Immortal High Five: Jose Miguel Sokoloff

Jose Miguel Sokoloff, global president at MullenLowe Group Creative Council, shares the five Colombian ads he considers to be most immortal/ *Initially posted on Little Black Book in May 2021.

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I've been asked to share my top five pieces of work from Colombia ever for this special Immortal Awards edition of High Five. It would be remiss not to look at this through the lens of the Immortal Awards, which celebrates everlasting work the creative community will always come back to. I consider the campaigns I have chosen 'immortal' because they were good enough to stand the ultimate test on a global stage. They broke the glass ceiling in more ways than one and are examples of work that we will always remember as ‘good enough to beat everyone else in the world’. They changed the way we thought of ourselves, what we thought Colombian advertising could be and the value it had in the world. Not only that, but all of these campaigns were incredibly effective in doing what they set out to do, and that’s another reason they should be ‘immortalised’. They have stood the test of time by achieving their goals to change behaviours and ultimately make our country a better place...

tesa - ‘Clock’

Agency: McCann Bogota

This spot might be short, but it broke the Cannes glass ceiling, as it was the first time a Colombian agency ever won a Lion at the Festival. It completely changed my outlook on Cannes and showed me that winning a Lion was within reach. ‘Clock’ will always serve as a reminder that you don’t need a big budget, all you need is a simple, good idea. And of course, that anyone can do it.

League Against Cancer - '#CancerTweets'

Agency: Leo Burnett Bogota

If tesa and McCann Bogota broke the Cannes glass ceiling, this campaign broke the Grand Prix glass ceiling. It was the first-ever Grand Prix for Colombia, and showed us exactly what a Colombian agency could achieve. In 2014, Leo Burnett created #CancerTweets to help people understand what it’s like to have cancer and how dangerous it is to ignore it. They created a Twitter account for seven different types of cancer, which ‘spread out’ the virtual cancer by following thousands of Twitter users. Nowadays, it’s not abnormal to win awards for social-led campaigns (we’ve even done it ourselves), but this work was way ahead of its time. It was a smart campaign for a worthy cause that’s still relevant today. I still look at it in awe and marvel over how revolutionary it was.

Colombian Ministry of Defence - 'Rivers of Light'

Agency: MullenLowe SSP3

Christmas was the hardest time for guerrilla fighters in Colombia. They didn’t use traditional media because of the war conditions, so the rivers from all over the country became their most important channels of communication and transportation. We invited the guerrilla’s friends and relatives to send messages, letters and gifts to the fighters encouraging them to leave the weapons and come back home for Christmas. All of the messages were sent in airtight capsules that illuminated the rivers nearest to their camps, and their way to freedom. Since winning the Titanium Lion at Cannes, this campaign has gone on to win other awards, but it is significant because it was the first Titanium awarded to a Colombian agency. It proved that we could win big, that Titanium was in reach and that was very important for our country. It’s just one execution in a campaign that had been running for a long time, and one that I’m most proud to have worked on to enact real change within my country.

Colombia’s Ministry of Environment - 'Lionfish'

Agency: Geometry Global Bogota

People might not remember this specific activity, but it was a campaign that raised awareness of a very real problem within our oceans...the lionfish. This fish is an invasive species that threatens the Caribbean, lays more than two million eggs per year and has no natural predators, eating crucial native species and destroying the coral reef. The only way to stop this menace was to eat it, but people didn’t know about it. Geometry generated a cultural shift by creating a supply chain from scratch, with fishermen, fisheries, restaurants and hotels working together so that, for the first time ever, lionfish were sold in supermarkets and became part of Colombia’s diet. It won Gold at Cannes in 2015, but more importantly, I’ve seen the results of this campaign over time and it’s been incredibly effective in changing behaviour. It did exactly what it was supposed to do - control a population of aggressive fish and help feed people - and is still ongoing today.

Ministry of National Education Colombia - 'The Bulletpen'

Agency: McCann Bogota

This campaign turned an element of war into one of peace, by turning bullets into pens. McCann Bogota and the Ministry of National Education Colombia asked the military to give them used bullet casks, which were emptied, cleaned, engraved, filled with ink and transformed into the symbol of their message: “Bullets marked our past. Education will write our future.” It’s more than a nice idea with a nice design - this pen has become part of history. It was used to sign the peace treaty between the Colombian government and the leader of the FARC guerrilla fighters. It was a deal which took four years to negotiate, and ended half a century of conflict. 'The Bulletpen' was designed to remind people of peace so by using it to sign the treaty, it was given the use it was intended for. There’s no better way of immortalising an idea than that.

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