NEW YORK — On the left at Friday's kickoff event in New York: An Irish singer and songwriter who just might be the biggest rock star in the world today. On the right: Bobby Shriver, nephew of a President of the United States, brother of the first lady of California, son of the founder of the Peace Corps who ran for vice president, and son of the founder of the Special Olympics.
They have combined to try to make red the new hot color, launching a huge marketing campaign across the country.
"Red is the color of emergency," says Bono. "I suppose that's why we chose it. But, Red — Product Red — is a way of making it easy for people in the shopping malls and main streets all over this great country to get AIDS drugs to Africans who can't afford them, you see?"
Why isn't this charity?
"Sustainability is the key word here," says Bono. "The reason why we're not calling it charity and we're describing it as a new business model is that Red companies will make some profit. Not as much as they would usually. But, we want them to prosper because it's a long term fight with this illness. We don't want to just put out some T-shirts and jeans and Motorola phones and Apple iPods for a year, get people on the drugs and then not continue with their treatment. Great brands always have an emotional component. We think we bring that with our brand to theirs."
"This is in the newspapers all over the country today," says Bobby Shriver. "So these people are courageous to have done this because it's their main-line brand. People don't mess with, as we all know, their main-line brand. But they're messing with their brands here because they believe that their customers will see the consciousness of that and respond to it."
"This is using the force of consumerism," says Bono, "this tidal wave that's pouring on over our head, and it's just using it to defend the world's most vulnerable. That's it. That simple."
Bono has helped to change the business of giving.
He'll go back to U2 and record new music shortly, but for now it's one memory from his first trip to Africa that keeps him going.
"It's a man, [who] offers me his young son and he says, 'Please, you must take this boy and you must take him with you to wherever you live. Because if he stays here, he will surely die. But, if he goes with you, he will live.'"
"And you have to walk away from that moment," Bono continues, "and know he's probably right. But you know even at a deeper level that he shouldn't be right."
By the way, we all learned a lesson today, when Bono came to the newsroom to greet the Nightly News staff. Never let him borrow your camera.
"Even better than the real thing," said Bono as he spun around the room, shooting video of us all.
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