Esquire Singapore speaks to Deborah Duggan, (RED)’s CEO, and Greg Joswiak, Apple’s VP of Product Marketing, about the impact and significance of their 11 year partnership.
In a double-story loft in Manhattan, a secret meeting is taking place.
Before me: Deborah Duggan, chief executive of (RED), and Grey Joswiak, vice president of Apple product marketing, flanking Phoebe Robinson—the comedian, actress and co-host of the popular 2 Dope Queens podcast (now a HBO special) and this year’s celebrity ambassador for the Apple and (PRODUCT) RED partnership—seated on a cream couch.
Before them: The new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition, as well as the iPhone X (PRODUCT) RED Leather Folio, lined up side-by-side on a table.
The topic of conversation: Apple’s 11th year as a corporate partner with (PRODUCT) RED in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Like all things Apple, the new (PROUCT) RED products are beautiful: The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus both feature a stunning glass back made from seven layers of colour to create a deep (RED) hue, all finished with a matching aluminum band and a sleek black front. The iPhone X Leather Folio case is crafted from specially tanned and finished European leather for a luxurious finish. But as part of more than 20 Apple accessories in the (RED) series, they are not only a feast for the senses, but are products that beat with a philanthropic heart.
ESQ: Greg, tell us about the Apple collaboration with (RED) to date.
Greg Joswiak: We’ve partnered with the (PRODUCT) RED team for 11 years now and our customers helped donate more than $160 million dollars to the Global Fund, which as you know, is incredibly important in fighting against the spread of HIV and AIDs. And what’s really cool is that last year was our record year. We did over $30 million last year alone, and that was driven largely by the success of the (PRODUCT) RED iPhone 7 edition, and so of course, we wanted to follow that up this year with the iPhone 8 (PRODUCT) RED special edition. We have also released the (PRODUCT) RED leather portfolio for the iPhone X.
ESQ: How many products do you have now that are part of the (PRODUCT) RED partnership?
Greg: We have over 20 accessories for (PRODUCT) RED that we sell, and all those provide a contribution to the HIV/AIDS Global Fund.
ESQ: Why is the fight against AIDS so close to Apple’s heart?
Greg: Well, remember that one of the purposes of Apple is to make the world a better place. We have done that through technology, but what better way to make the world a better place than to save lives. And this partnership with (RED) enables our customers to save lives by buying products that will lead to a donation to the Global Fund. There aren’t a whole lot of products out there where you can say that.
Deborah Duggan: Also, it’s a pandemic that has been around for 35 years. It is a global health crisis that we actually know what to do to eradicate it. If you think of the Black Plague in the Middle Ages, nobody knew what to do to fight it. But the world is at a pivotal stage now where, if we take the right steps, the United Nations has stated we can take AIDS off the planet by 2030. And we are quite close to eliminating mother to child transmission of the disease—it has gone from 1500 mothers passing the virus to their babies in 2012, to just 400 a day now. So you can see that the trajectory is going in the right direction.
ESQ: How has Apple’s donation of $160 million over the last 11 years made a difference?
Deborah: It equates to about 800 million days of life saving ARV medication that prevents the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies. It’s quite staggering. So at a time when governments might not be stepping up on these global issues, Apple has really stepped in to make a difference. Customers can be activists by simply buying the iPhone 8 in the colour (RED)—they might just like the colour, or they might care for the cause—but either way, it’s a simple tool to do good.
ESQ: Do you think this generation is mindful of doing good?
Deborah: Definitely. More than any other generation in history. It’s quite inspiring. They certainly want to work at companies that do good. They are looking for tools to do good, but they also want it to be transparent, impactful, and they want to see the results.
ESQ: How does Apple’s donation to the Global Fund compare to other donors?
Deborah: It makes Apple the single largest corporate donor to the Global Fund. Greece, Hungary, Poland, New Zealand, Iceland and Switzerland have all come to the table and donated to the Global Fund. However, Apple’s amount of $160 million is more than all those countries combined. So if you think about what governments are doing, and also look at the private sector, to see who is moving the needle, Apple is moving the needle.
"The more awareness we can generate, the more funding we can raise, the closer we are of achieving the UN goal of removing mother-child transmission by 2020, and to get it off the planet by 2030." – Deborah Duggan
ESQ: How is (RED) different from other charitable organisations?
Deborah: Well in the beginning of the Global Fund, governments and companies were both supposed to come to the table—it was a public and private charter. And in the first five years, there was $5 billion from governments and only $5 million from companies, which really historically, you would think it’s the government’s role to contribute to causes like these, so it didn’t seem so out of whack. The number of companies participating was so small. So Bono from U2 and Bobby Shriver had this idea to create a brand in philanthropy, which really didn’t exist, that’s provocative and positive to excite youth to make a difference. And we’ve taken risks to make an impact, and be in places you wouldn’t expect.
ESQ: What is an example of this?
Deborah: For example, we’ve worked with Apple to turn some of their top apps and games (RED). So you’ll be playing a game, and all of a sudden something happens within the game, and you’re contributing to the Global Fund. And you’ve just been sitting on your couch! But we fish where the fish are. So if you’re going to get an Apple iPhone, why wouldn’t you get the (RED) one? It’s a big swing for humanity. We’re so happy to be working with Apple as they are so good at creating great products, but also at capturing attention in this age of distraction.
Greg: You know, if it’s a hand out, it’s something you do a few times at best. But if you build it as part of the business, it’s sustainable. And here we are after 11 years, still contributing to the Global Fund. And, as Deb said, it’s been an incredible attention engine to the (RED) team, because sometimes these things become ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
ESQ: Phoebe, why have you chosen to be involved with Apple and (PRODUCT) RED this year?
Phoebe: I’ve been following (RED) since it started in 2006 and I feel that Apple and (RED) do a phenomenal job of turning products into something for good; products that can benefit other people’s lives. I think a lot of times charities have good intentions but they don’t have always have the best execution. (RED) has been mindful and thoughtful of how to get consumers involved. As a young person, I think we feel that there are so many fires to put out, and we don’t know how to make our voices heard or to truly help out. But if you want to get an iPhone, just get a (PRODUCT) RED iPhone and you’re already doing your part in the fight against AIDS and HIV. Also, at the age of 33, it is something that is close to my heart as AIDS is the leading cause of death of women of a reproductive age.
Deborah: I can’t believe that in 2018, AIDS is the number cause of death of women of a reproductive age, and every two minutes, a teen is getting HIV. So there are still a lot of things to be done, but all the right things are in place. The more awareness we can generate, the more funding we can raise, the closer we are of achieving the UN goal of removing mother-child transmission by 2020, and to get it off the planet by 2030. You say, why AIDS, well you know, it will actually be a case study in the future of what humanity can do—that this came in our lifetime, and it can go in our lifetime.
ESQ: Phoebe, you mentioned that you have been following (PRODUCT) RED since 2006. Has there been times when owning an Apple (RED) product has sparked a conversation with your peers about what it supports?
Phoebe: For sure. I have the Apple (RED) Beats Pill speaker, for example, and when I’ve had dinner parties, friends have asked me where I’ve bought it from because it looks cool. So it allows me to tell them about (RED) and the fact that when you buy it, you’re also saving lives. The great thing about (RED) is that they make eye-catching products that are fashionable, without being intrusive.
Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 PLUS (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition are available in 64GB and 256GB models starting at an Apple retail price of S$1,148. The new (PRODUCT) RED iPhone X Leather Folio retails for S$148 and joins other (PRODUCT) RED accessories including the Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones, Bill Pill+ Portable Speaker, and accessories for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.