Homeless Hotspots Criticism

March 28, 2012 by staff 

Homeless Hotspots Criticism, Melvin Hughes, who was hired by BBH Labs to provide and promote a mobile 4G Wi-i service during SXSW, holds the T-shirt he was given by the marketing agency in Austin, Texas on March 13, 2012.

One of the biggest news stories (so far) out of Austin this year is not about a celebrity at all. It involves the movers and shakers of the interactive business, a growing part of the annual festival.

A marketing stunt that paid homeless people to carry Wi-Fi signals during the South by Southwest Conference is drawing widespread criticism.

Advertising agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s BBH Labs, gave 14 people from a homeless shelter mobile Wi-Fi devices and T-shirts that announced “I am a 4G Hotspot.”

BBH New York chairwoman Emma Cookson says the company paid them a minimum of $50 a day. She called the experiment a modernized version of homeless selling street newspapers.

Others have called the program exploitive. ReadWriteWeb called it a “blunt display of unselfconscious gall.”

The experiment was meant to begin last Friday but rain delayed its implementation until Sunday. It stopped Monday.

BBH has since responded to the fallout of its “test program” in a blog entry dubbed “Homeless Hotspots: a charitable experiment at SXSWi.”

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