(RED)’s Not Dead, Baby


We knew we couldn’t diss Bono without getting busted. Catching wind of our post yesterday about (RED)’s supposed failure, (RED) itself writes to tell us that’s not the whole story:

The article is based on many inaccuracies. The (RED) initiative has raised more than $25M for the Global Fund to date. And, more importantly, (RED) has not spent a dime on advertising. The money spent on advertising has been through (RED) convincing companies to divert already planned marketing dollars to promote products that send up to 50% of their profits to the Global Fund. This advertising money was not part of the company philanthropic arm or part of the (RED) initiative and, if not put behind these products, would’ve been used to promote other products that don’t contribute anything.

Read on for the letter that (RED) CEO Bobby Shriver sent to the editor of Ad Week (they wrote the article that called $18 million meager).

Letter to the Editor
Advertising Age

Dear Mr. Bloom,

I want to clarify a number of issues from the article on March 4th by your writer Mya Frazier “Costly RED Campaign Reaps Meager $18 million.”

It has been a year since the launch of (PRODUCT) RED in the UK–a brand launch designed to get people used to the idea of an entirely new “fund raising” model; a brand launch that entered the market slowly with a small product offering at the time. It was designed to build over time. It built up to a full product offering and launch in the US on October 13th, 2006. So we’ve been in business really for only five months.

Your article says that $18 million and soon to be $25 million (when we have completed our most recent accounting) is a “meager” amount. It’s five times the amount given to the Global Fund by the private sector in four years.

Second, your writer suggested that the $25 million is meager compared to the marketing money spent. Because (RED) is explicitly NOT a charity, we encourage our partners to go about their business including their marketing. This sells the products; the products generate the $25 million.

In addition, this marketing would have been spent anyway, on other product lines. It never would have been (nor will it ever be) given to the Global Fund. We were able to divert existing marketing dollars for (RED). The companies have erected signs in stores and billboards across America saying that AIDS in Africa is a serious global problem. What is the value of that communication? Your writer never tells us. A phenomenal benefit is that Gap, Apple, Sprint and other sales people are meeting Americans and explaining that 5,500 Africans dying daily of AIDS is preventable. What is the value of this?

The only substantial point in your article is the notion that people will stop contributing to charity because they’ve purchased (RED) products. There is actual data showing that when people become aware of crises, they give more money rather than less. Your writer doesn’t mention that data. We believe (RED) will lead to more rather than less giving.

(RED) is one of the choices people can make to fight the biggest healthcare crisis in human history. Yours,

Bobby Shriver