U2 rock star and humanitarian Bono has come in for some recent criticism. According to Advertising Age (registration required), his (RED) campaign has spent upward of $100 million on advertising to produce a mere $18 million for the Global Fund to support African AIDS programs.
A little more than a year ago, Bono and Bobby Shriver launched the (RED) campaign in London. It would go on to attract attention (and advertising) from such media elites as Steven Spielberg, Chris Rock, and Oprah Winfrey, while attracting sponsorships from AOL and MySpace. It created quite a buzz: Ads were all over the place and the world would be changed.
The idea was simple: new lines of consumer goods—all from the trendiest companies, Gap, Giorgio Armani, Motorola, Apple iPod—would be launched with the (RED) logo. When you bought one of these products, the company would give a fraction of the proceeds to the Global Fund. The (RED) Manifesto put it simply: “You buy (RED) stuff. We get the money, buy the pills and distribute them. . . . If they don’t get the pills, they die. We don’t want them to die. We want to give them the pills. And we can. And you can. And it’s easy. All you have to do is upgrade your choice.”
So I guess they will rename it to the "In the Red" campaign. Ryan T. Anderson’s article is well worth reading in critique of the problems of global funds and the use of a consumerist approach to help those in Africa.