Media reports have mischaracterized U2 lead singer and (Product) RED founder Bono's recent comments that appear to call Apple to task over its "modesty run amok" approach to the iPhone makers (RED)-branded offerings, the charity has protested in a new blog post
. Video of the meeting at the Cannes Lion festival between Bono and Apple SVP of Design Sir Jonathan Ive would appear to support the foundation's explanation that Bono's remarks represented "faux outrage" and were intended to poke fun at Apple's modesty about the partnership.
Apple is the largest corporate contributor to the (Product) RED promotion, which benefits The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and has thus far raise more than $75 million in contributions. It has done so through the use of a gradually-expanding line of products and accessories that feature the distinctive shade of red and prominent web-page branding to signify that a portion of sales will go to fund the foundation's efforts.
During his interview, Bono called Apple "annoyingly quiet"
about the amount of money it has raised for his charity, and jokingly asked Ive "where is the (RED) branding?" when showing off an iPad cover with the signature red shade and only a small logo for the charity on the inside. "Nobody can see that. This is modesty run amok. This is the Apple way. They're like a religious cult."
has since reported that the full context of Bono's remark makes it more obvious that he was kidding. "One of the reasons it's such a credit to have Jony Ive on the stage," Bono told panel moderator and Vice CEO Shane Smith, "is because Apple is so [expletive] annoyingly quiet about the fact they've raised $75 million. Nobody knows!"
In reaction to Bono's needling, Ive pointed out that Apple has been making (Product) RED versions of selected products since 2006, but limits them to mostly smaller items such as iPods and accessories like cases for the iPad and iPhone. "It's been really, really special for us," Ive added.
The confusion over Bono's joking (he and Ive are long-time friends) probably arose from earlier in the interview when Bono recounted a genuine argument he'd had with then-CEO Steve Jobs over how to handle Apple's promotion of the (Product) RED version of the iPod. He told the audience that Jobs relented on some points after "sleeping on it," but that Jobs was very cautious of allowing the (Product) RED brand to rival Apple's own product markings in any way.
The blog post
, entitled "Thank You Apple," sought to clarify that Bono made the remarks in jest, although Ive could be seen laughing at the "cult" line alongside the audience in the now-pulled video of the event. "Bono has been one of Apple's biggest supporters, pushing back publicly on those who have made negative assumptions about the company's charitable work, simply because they don't shout it from the rooftops. That modesty is their right, and in many ways admirable," the foundation wrote.
In a reminder that humor doesn't always travel out of context, some of Bono's teasing and faux outrage at Apple's modesty were reported as actual criticism of the company. Nothing could be further from the truth of course ... Bono and all of us at (RED) are so grateful to Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Jony Ive and the entire Apple team for the game-changing impact they have made for (RED) and the fight against this disease.
Overall, Apple on its own is responsible for about a quarter of the total contributions made by all (Product) RED partners over the past eight years. Bono is said to be keen to get more companies involved, and Ive recently participated in a charity auction in which he presented a unique new Mac Pro
with the (RED) color, which sold for $977,000 - more than 20 times the expected amount.
The price set a record for the highest amount ever paid for a "personal" computer (though the Mac Pro is technically a "workstation" class product). Other items designed and made by Ive and designer Marc Newson included a one-off work desk, Leica camera and rose gold Earpods that together sold for nearly $4 million.
Podcaster and reporter Shawn King
has suggested that Apple does in fact plan to expand its (Product) RED offerings in the near future, perhaps as part of the rollout of new and updated products scheduled for the second half of the year (and their attendant accessories). The company may also be planning ways to further promote the initiative, but is unlikely to change its strong views on branding its products -- it downplays its iconic logo far more than its competitors, at least on the side that routinely faces users -- much.