“The Red campaign proposes consumption as the cure to the world’s evils,” said Ben Davis, creative director at Word Pictures Ideas, co-creator of the site. “Can’t we just focus on the real solution — giving money?”
Let’s see, $100 million in marketing to raise $18 million…must be new math.
But wouldn’t people be better off giving more to charity rather than buying luxury items they don’t need?
If only that were the choice. But most people wouldn’t give the cost of a new iPod to the Global Fund. Some idealists might hope so. The Ad Age article was inspired by a website called www.buylesscrap.org which attacks Product RED for proposing consumption as the cure to the world’s evils. “Can’t we just focus on the real solution – giving money?” it says.
This is a rather romantic, and American, notion. Private charitable giving has never offered a solution to the major structural problems in the Third World. At best, charities like aid agencies create exemplars of ideal projects, or help build a public mood that something has to be done, forcing governments to act. Aids is too massive a problem for anyone but governments to tackle.
Bono set up RED because he thought that Make Poverty History, Live8 and the One Campaign (a massive lobby in the United States) had successfully put on the pressure to get governmental action at the international level. But not every one wants to join such campaigns. And not everyone gives to charities. There were two areas yet untapped – the private sector and consumers who like buying stuff, like the idea of helping others, but who are too idle or too self-centred to actually get up and do anything. RED was the attempt to draw into the wider coalition for Africa people who, if they didn’t buy a RED iPod would just have bought one of another colour.
I still find the idea behind RED, appealing to our materialism in order to impact the health crisis in Africa, to be rather sad. But I guess it’s more an indictment of who we are – rather than attack on the effectiveness of the RED campaign.