Apple fans, get ready to see red: Apple is using its ubiquitous presence to raise awareness and money for the AIDS awareness campaign Red on World AIDS Day.
Expanding on the growing attention the company has paid to charitable events under chief executive Tim Cook, the company on Thursday will release several products to raise money for the AIDS awareness project co-founded by U2 frontman Bono.
The goal? To achieve a generation that is AIDS-free at birth, by ending cases where mothers transmit the disease to their children. Deb Dugan, chief executive of Red, said she believes that goal could be accomplished by 2020.
Apple has planned some new ways to raise money this year.
“We’ve deeply thought through every single way our customers touch us. And we’ve tried to make it really simple for them to participate in eradicating this disease,” Cook said.
These include working with outside app developers to raise money for the charity, special red versions of product cases and an appropriately hued Beats wireless speaker and headphones. The company will turn the logos red at more than 400 of its stores. It is making a documentary about Red, “The Lazarus Effect,” free to all iTunes users. And it has worked with the band The Killers to release a special track on iTunes — a rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” — and will donate 100 percent of the proceeds to Red.
Apple will also donate to Red $1 from every purchase made through Apple Pay at any of its stores (online or not) up to $1 million; Bank of America will match that donation for Apple Pay payments made with its cards from Dec. 1-7.
Being able to inspire broad participation, Cook said, is Apple's most important charitable responsibility.
“That has much more value to it, I think, then just merely writing a check,” he said. “This is about getting an enormous amount of people, and trying to be the ripple in the pond.”
The companywide effort is the largest Apple has undertaken for a cause — even under Cook, who has raised Apple’s philanthropic profile and used his position to speak out on social issues.
Cook declined to comment on whether he thinks Apple — which has championed issues such as LGBT rights and environmental protection — will find itself at odds with the incoming administration. But he rejected the idea that Apple’s decision to take a stand on issues such as eradicating AIDS should be viewed through a political lens.
“We think … corporations should have values like people do — and do their part in leaving things better than we found it,” Cook said. “I view all of this stuff as being as far away as you can get from politics as possible, to be honest.”
This year’s efforts take a decade of Apple participation with Red to a new level, Cook said. Apple was a founding partner of the charity Project Red — often stylized (RED) — after Bono and philanthropist Bobby Shriver founded it in 2006. The first Apple product for Project Red was a special red iPod nano. It was so popular that Apple had to reissue a second model within four weeks, said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS product marketing.
This year, it has moved its efforts far beyond the iPod — although you still will be able to buy red iPods to support the cause. The company worked with the developers of several games including Angry Birds, Best Fiends, SimCity BuildIt, Candy Crush Jelly Saga, and Clash of Clans to create special in-app purchases. All of the proceeds from those purchases will go to Red.
Red has raised $360 million to fight AIDS over the past decade. What many may not realize, however, is that Apple has raised one-third of that: $120 million.
“For us it’s been a game-changer, quite frankly,” Dugan said. Although AIDS may not be viewed as quite the crisis that it was in the 1990s, she said it's still the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age and the second-leading cause of death among teens. And, she said, the world is at a crucial moment in the fight to eventually wipe it out. “We can eliminate mother-child transmission of HIV — which for an infectious disease is a tipping point,” Dugan said.