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BBH responds to the critique of their Homeless Hotspots at #SXSW

BBH straightens out some question marks that have bubbled up in the insane chatter about their Homeless Hotspots at SXSW. We all feel much better about this idea now that we know they're not selling anything and there's no brand involved. Or not.

As the comments show on the BBH post sarcasm waves are running high.

The Readwriteweb article that started the ball rolling, now has updated information and a short interview with ‏Saneel Radia a.k.a @saneel, one of the BBH creators : SXSW in a nutshell, homeless people as hotspots

South By Southwest 2012 can be summarized thusly: An impossibly-named marketing company called Bartle Bogle Hegarty is doing a little human science experiment called Homeless Hotspots. It gives out 4G hotspots to homeless people along with a promotional t-shirt. The shirt doesn't say, "I have a 4G hotspot." It says, "I am a 4G hotspot."
You can guess what happens next. You pay these homeless, human hotspots whatever you like, and then I guess you sit next to them and check your email and whatnot. The digital divide has never hit us over the head with a more blunt display of unselfconscious gall.

Wired - "The damning backstory of the homeless hotpots" points to BBH's trackrecord, after their success with underheard in New York crew of hand picked homeless people they simply shut down the project. No follow-up at all. He quotes

But once Underheard in NY started to get serious media attention BBH took over the project and shut it down. Too me, that was irresponsible because four homeless men were sprung on the world in a huge way and then just cut off. They didn’t even continue paying their cellphones!

@kissane tweeted: "Last thought before sleeping: the difference between "I'm running a hotspot" and "I am a hotspot" is a difference that matters."

The hashtag #homelesshotspots was almost pure vitriol but it's changing, with a few showing the old Bill Hicks joke "anyone here work in advertising? Kill yourselves." Oh, har har, that's getting a bit old mate. Other select reactions:

brianfewell "Telecoms tap new revenue stream: homeless people! #homelesshotspots #iheartcapitalism"

Kwame Opam: "#homelesshotspots was this weekend's #kony2012. Well-intentioned but privileged people exploiting others"

Whenever you engage the homeless people in some sort of work, such as the failed (and probably faked) goGorilla homeless sign holders, the punks that held up signs for Pizza, or the free winter coats that served as Ben&Jerry billboards on homeless people in Amsterdam.

This isn't cause marketing, and the idea is to make people engage with the homeless whom they otherwise might avoid. But so many see it as cynical when the ipad&iphone-toting crowd will hang out next to the man who has no house at all, only because he has wifi. The comments on the BBH blog are as polarized as oreo cookies are black and white - people either hate the idea or love it.

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