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August 07, 2008



A good way to make a difference in Africa:

It's a micro-loan company that lets you make small investments (whatever you can afford, essentially) in local African businesses and actually helps build African economic fortitude. Charity is for times of crisis. What Africa needs right now is partnership, not charity.

Stevie Dream

Not forgetting the fact that no proceeds from the U2 branded iPod went to Red, or to any other charity, or that when Ireland got rid of the law prohibiting tax on a musician's earnings Bono moved all of U2's bank accounts out of the country to another tax haven, meaning that none of his tax money goes to any of the world leaders he's lobbying about how to spend everybody else's cash, or that RED by it's very nature attempts to push charity through lopsided west-centric capitalism and consumerism.


your important link doesn't work - here's the fix:

Larry Mullen, Jr.

We are the world, doncha know? Bono is just another frontman with just another mock agenda. It's every bit as insulting as the Queen Mother wearing a $100,000 dress to a summit on world poverty.


Kurt Gottschalk

Thanks, Joe. Don't know what happened there, but the link up top should work now.

And Larry, yeah, right on, my brother. And note, to quote from the "Muzzle Bono" campaign again, his "Don't They Know It's Christmas":

“Where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flow, Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”

Where he somehow seems to miss the Nile, a fairly large river from what I understand.

Joel Slbersher

I will give what I can. I am a poor man but I will do whatever it takes to remove third world debt and shut that fucker up.

Sangamo Pinksnake

No weak men in the U2 records at home
The strong men who have made the world
History lives on the U2 records at home
The U2 records at home

Spencer Kent

Someone at (RED) responded to this on the original site:

"This petition is full of misstatements about (RED) that the simplest Google search would uncover. (RED) has raised more than $109 million for the Global Fund in just two years – ALL of this money goes to AIDS programs in Africa, with NO overhead (or advertising money) taken out.
This money is funding AIDS programs in Ghana, Lesotho, Rwanda and Swaziland that have already helped put more than 80,000 people on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment and helped provide 369,000 pregnant women with counseling and services to reduce the risk of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV...
First, I want to state that the $100M figure you mention and the basic premise of your argument about the allocation of corporate marketing dollars are wrong.
(RED) has not spent any money on advertising. (RED) gets the corporations to spend a portion of their EXISTING marketing budgets on promoting (RED) products. In response to the notion of why companies don't just donate their marketing budgets, the simple fact is that corporations are not in the business of donating marketing budgets. They are in the business of creating products, marketing them and delivering value for their shareholders. (RED) intersects that process and convinces them to channel some of this power to raise funds to buy AIDS medicine for people who otherwise couldn't afford them. If these companies weren't advertising (RED) products, they'd be advertising regular products that don't generate money for the emergency of AIDS in Africa AND they definitely would not be donating those budgets.
The only part of a corporation that is the business of 'donating' is generally the corporate foundation. We purposefully do not go through the foundations for this partnership. We engage the business sectors because our goal is to create a sustainable flow of dollars to the fund, not a one-time handout. This goes back to basics of "WHY" (RED) was formed. (RED) was designed to create a SUSTAINABLE flow of private sector dollars to the Global Fund ( The Global Fund was created in 2002 and designed to be a public/private partnership i.e. to get money from governments and business. However, it is first four years it had raised $50B from government and just $5M from business (by approaching corporate foundations for support). We needed a new way to engage business in helping to address one of the worst healthcare crisis of our times. So, (RED) was created – with the basic concept of engaging business in a way that made good business sense and creating this sustainable flow of dollars for the Global Fund.
As for the money raised, over $60 million has been raised through the sale of (PRODUCT) RED goods and over $40 million was raised through the (RED) Sotheby's auction. 260 million media impressions were also garnered through the publicity around the (RED) Auction and the fact that it was raising money to buy drugs that cost 40 cents per day for people who can't afford that amount to stay alive. We are in the business of raising money and awareness and it seems to make sense to do both at the same time when we can. The auction would not have been possible if the (RED) brand did not exist. It was because of the brand awareness and the excitement around it in the marketplace that many of these artists were willing to participate and one of the reasons why there was so much support to produce an event of that magnitude. All of these things work hand in hand and help build momentum that will raise even more money over time. And, as (RED) grows and matures, you will see our model continue to do more new things that surprise and, at the end of the day, raises the most money possible for the Global Fund to help finance AIDS programs in Africa.
At the end of the day, (RED) is just one way for people to get involved. It does not replace charity, volunteerism, government participation and other avenues to help. It is all of these things working together that will help address the greatest social issues of our time – not each thing working separately and in isolation."

It's more than a little dishonest of Aaron to not update his spiel to say that he's been corrected - (RED) hasn't spent any money of advertising, it's partners who advertise their products anyway that have spent a normal share of their ad spends proportionally on (RED) computers/skateboards/shoes, etc.

Kurt Gottschalk

Hey Spencer. thanks for posting. I don't profess to know the truth and Red's efforts. I do find Bono distateful, tho, and liked that part of the gag-him gag. Agreed, Aaron should at least acknowledge the response and, if it's not on the up and up, explain it.

Sangamo Pinksnake

I don't see Spencer denying that there's something mighty consumerist about the whole plan. And what's this about $50B coming from governments - that's a lot more than the sweat shop shirt funds and the rich person auction combined. My mind is not changed - Bono should retire.

Aaron With

Just wanted to let people know that in fact I did respond to that post from the RED Campaign, and reiterated my challenge to RED, to which THEY have not responded. I think its more than a little dishonest of Spencer Kent to totally ignore my response in his post on this forum, which occurred 5 days after my response.

To anyone who is interested in seeing the ongoing progression of this interesting discussion, its all viewable here:

...but it goes onto multiple pages so you have to be persistent to get to all the replies. Perhaps that's what Spencer didn't see. In any case, I've pasted by response to RED below.

----- Aug 4, 2008

I find it hard to believe that no additional dollars were spent to market RED than would have been spent otherwise. In 2006, the year of RED’s launch, GAP alone spent $91 million more than they had the previous year on marketing expenses. How much of this was associated with RED’s launch? How much more did the other companies spend than they would have? Only RED has the power to make this information public and give consumers the knowledge they need to decide if RED is an effective philanthropy model that they wish to support. But you have continued to conceal that information, shirking the issue once again by saying the marketing expenses are irrelevant. I’d argue they are essential. The $100 million expense I quoted can be found in many articles online, (such as this one ) , but its true that this quote is an estimate. Some estimate it to be much higher, but only RED has the ability to make that information known. The question remains….why don’t you? I remain unsatisfied by your response and reiterate my challenge to RED to release its marketing expenses. If you wish to qualify those expenses by showing how many of those marketing dollars would have been spent by these same corporations with our without RED, you should….but in GAPs case it seems clear that there was a substantial marketing increase exactly timed with the RED launch.

I also contest the premise that the only way to engage corporations to increase their giving to the Global Fund is through RED’s model. In fact, Chevron just made a $30 million donation to the Global Fund this year. If just one company is able to contribute half of what RED has accomplished, without any marketing expenditures, imagine how much more could be raised for the Global Fund if all the RED partner companies did the same.

Moreover, it looks like none of the RED parter companies are exemplary performers in terms of the percentage of their overall profits that they donate to charities. All donate 1.1% of earnings or less, but are perhaps perceived by many consumers as leaders in corporate giving because of their association with the RED campaign and the heavy marketing done to brand these companies as socially responsible. This measure is much more significant the total RED sales proceeds a company many generate, but it is far from the only measure consumers need to be aware of when deciding which companies are responsible enough to warrant their patronage. We need to be dynamic in our assessment of corporate social responsibility, factoring in company’s giving percentages but prioritizing the sustainability of their business model, ensuring that the products we buy are made with fair labor standards that are environmentally sustainable.

RED claims to have a unique way to encourage corporate social responsibility, by giving financial incentive to companies to brand themselves that way. Has RED accomplished greater corporate responsibility, or rather a more effective branding strategy to appeal to consumers who want to do good? I think a strong case can be made for the latter. Not only are RED partner companies are not the most exemplary givers, but they under-perform on many other social and environmental fronts. GAP, for example, has a long and notorious relationship with sweatshops . If we’re going to increase consumer awareness around socially and environmentally responsible businesses, lets promote those companies that perform the best in those categories. What RED has effectively done is to allow companies that are not particularly responsible to buy a socially-responsible image.

You stated that RED ‘does not replace charity, volunteerism, government participation and other avenues to help.’ I’m concerned that this may not be accurate. Surely, there are many RED customers with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. But I fear that there is a strong possibility that many RED product buyers will feel like they’ve done their part once they’ve bought RED products. Indeed, this seems to be the message from RED’s own marketing campaigns, such as Dell’s RED laptop ad, where the RED laptop owner is celebrated by everyone he greets in the city, admired for having saved lives, he even gets a kiss from a random beautiful woman. What more does this hero need to do to be a responsible consumer? Apparently nothing. And even if not every RED customer believes that they’ve done their part after they buy their RED products, those who do end up convincing themselves of this, with the help of RED’s ads cheering them along, are potential consumer activists lost to RED’s misleading marketing. And right now, to confront today’s critical problems not limited to AIDS but including workers’ rights, global warming, etc., we need a new army of well-educated consumers supporting the most progressive and sustainable business practices available.

Finally, to return to the issue of RED’s failure to be transparent about the effectiveness of its model, readers of this discussion should know that many months ago, Ben Davis of the Buy (Less) Crap coalition , who shares many of my criticisms of the RED campaign, issued a similar and more comprehensive challenge in a letter to RED CEO Bobby Shriver, and has received no response. I have only recently discovered Ben’s letter, but I believe it addresses my primary concerns with RED even better than my initial challenge to Ms. Cordua did. Mr. Davis’s challenge on RED were:

1) RED and its partners provide administrative transparency. Let consumers know exactly what has been spent, by whom, and on what. Just as non-profits must provide administrative accountings of how they spend our donations, let RED and its corporate partners be proud of their accomplishments and disclose the figures publicly. This will genuinely answer questions and address consumer concerns.

2) Adopt reformed contribution models that make clear how much money goes to The Global Fund with each purchase—replacing the current models that do not. Consumers require the confidence of knowing exactly how much money goes to charity with each purchase. Remove all doubt and include this information right on the price tag.

3) Make it possible and easy to donate to The Global Fund directly—without requiring a purchase—via clear web links and by installing informational kiosks and/or clearly marked ways to give at check-out counters in retail locations. Doing this would eliminate consumer confusion and cynicism about RED partners and their contributions. And, the links and kiosks would increase awareness about the African AIDS crisis and create a new and valuable stream of money to help save lives.

My initial challenge specifically pertains to the first point, but all of these are excellent ideas. RED can spin the PR wheels as much as it likes and convince many an uncritical mind that it is accomplishing something, but until RED can be transparent about the marketing expenses of its partner companies vs proceeds generated, it cannot be viewed as a legitimate model.

Kurt Gottschalk

Hi Aaron - Thanks for the info. Happy to have more info here, as well as on your site. Keep it up!

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