September 20, 2010; Source: New York Post | The lede in this story is devastating: “Nothing says, ‘Wipe out AIDS and poverty’ like Band-Aids and a black-and-white cookie.” Apparently, Bono’s ONE Campaign sent gift boxes to New York City reporters in order to get press for its advocacy campaign. Besides the cookies and Band-Aids the boxes “also included a $15 bag of Starbucks coffee, a $15 Moleskine leather notebook, a $20 water bottle, two syringe-style pens, and a plastic ruler, delivered in four oversized shoe boxes delivered one at a time by messenger.
Bono’s spokesperson explained that reporters are very busy people, with lots of stuff on their plates, so to “break through the clutter” to get information to them about the conditions of poor people, ONE sent the boxes, but she declined to say how much the party gifts cost the charity. Each of the items had an advocacy message attached to it, which ONE noted reflected the organization’s advocacy mission.
Nonetheless, the approach feels like the kind of promotional goodies you get when you go to nonprofit conferences and swipe the little notebooks, penlights, rubber balls, toys, chocolates, and pens distributed by commercial vendors. We can’t say that this marketing ploy was designed or approved by Bono himself, but Bono has encountered a bit of criticism for his judgment recently. A fashion writer at the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece revealing that the Edun fashion line created by Bono and his wife to spur apparel manufacturing in sub-Saharan Africa actually produces the bulk of its clothing in China.
Admitting their naivete, Bono’s wife Ali Hewson suggested that they had to pay more attention to the business side in order to make this social venture a go: “We focused too much on the mission in the beginning. It’s the clothes, it’s the product. It’s a fashion company. That needs to be first and foremost.”
According to insiders who don’t doubt Bono’s sincerity, Bono’s showmanship seems to be always in need of control. Two examples: beginning an outdoor fashion show with models emerging from water (without thinking about the risks if it happened to rain) and getting J.D. Salinger to do a poetry reading for Edun’s first show (surprise! they couldn’t find the notoriously recluse author for the event). Maybe someone should have tried to dampen Bono’s enthusiasm for ONE’s gift boxes for New York reporters.—Rick Cohen