , and they fell in love .
Their conversations were about what their family was going to be like , what their kids ' names would be , how their life would be when they left the guerrilla .
But it turns out that love is very strictly forbidden in the lower ranks of the guerrilla , so their romance was discovered and they were separated .
He was sent very far away , and she was left behind .
She was very familiar with the territory , so one night , when she was on guard , she just left , and she went to the army , she demobilized , and she was one of the persons that we had the fortune to talk to , and we were really touched by this story , so we made a radio spot , and it turns out , by chance , that far away , many , many kilometers north , he heard her on the radio , and when he heard her on the radio , he said , `` What am I doing here ?
She had the balls to get out . I need to do the same thing . '' And he did .
He walked for two days and two nights , and he risked his life and he got out , and the only thing he wanted was to see her .
The only thing that was in his mind was to see her .
The story was , they did meet .
I know you 're wondering if they did meet .
They did meet .
She had been recruited when she was 15 , and she left when she was 17 , so there were a lot of other complications , but they did eventually meet .
I do n't know if they 're together now , but I can find out . ( Laughter ) But what I can tell you is that our radio strategy was working .
The problem is that it was working in the lower ranks of the guerrilla .
It was not working with the commanders , the people that are more difficult to replace , because you can easily recruit but you ca n't get the older commanders .
So we thought , well , we 'll use the same strategy .
We 'll have commanders talking to commanders .
And we even went as far as asking ex-commanders of the guerrilla to fly on helicopters with microphones telling the people that used to fight with them , `` There is a better life out there , '' `` I 'm doing good , '' `` This is not worth it , '' etc .
But , as you can all imagine , it was very easy to counteract , because what was the guerrilla going to say ?
`` Yeah , right , if he does n't do that , he 's going to get killed . '' So it was easy , so we were suddenly left with nothing , because the guerrilla were spreading the word that all of those things are done because if they do n't do it , they 're in danger .
And somebody , some brilliant person in our team , came back and said , `` You know what I noticed ?
I noticed that around Christmastime , there have been peaks of demobilization since this war has started . '' And that was incredible , because that led us to think that we needed to talk to the human being and not to the soldier .
We needed to step away from talking from government to army , from army to army , and we needed to talk about the universal values , and we needed to talk about humanity .
And that was when the Christmas tree happened .
This picture that I have here , you see this is the planning of the Christmas trees , and that man you see there with the three stars , he 's Captain Juan Manuel Valdez .
Captain Valdez was the first high-ranking official to give us the helicopters and the support we needed to put these Christmas trees up , and he said in that meeting something that I will never forget .
He said , `` I want to do this because being generous makes me stronger , makes my men feel stronger . '' And I get very emotional when I remember him because he was killed later in combat and we really miss him , but I wanted you all to see him , because he was really , really important .
He gave us all the support to put up the first Christmas trees .
What happened later is that the guerrillas who came out during the Christmas tree operation and all of that said , `` That 's really good , Christmas trees are really cool , but you know what ? We really do n't walk anymore .
We use rivers . ''
So rivers are the highways of the jungle , and this is something we learned , and most of the recruiting was being done in and around the river villages .
So we went to these river villages , and we asked the people , and probably some of them were direct acquaintances of the guerrillas .
We asked them , `` Can you send guerrillas a message ? '' We collected over 6,000 messages .
Some of them were notes saying , get out .
Some of them were toys . Some of them were candy .
Even people took off their jewelry , their little crosses and religious things , and put them in these floating balls that we sent down the rivers so that they could be picked up at night .
And we sent thousands of these down the rivers , and then picked them up later if they were n't .
But lots of them were picked up .
This generated , on average , a demobilization every six hours , so this was incredible and it was about : Come home at Christmas .
Then came the peace process , and when the peace process started , the whole mindset of the guerrilla changed .
And it changed because it makes you think , `` Well , if there 's a peace process , this is probably going to be over .
At some point I 'm going to get out . '' And their fears completely changed , and their fears were not about , `` Am I going to get killed ? '' Their fears were , `` Am I going to be rejected ?
When I get out of this , am I going to be rejected ? '' So the past Christmas , what we did was we asked -- we found 27 mothers of guerrillas , and we asked them to give us pictures of their children , when they only could recognize themselves , so as not to put their lives in danger , and we asked them to give the most motherly message you can get , which is , `` Before you were a guerrilla , you were my child , so come home , I 'm waiting for you . '' You can see the pictures here . I 'll show you a couple .
( Applause ) Thank you .
And these pictures were placed in many different places , and a lot of them came back , and it was really , really beautiful .
And then we decided to work with society .
So we did mothers around Christmastime .
Now let 's talk about the rest of the people .
And you may be aware of this or not , but there was a World Cup this year , and Colombia played really well , and it was a unifying moment for Colombia .
And what we did was tell the guerrillas , `` Come , get out of the jungle . We 're saving a place for you . '' So this was television , this was all different types of media saying , `` We are saving a place for you . '' The soldier here in the commercial says , `` I 'm saving a place for you right here in this helicopter so that you can get out of this jungle and go enjoy the World Cup . '' Ex-football players , radio announcers , everybody was saving a place for the guerrilla .
So since we started this work a little over eight years ago , 17,000 guerrillas have demobilized .
I do not -- ( Applause )
Thank you .
I do n't want to say in any way that it only has to do with what we do , but what I do know is that our work and the work that we do may have helped a lot of them start thinking about demobilization , and it may have helped a lot of them take the final decision .
If that is true , advertising is still one of the most powerful tools of change that we have available .
And I speak not only my behalf , but on behalf of all the colleagues I see here who work in advertising , and of all the team that has worked with me to do this , that if you want to change the world , or if you want to achieve peace , please call us .
We 'd love to help .
Thank you .
( Applause )