100 for 18?

In a recent NY times article, columnist Ron Nixon goes into an in-depth overview of how the RED campaign has performed. Launched a few years ago by some mega-brands – GAP, Motorola and now Dell – the campaign was designed to raise awareness about the AIDS epidemic and the funds raised help go to HIV foundations in Rwanda, Ghana and Switzerland.

Even though the cause is an excellent one, many groups are criticizing the campaign because (after an Advertising Age article) of the amount of money spent on advertising vs. the amount donated – approximately $100 million vs. $18 million.

Although their actions are noble, the brands associated true objective was most likely to build brand preference by leveraging a social cause.

It has certainly worked. The campaigns for Red from Motorola, Dell and Gap have been quite powerful but they are also expensive to produce. Would it have been better to have simply lobbied these companies to give a one-time donation directly to the fund rather than advertise as well?

For Red, yes. For the brands, hell no.

$18 million in the context of a donation is a massive number and the Red campaign as certainly done a lot of good for the AIDS cause. But make no mistake, it’s sold a lot of non-Red products for the brands involved as well.

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