Product Red, Oprah, Bono

Just in time for the holidays, if you haven’t done your shopping yet, then consider–Product Red–all the varieties of t-shirts, shoes, jeans, sunglasses, MP3 players, watches, and cell phones from the GAP, Apple, Armani, Motorola with about 50% of the proceeds going to the Global Fund. This ingenious fundraising mechanism was concocted by Bono and Bobby Shriver. It was launched this fall in the U.S. by Bono with a special episode of Oprah that recently re-aired. I’ll be interested to see how Americans respond to this appeal. Oprah’s program–which featured Alicia Keys in South Africa with a terminally ill 17-year old boy suffering from AIDS–certainly struck an emotional chord.

At the level of advocacy, I’m impressed by this entrepreneurial model. That said, with the Global Fund still in need of an Executive Director to replace Richard Feachem, I hope all the purported good from this effort and optimism ultimately gets spent wisely. Laurie Garrett’s Foreign Affairs piece discusses the evidence that is emerging that donors are wasting money through too much top-heavy bureaucratic processes while some recipients countries have such graft that funds never get to the people who need it.

The Washington Post yesterday had an op-ed that described the Global Fund in “disarray.” Conversations I had with many activists and concerned parties suggested this assessment is too bleak, that this delay in the appointment of a new Executive Director is a hiccup. I certainly hope so because I really want to believe that the efforts by celebrities like Bono and Oprah are part of a larger story of redemption and saving lives that makes for more than good television.

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One Response to “Product Red, Oprah, Bono”

  1. […] In a worrisome portent, it appears that the RED campaign may be more hype than substance. As you may recall, Bono’s RED campaign links the purchase of products–sunglasses, cell phones, shirts, jeans–to proceeds for the Global Fund. It was launched in the US (after an earlier UK launch) with much fanfare in the fall with an Oprah special, lots of ads, etc. The ad costs may be greater than the actual revenue the Global Fund derives from the proceeds. Moreover, it may be the kind of philanthropic cover for large firms that divert attention from more direct ways of giving. […]