RED Targets Consumers Who Care about AIDS, Not Businesses

April 13, 2006

Steve Stecklow writes about the RED campaign in today’s Wall Street Journal. As I posted previously, RED is Bono’s new effort to get consumers to buy products from Armani, Converse, the Gap and others, and to use special red American Express cards with part of the profits going to support AIDS programs of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It is designed to provide an easy, fashionable way to support public health in Africa, although only time will tell if consumers actually buy the products. But if anyone can make RED work, it is definitely Bono.However, Stecklow’s main point is that the private sector just doesn’t care about the Global Fund or any other international aid organization. He quotes Joelle Tanguy of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, who said that AIDS "will never have the power of the images of the tsunami."I have to disagree with Tanguy. Consumers are very aware of the pain, misery and destruction caused by AIDS. The problem is that they don't know what they can do to help. RED gives them an opportunity.Stecklow seems to be confusing concepts here. RED is designed to reach consumers. If consumers care, they will buy RED. This has little to do with the fact that the Global Fund hasn’t turned into the effective public-private partnership it was designed to be. The private sector isn't doing its part, but that is not the problem that RED was designed to address. No one knows if RED is going to work. It might. But the private sector needs to step up, too.


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