News Analysis: Sir Bob's political agenda

Live 8 will replace Live Aid's charity appeal with a call for social justice. Will it wash with the public, asks Jane Simms.

Live Aid, the charity rock concert that made such a splash in 1985, is set to be reborn as Live 8, a mass event seeking social justice and political change.

Singer-turned-activist Sir Bob Geldof, the man behind Live Aid, is to stage 'a political demonstration' in Hyde Park on 2-3 July to coincide with the G8 summit of world leaders in Scotland, according to Bernard Doherty, chief executive of music PR agency LD Communications, which acts as the Band Aid Trust's press office.

Doherty's admission puts an end to speculation about whether Geldof was planning a 'Live Aid II' concert 20 years after the groundbreaking musical extravaganza that raised both funds and awareness of famine in Ethiopia.

While Capital FM and The Prince's Trust have cancelled their annual Party in the Park to support Geldof's event, he has repeatedly stressed that any attempt to replicate the original Live Aid concert would be held over his 'dead body'. He also dismissed speculation that bands including Oasis and Coldplay would play at such an event as 'kite-flying'.

However, Doherty admits the coincidence of the G8 meeting and Live Aid's 20th anniversary was too good an opportunity to miss, adding that 'Bob hasn't been able to resist getting active'.

The July demonstration is likely to be akin to a mass rally organised by the Jubilee Debt Campaign in Birmingham in 1998, the last time the G8 summit was held in the UK. Then, 70,000 people formed a chain around the meeting.

According to Caroline Pearce, a member of the campaign, this action resulted in an overhaul of debt-relief programmes.

Strict management

Geldof's coyness over Live 8 owes less to stubbornness than to assiduous management of the Live Aid brand, according to charity and branding experts.

The Live Aid brand is owned by the Band Aid Trust, whose members include Geldof, Live Aid co-organiser Midge Ure and impresario Harvey Goldsmith.

The Live Aid name is copyrighted and strictly regulated, and it was with reluctance that Geldof allowed the production of a 12-hour DVD of the 1985 Live Aid concert, along with the Band Aid 20 Christmas single last year.

'The Live Aid brand symbolises passion, idealism, action and the positive side of globalisation - a potent combination,' says Steve Hilton, founding partner of corporate social responsibility consultancy Good Business.

Geldof is aware of this power and has been at pains not to dilute it through commercialisation. He believes an all-star London concert would be an irrelevant attempt to recreate past glories. 'He has kept his powder dry for 20 years and wants to use it to effect in July,' says David Nichols, global client director of marketing insight agency Added Value.

With the growing acknowledgement of the need to tackle the root of problems, rather than the symptoms, 'justice' has replaced 'charity' as the byword of campaigning groups. So, rather than concentrating on fundraising, the Live 8 event will focus on achieving political change, raising awareness of poverty and disease in Africa and urging world leaders to take action.

'With Live 8, Geldof is in the perfect position to reactivate Live Aid's engagement of a group of people who have become increasingly influential over the intervening years,' says Hilton.

However, straying into more overtly political territory is risky. Jez Frampton, chief executive of branding agency Interbrand, believes Live 8, which he calls 'a brand relaunch', can draw on Live Aid's equity to produce a relevant and contemporary offering.

'But the message and purpose of the event will be critical,' he says. 'Live Aid's call to action was clear and simple. With Live 8 the focus is potentially blurred.

People still unite in the face of disaster, but will do so less willingly around political causes. Most will support the notion of reducing world debt, but what will Live 8's call to action be and how will Geldof make it distinct from other debt-relief initiatives?'

Personal touch

Steve Tibbett, head of policy for charity Action Aid, also a member of the co-ordination committee for action group Make Poverty History, believes such a distinction is possible. 'If the message is right - justice, rather than charity - and the call to action is "make f***ing poverty history", it will have a huge impact, because Geldof can deliver a section of the public and media as well as an international perspective and bite that charities have struggled with,' he says.

Indeed, as Andrew Wanliss-Orlebar, a social responsibility strategist at Corporate Edge, points out, the Live Aid brand has given Geldof access to 'higher-level conversations' with leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II.

Luca Linder, a former boss of ad network Red Cell, to which Geldof was once an adviser, pays tribute to his 'fast thinking and innovative ideas', adding that he understands 'how to leverage emotions and has a strong sense of his own value as a business and even as a brand'.

Perhaps, then, it is Geldof who is the overarching brand, and in having that power, will be able to drive the Live 8 message home.


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