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June 28, 2007

Seeing (Red) Made Ben Want to Buy (Less)

Red Some of you may be familiar with what happened when Bono teamed up with Bobby Schriver and the brand names of the world. The world began to see (red). Basically, a percentage of each product sold that has partnered with (red) -- Apple, Gap, Armani, etc. -- is donated to the Global Fund to help fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The parenthesis or brackets are a marketing technique and according to the website identify those companies which have embraced (red).

It's a good idea, but Ben Davis had a slightly different notion. He's created something he calls Buy (Less). It parodies the Red campaign's style and look, but his point is we already own too much. According to Davis' line of thought, we don't fight poverty by buying more. His website encourages people to buy less and donate directly to the Global Fund. According to Davis, for the Red Campaign "to spend what must amount to more than $100 million dollars [a speculated amount] on advertising to raise a tenth of that for charity seems a hollow investment."

So what do you think? Do you agree more with Bono or Davis on this one? (By the way, just as a warning, the intro to the Buy (Less) site has some partially unclad figures, similar to the edgy Calvin Klein ads. Some may prefer not to enter the site for this reason, and that's why I've neglected to offer a link.)

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I tend towards Mr. Davis' scheme of sending the contribution directly to the organization.

I tend to do the same thing. Rather than participate in some fund-raising drive where part of the cost goes to the charity, I give to the organization directly.

If someone asks me to participate in a United Way drive, I'll decline. If I want to send any money to a particular organization that might fall under UW's "umbrella", such as Boy Scouts of America, I'll send a check to BSA not UW.

It's kind of like the question "Is it better to get $1.00 more income or $1.00 less debt?" The $1.00 more income gets taxed, leaving you with less money - say 75 cents, and you still have the same amount of debt. The $1.00 less debt means $1.00 less that you have to take out of your pocket to pay off a debt.


I don't think it's an either/or question, but a both/and one: Both campaigns have merit. Like James above, I prefer to donate to a group directly (as I do w/ International Aid, www.internationalaid.org -- but I have product (red) clothing too). But the sad fact of the matter is that 1) many in the public don't do that, and 2) this is a consumerist society. Bono, et al., are tapping into that attitude to garner some income for the Global Fund while people are overindulging themselves. So, at the least, there's a portion of the proceeds going toward relief, and at the most, the (red) campaign raises awareness and prompts people to do more than buy a t-shirt or cell phone -- case in point: Buy(Less).


I agree that it can be a case of both rather than either/or. When I donate to church or charity, I know that my money is going directly where it's needed. However, I still need some t-shirts, a sweatshirt, and shoes. If I can buy all those things for say $20 each from Old Navy or I could buy all those things for $20 each from a (RED) company, I'd buy from the (RED) one... I'm spending the same but part of my money is being redirected to good causes.

I don't think that the (RED) campaign necessarily suggests buying more, simply buying differently.

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