People are understandably pissed off at a New York-based ad agency who has turned homeless people into Wi-Fi hotspots during SXSW. It's a blend of marketing cloaked in philanthropy with an infuriating element of "new media": how better than to use technology to exploit our fellow man? Word that Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty may bring "Homeless Hotspots" to New York has prompted a release from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. "BBH has crossed a line from cynicism to exploitation," de Blasio says.
"I strongly caution [BBH] against expanding the 'Homeless Hotspot' program to New York City without first sitting down with advocates for the homeless to ensure the fair and dignified treatment of any New Yorker involved in BBH’s marketing," he adds, before suggesting that he can help the company meet with organizations like Coalition for the Homeless.
Those who have agreed to be walking BBH billboards in Austin rely on the suggested donation of $2 per 15 minutes of internet usage, which seems awfully low considering that human souls are trading at $44.66. For a look at how nauseating this scheme actually is, check out the Post's interview of one homeless Grand Central shoeshiner named Kevin Tucker who was asked if he'd participate.
I’d do it in a second. Out of every 20 people who sit down at my stand, at least six are on their iPhone or their BlackBerry or something trying to get Internet. I see it as a business opportunity. And you’re giving me a shirt, too? I have no problem with it.
Turning homeless people into "business opportunities": that's American. And they'll even throw in a free shirt! Or not? Their last homeless-related campaign, Underheard in New York, gave four homeless New Yorkers cellphones and taught them to use social networking—an interesting experiment until they pulled the plug and disconnected the devices.
But then again they made this really cool ad for The Guardian.