Monday, October 16, 2006

(PRODUCT) Red Rain is Falling Down

This weekend I was peeling through the NY Times magazine, when I came across some six-page Gap Ad spread, featuring Don Cheadle, Missy Elliot, Anton Apollo Ono and some others. What made this ad-spread unique is it clearly was trying to say something powerful about the typical bland clothes that the brand was marketing. They all came in a bold red color with (Red) written across random parts of the garment, and they were all the only article of clothing in the piece. The message was actually well translated by the art director of the shot. Before you read any background information on the clothes, you knew there was something significant to this brand. The little information provided at the end of the spread, gives you the idea that, yes, in fact, there is: All Red Products Are Designed to Help Eliminate AIDS in Africa. Their Motto: "Can a T-Shirt Change the World? This One Can."

Now, those two statements are really pretty bold claims for fashion to be making: that a product is designed to fight the deadliest disease in the world, and that a product can ultimately change the world. A quick visit to their website, of course, gives you a better idea of what they mean by "changing the world." "This isn't charity," it states, "this is a new way of doing business." Indeed, even when it comes to altruism in Twenty-First Century America, it is really all about that bottom line. As the co-founder (along with, who else, BONO!) of Product Red confirmed, this is all about making some money. Bobby Shriver (yes, that kind of Shriver) recently told the New York Times: "We want them (the brand-makers) to make money. We don't want anyone to be thinking, ‘I'm not making money on this thing,' because then we failed. We want people buying houses in the Hamptons based on this because, if that happens, this thing is sustainable." Hold on a second while I rub my eyes and read that again. Yeah, that's what he said. In order to "sustain" this thing, they have to feed on American's consumerism, trust American's to be more likely to "contribute" to a cause by purchasing a fashion statement; rather than actually contributing to a good cause; oh, and they need the profit sharing to pad the pockets of the good folks whose houses in the Hamptons could use a nice addition right now. Nevermind that, of the 190 bucks you spend on that Red Ipod Nanno, only 10 bucks are going to help the cause of actually fighting AIDS in Africa. The other $180? Straight towards building another fence around Bill Gates' Estate. The idea here people is to change something that has failed miserably (namely, American altruism) by splicing it with something that has succeeded inexplicably well (namely, consumerism...or to be blatant, the consistency of you, me, and everyone we know going out and buying over-priced crap that is made by underpaid children, and flashing it around like it is something to be proud of.)

Look, I don't have a problem with the resident voice of our generation (who actually isn't of our generation) pimping idealism out to young Americans for a good cause, for once. I suppose he is, in fact, trying to do something good. But I do hav a problem with a few things: Wouldn't all of the money that is being put towards building these folks homes on the Haptons, be better spent, I dunno..."Elimating Aids" as they claim is their goal. Why do we continue to talk about Bono as if he is a great human being (I know...I had to write an introduction to one of my company's books on why Bono and Bob Geldof were one of ten people who make a difference in the world.) The guy has used his celebrity for a lot of good causes, sure. But it hasn't stopped him from posing with some of the most genocidal leaders walking the face of this earth.

AND, Is it really a fair notion for the pimps of these product to assume that the only way to illicit charity from this generation is to offer them an ugly red tank-top in return? If so, I am ashamed of my generation. I suppose it worked with Yellow Bracelets, but for god's sake, people, are we really going to stand idly by, while a bunch of 40-to-50-something entrepreneurs get together and cater to the lowest common denominator of our stereotyped generation? Is buying dumb crap, and flashing that we are a part of the latest movement, really worth supporting people who take advantage of the diseased and dying citizens of the orpahned continent, just so they can afford new homes in the Hamptons?

Hey You. Twenty-something hipster, with the 60s-recall haircut. Unplug the Ipod. Put down the shopping bag, the 3-dollar coffee, and the unopened copy of White Noise and listen to me: You planning on buying that tank top for 56 bucks at the gap? Look, 28 of it goes to an organization that is dedicated to fighting AIDS, 28 of it goes to some GAP CEO's waterfront property at Sheepshead Bay. Do us all a favor. Take 50 of it, and donate it to Then take the other six, and go buy yourself some beer. We all know thats what you young slackers spend your money on anyways, when you aren't spending it on tank-tops and Nanos.


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