Ad Age Seeing Red

Ad Age explores reactions to the much ballyhooed Red campaign designed to benefit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The campaign’s inherent appeal to conspicuous consumption has spurred a parody by a group of San Francisco designers and artists, who take issue with Bono’s rallying cry. “Shopping is not a solution. Buy less. Give more,” is the message at, which encourages people to give directly to the Global Fund.
Trent Stamp, president of Charity Navigator, which rates the spending practices of 5,000 nonprofits, expressed concern that the campaign “gives young people an excuse to feel good about themselves while they buy an overpriced item they don’t really need.”
Mark Rosenman, a longtime activist in the nonprofit sector and a public-service professor at the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, said the disparity between the marketing outlay and the money raised by Red is illustrative of some of the biggest fears of nonprofits in the U.S.
“There is a broadening concern that business is taking on the patina of philanthropy and crowding out philanthropic activity and even substituting for it,” he said. “It benefits the for-profit partners much more than the charitable causes.”

I hear the above concerns and believe they’re valid. Yet, there’s no question that the great causes of our time need corporate support. And corporations are right to want more for their money than a check writing ceremony. Red allows the corporate sponsors to actually make a profit, and this fact has some traditionalists stirred up, but it’s a good idea nonetheless.
The companies supporting this charitable cause include Motorola, Apple, Converse, Gap, American Express and Emporio Armani.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.