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Colombian Ministry of Defence's #ToysVSGuns Project Protects Kids from Life of Crime

The social experiment aims to end child recruitment into gangs and change attitudes amongst wayward youths

Colombian Ministry of Defence's #ToysVSGuns Project Protects Kids from Life of Crime

On 24th November 2016, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia signed the agreement that would end more than 50 years of armed conflict with the FARC. However, violence, drug trafficking, illegal mining and other criminal phenomena continue to prey in Colombia - especially within the outskirts of the cities, all led by criminal gangs part of organised crime,many composed of former members of paramilitary or guerrilla groups. 


For the Ministry of Defence of Colombia, it is a priority to attack these gangs, which are rapidly expanding largely due to the illicit recruitment of children and adolescents as instruments for their crimes. The different recruitment tactics, based on deceit, are leading to the fact that children as young as 8 years-old enter these crime gangs. Once in,they are used for trafficking arms and drugs, exploited for illegal mining, and are pressured to commit both homicides and act as “bell ringers” -those who alert others on the movements of the police force.  


And the real problem, and the most serious of all, is that according to studies from the Instituto de Bienestar Familiar de Colombia(Family Wellbeing Institute of Colombia), more than 80% of children who are recruited for organised crime, join voluntarily. That is, they are not forced, but rather join as away to escape from their family surroundings, where they are frequently abused,bullied or ignored. 


In light of this, Colombia’s Ministry of Defence and MullenLowe SSP3 carried out a social experiment looking for a means to call the attention of parents invulnerable areas and to raise awareness of this problem, showing that not caring for or protecting their children may result in them joining criminal gangs and organised crime.  


The social experiment #ToysVsGuns was carried out with several children from the vulnerable areas of the country: we wanted to know how long it would take them to assemble a toy appropriate for their age. Then, we gave each of them a much more complicated object to put together:a weapon.  

“We were shocked by the fact that a 9-year-old kid could assemble a weapon in such a short time, so we needed to do something with it,”said Carlos Andrés Rodríguez, Executive Creative Director at MullenLowe SSP3Colombia.


“This campaign reflects the consistency of the Ministry of Defence. Year after year, they’ve been asking us for ideas that help to solve the problem of war in Colombia by touching human emotions” added Juan Pablo García, Client Service Director, MullenLowe SSP3.


As part of the overall awareness strategy, the case and the integrated campaign have begun airing in Colombian media, with TV ads and online video, press ads for local newspapers and posters placed near schools and other public areas where parents circulate in the vulnerable areas of the country. 


For more information about the #ToysvsArms campaign, visit 

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Advertiser: Colombia Ministry of Defense

Director: Coronel Walter Germán Camargo

Creative Agency

Copywriter: Jorge Pinto

Executive Creative Director: Carlos Andrés Rodríguez

Chief Creative Officer: José Miguel Sokoloff

Art Directors: Diego Espinoza / Camilo Jiménez / Mario Mendoza / Juan Manuel Prieto

Producers: Diego Cano / Diego Aguilera

CEO: Francisco Samper

Production Company

Director: Alejandro Carreño

Producer: Juan Pablo Bernal


Editor: Jonathan Bolívar


Composer: Carlos Calvo

Music Production: Laika Studio

Print / OOH

Photographer: Manuel Olarte

Category: Corporate and social , Government

Genre: Digital , Print , Strategy/Insight