“We for Us” OR Api Wenuwen Api, mobilising enlistment for war2007

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The year was 2007, the Sri Lankan Forces were facing their darkest hour. The ceasefire had been breached, dashing the hopes and dragging the morale of an entire nation down. The Tiger rebels were stronger, having reinforced and strengthened their positions during the ceasefire. The armed forces were taking a battering on the battlefront as well as in the media, and inevitably, in the hearts and minds of all Sri Lankans.

The statistics were grim: desertion was rife and recruitment drives were struggling to attract the minimum requirement of personnel. The problem of a high rate of desertion was compounded by the wide publicity given to incidences of deserters committing crimes. The situation caused much anxiety and stress for the high command, while on the ground the word ‘soldier’ was said with anger and disgust. On the battlefront political indecision, broken promises and public aversion took a heavy toll on troop morale. The image of the soldier was tarnished, seemingly beyond repair.

The most immediate requirement was increasing the rate of recruitment. Triad Advertising was briefed to execute a campaign that would help to significantly increase the numbers of applicants to join the Security Forces


Initial agency research showed that a major shake-up in the attitudes and perceptions of the general public was essential before attempting to attract new recruits. A stronger, more positive image of the soldier had to be crafted first, in order to create respect for this key profession. It was through this change that we planned to improve the status quo with regard to recruitment within the Security Forces.

Creative strategy

There are 4.1 million households in Sri Lanka. (Source: NMS 2006). 650,000 men and women had been recruited into the Armed Forces over the past 25 years. (Source: Security Forces Records). Across the island, every village and every household was related in some way to someone in the armed forces – from children, parents, siblings and other relatives, to neighbours and friends.

 The Big idea

Api Venuwen Api



 Creative execution

The key to the entire campaign would be the depiction of the soldier not as a Rambo-style hero in a battle-ravaged environment, but as someone very familiar to every citizen… “one of us”.

The positive imagery captured touching, intimate moments where the protagonist would interact with select characters who represented the various ethnic, religious and age groups of our society. The simple but meaningful lyrics tugged at the heartstrings, with the message of the soldier’s commitment to do his or her job for our benefit. The hauntingly beautiful melody was developed to be particularly memorable and instantly identifiable. Together, the images, lyrics and music were an emotionally charged combination that was immediately ingrained in the hearts and minds of the public.

By presenting the soldier as a son, a daughter, a fiancé, a neighbour and a friend, the communication went beyond the traditional boundaries of this kind of advertising, creating a sense of belonging between the soldiers and the general public. The campaign became a rallying call for people to sit up and take note of the crucial role that the soldier plays in our society, where a year-long war is the most burning national issue.

Media selection

Primary      : Television & Radio

Support       : Print

Authority     : PR

Outdoor      : Posters, Billboards

Virtual       : Web, Email, and Messaging

Other         : Viral

 Api Venuwen Api Fund

Acceptance of the Api Venuwen Api communication campaign by the people was instantaneous. This was the reason why the Ministry Of Defence selected the same name for its Trust Fund to build 50,000 homes for soldiers, where patriotic Sri Lankans residing locally and overseas could contribute funds for the purpose.

Key indicators of unprecedented success

  •  Recruitment figures showed an increase in numbers as never before.
  •  Desertion rates reduced. Troop morale sky rocketed.
  •  1 billion worth of advertising was negotiated free of charge for this campaign, with all local media companies contributing.
  •  Mobile operators included the theme jingle as a “ring tone” due to its popularity.

  Highest awards of recognition

  •  Won the SLIM Neilson’s People’s Award for “TV Commercial of the Year” in 2007 and 2008.
  •  Won the “Best TV Commercial of the Year” at the Sumathi Tele Awards in 2007.
  •  Won the “Best Radio Commercial of the Year” at the Mass Communication Awards in 2008.
  •  Won Bronze metal at the first Effie Awards to be held in Sri Lanka in 2008.


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Team Triad Winning the SLIM Nielsen’s People’s Award 2008 (left) and Mr.Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sec. Defence - the initiator of the Api Venuwen Api campaign

Team Triad Winning the SLIM Nielsen’s People’s Award 2008 (left) and Mr.Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sec. Defence – the initiator of the Api Venuwen Api campaign


Anuruddha Jayasinghe, Director, with the team on the set

Anuruddha Jayasinghe, Director, with the team on the set


Filed under democratic measures, economic processes, governance, life stories, LTTE, military expenditure, military strategy, patriotism, politIcal discourse, propaganda, Rajapaksa regime, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, women in ethnic conflcits

2 responses to ““We for Us” OR Api Wenuwen Api, mobilising enlistment for war2007

  1. Pingback: Winning The War: Evaluating The Impact Of “Api Wenuwen Api” | Colombo Telegraph

  2. Pingback: David Blacker on the SL Army’s Land Warfare Campaign in 2006-09 | Thuppahi's Blog

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