Looks like AdAge is not the only one finding fault with Bono‘s RED campaign. In reading the newest issue of the recently relaunched PURE Living Magazine (a UK publication), I came across an open letter to Bono from a Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping.
I had never heard of Reverend Billy before but apparently he has a bit of a following. Reverend Billy (I’m pretty sure he’s not a real reverend) uses humour and a tongue-in-cheek approach to draw attention to his main belief that all of us in North America need to stop shopping! He preaches across New York City on the perils of frequent shopping and has launched a film recently in the SXSW Film Festival called “What Would Jesus Buy.”
In his open letter to Bono, Reverend Billy says, “You urge us, from a tsunami of ads – to buy RED – to continue consuming, to shop. But we can never shop enough for the African children, when the cost to the world from shopping is so destructive. We need to stop our shopping and start giving.”
On his Web site, he encourages us to support celeb-free charities and lists a bunch worthy of our donations. (On that note, I find it odd that Reverend Billy admonishes celebrity involvement in charity when through his use of attention-grabbing sermons he is obviously trying to become a bit of a celebrity himself.)
I absolutely 100% fully agree with the foundation of his argument that there is too much unbridled consumption in today’s Western societies. For some people shopping and consuming has become too much of a regular pastime – a solo sport practiced every Saturday. But I think Bono has recognized this and is using this reality of our society as a way to help Africa.
Is Bono’s RED campaign perfect? No – that’s highly unlikely. But he is experimenting with a new approach that will hopefully get the mainstream thinking about issues they may not have thought of before. Unfortunately, I expect it will be a while before people click into the fact that we may not be able to consume as much as we have been. Until that happens, if Bono can get people to switch to RED denim, sunglasses or phones over any other conventional brand they may be considering, I think he has done a good deed indeed.
To put it in language Reverend Billy might understand, Bono’s out there recruiting new members – trying to convert the non-believers into believers. Reverend Billy’s merely preaching to the already-converted choir.