Apple, developers join forces on World AIDS Day

PALO ALTO – The familiar Apple logo, burning a brilliant shade of red, signaled that it would be no ordinary day at the Apple Store.

On World AIDS Day, Apple was in the thick of an all-out effort to raise money for (RED), a charity dedicated to fighting the deadly disease. Apple has pledged to donate an unspecified portion of its sales on Black Friday and the following Monday, and the campaign carries over to the App Store, which for two weeks features a special collection of 25 apps released to benefit the cause.

Apple has supported (RED) since its 2006 debut, but the company ramped up its efforts this year, turning the logos that top each of its retail stores red – including the outpost on University Avenue in Palo Alto. As Apple Store employees wearing red t-shirts and fleeces milled about to prepare for the morning rush, a pair of developers met with the Mercury News to explain how they put a fresh spin on their popular apps to bolster the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Frank Gibeau, an executive vice president at Electronic Arts, said the company jumped at the chance to partner with Apple for what he called an innovative experiment in high-tech philanthropy.

“We had never done something this creative and at this scale,” he said. “A lot of our employees are really excited about how they as developers and creators are able to give back.”

EA put a new twist on two of its most popular games, offering new in-app purchases to raise money for (RED). In Sims FreePlay, users can participate in a special community challenge and buy (RED) items such as a swimming pool or a piñata. FIFA 15 Ultimate Team players were invited to enter a (RED) Tournament. The promotion has driven up both app downloads and the amount of time users spend playing, Gibeau said.

“We are seeing audience expansion as a result of the program,” he said.

Social gaming company Zynga enlisted FarmVille 2: Country Escape and CSR Racing in the fight. The company has used its games to back more than 50 charities and causes over the years, Zynga Chief Operating Officer Clive Downie said in a statement to the Mercury News.

“Through Apps for (RED), we look forward to engaging our players in turning the vision of an AIDS FREE GENERATION into reality,” he said. “Games—and those who play them—can make the world a better place.”

Bjorn Jeffery, CEO and co-founder of children’s app maker Toca Boca, said his company has also seen a surge in users, sometimes from a surprising demographic.

“We’ve gotten a lot of reviews saying, ‘I’m 14, but I still think it’s good fun,’” Jeffery said.

To back the charity, Toca Boca painted its popular Toca Town red. The app, a virtual metropolis for children to explore, was spruced up to include diamonds, ice cream and balloons – all in a vibrant shade of red. Toca Boca penned a letter to parents to explain the promotion and encourage them to discuss the cause with their children.

“Parents and kids can talk about what’s happening in the rest of the world,” Jeffery said.

Like all of the company’s apps, the (RED) version of Toca Town went through rigorous testing with pre-schoolers, who gave the scarlet diamonds high marks, Jeffery said.

“They’re the harshest critics,” he said. “If they don’t like it, they’ll just leave.”

Toca Boca — which has operations in San Francisco, Canada and Sweden — took great care to find the right way to introduce the cause to its pint-sized audience, Jeffery said. He rallied his company to start working on the (RED) version of the app over the summer, just as many members of the team were heading off to the Swedish seaside. They quickly warmed to the cause, he said.

“It’s pretty cool being part of something big like that,” Jeffery said, nodding to the red Apple logo glowing overhead.

Above: Apple pledged to donate an unspecified portion of its sales on Black Friday and World AIDS Day to the (RED) charity (Apple). 


Tags: , , , ,


Share this Post