With Hanukkah and Christmas in the past and Kwanzaa and New Years Day fast approaching holiday cheer and charitable acts are in full swing, along with the dollars fueling these two year end activities. Playing off of these charitable and cheerful feelings, the (RED) Campaign swings into full force at this time. The (RED) Campaign coordinates the marketing of “(RED)” branded products, such as Starbucks coffee merchandise, GAP t-shits and Nike shoelaces to “give up to 50 percent of their profits to the Global Fund to invest in HIV and AIDS programs in Africa.” In addition to the (RED) Campaign’s obvious ambiguity in regards to the amount of money actually given to the Global Fund, and the claim that the campaign is funding “HIV and AIDS programs in Africa,” without a clear description of what HIV and AIDS programs are actually being funded, the Global Fund is notorious for its lack of financial transparency. The Global Fund along with the (RED) Campaign is often questioned about its efficiency and efficacy, particularly in light of the huge media and marketing campaign that pulls in millions and millions of dollars from often clueless, though well-intentioned customers.
Not wanting to be totally Grinch-like, I must sing some praises of the (RED) campaign. For one, it has one of the most well known and ubiquitous charitable advertizing campaigns ever launched and sustained across a wide variety of products. It has not only substantially impacted, and even changed the face of the philanthropic world, but has had an impact on the business world that fuels the campaign as well. And it cannot be denied that the campaign gives money to a large foundation whose goal it is to end HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in African countries. And finally, buying a (RED) product will further benefit its stated mission in some way.
Regardless, there are two major things that make the (RED) Campaign inherently problematic. First, with such a powerful presence across a wide range of outlets around the world, shouldn’t the campaign do, give, devote, make, change, and affect more? And if it does, how do we really know?
And second, isn’t promotion of mindless consumerism ($200 iPods, overpriced T-shirts and Coffee, and running shoes made God-knows where by what age worker) contrary to the goal of public health in Africa, the ultimate goal of the (RED) Campaign in the first place?
In fact, it may be true that goals and intentions of the (RED) Campaign are honorable. But as consumers and producers in the developed world, we should be sure that our hard earned dollars, euros, yen and pounds, our charity to the less fortunate, and our holiday cheer make it to people and organizations that will use those things to the most effective and fullest extent. Although buying a red coffee cup, a red T-shirt, a red iPod, and red shoelaces are easy and fun ways to give, be sure of what you are giving and to whom you are giving it.
P.S. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
P.P.S. Check out SCOUT BANANA’s own holiday campaign, TI(RED) for more information!